Every thirty minutes there is an eighteen-minute film about Savannah. If you aren’t familiar with the founding of the colony of Georgia, and even if you are, this makes for a fascinating history lesson, narrated by founder James Ogelthorp. Georgia was to be an ideal colony where religious tolerance was the norm (papists not included), and lawyers and slaves were not allowed.
He had a dream--James Ogelthorpe, that is. He envisioned a Utopia where the working poor could thrive. With 114 pioneers he left London on the "Anne" and landed on Yamacraw bluff above the Savannah River in February 1733. England needed a buffer to protect her colonies from the Spanish in Florida, and Ogelthorpe and his trustees set about to provide it. Naming the colony after the king guaranteed his support. What I really found interesting was that by July, sickness had ravaged the group, and if not for a ship of Portuguese Jews, all might have perished. Catholics came next in the form of Irish laborers and as the dream of a Silk Kingdom faded into a rice based economy slavery was introduced. Goodbye Utopia, hello Savannah.
Today you can visit the site of the Trustees Garden on the corner of Bay St. and MacIntosh Blvd., right next to the Pirates House restaurant. It was here that the Mulberry Bushes were planted that were to found the silk trade in Georgia. It was modeled after the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.
The museum covers not only the founding of Savannah but the Revolutonary
and Civil War eras. There are displays of uniforms, weapons, and stategies. The beer-keg torpedos are of particular interest. Native son Johnny Mercer has an interesting display that includes his Oscar, and you can get up close and personal with the Gordon family carriage.
I was facinated by the contents of a World War I kit bag and another display of the contents of a Red Cross package sent to the soldiers in France. There was also a display of some of the more unappealing medical aspects of war, like trench foot and cooties--yes, there really are cooties.
The building itself is historic; it is the former Rail Station of the Central Railroad. There is a steam engine that should delight any train lover.
You finish your tour in the museum store, which does have an eclectic variety of offerings. I loved this museum. If you fill out a questionnaire, you get a 10% discount at the Whistle Stop Café.
The Visitors Center has two really nice gift shops, a small café, and plenty of brochures for you to pick up.
March 15, 2005
From journal Stately Savannah