A January 2005 trip
to Savannah by zabelle
Quote: Everywhere you look in Savannah, you see the remnants of the old South. There is a beauty that is more than skin-deep; it has class and grace, and it is stately.
Another visit that I would recommend is the Georgia Historical Society. Located in the W.B. Hodgeson Hall near Forsyth Park, the society has an unprecedented collection of both historic memorabilia and genealogically significant, materials. There is no better place to begin your genealogical research in the state of Georgia.
Religious institutions have played an important part in the history of Savannah. President Woodrow Wilson was married in the Independent Presbyterian Church, John Wesley who founded Methodism was the pastor of Christ Episcopal Church. Temple Mickve Israel is the third oldest Jewish Congregation in the United States and St. John the Baptist Cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the State of Georgia.
Colonial Park Cemetery
offers a first hand look at the history of Savannah. Here you will find war heroes, duelists, yellow fever victims and many of the figures in Savannah history. Today it is a much a park as a cemetery and just walking it’s peaceful paths is a pleasure. The historic markers are an added bonus. Don’t miss the wall of headstones removed by Sherman’s soldiers.
Forsyth Park has what is perhaps the most easily recognized symbol of Savannah
the white fountain at the southern end of the park. Said to have been the largest fountain in the United States when it was opened in 1858, it is modeled after the fountain at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. It was hard to get a picture of the fountain, even in the early morning, because there were always people around it.
Walking in Colonial Park Cemetery is the best free history lesson you can get in Savannah. Stroll along the small streets running parallel to the south of Forsyth Park, the homes are lovely and the streets are quiet and peaceful with Spanish moss draped trees.
Make the Visitor Center your first stop to look for brochures and coupons for savings at restaurants and on attractions and tours.
If your hotel doesn’t provide parking then I recommend that you purchase a parking pass. It is for two days and allows parking in all public lots. Savannah is a great walking city and most things are within walking distance of the downtown hotels. When you stop at the Visitor Center pick up a CAT folder, CAT is the free downtown trolley bus and the folder will give you the location of the stops. There are metal signs at all the stops, so you won’t have a problem locating them.
Hotel | "Bed and Breakfast Inn"
with identical sweeping stairways. You will know the B&B by the American flag hanging outside.
The staff of the B&B are as welcoming, as is the décor. You ring the doorbell and are swept into the front parlor. It was still decorated for Christmas when we arrived on the 5th of January.
There are several comfortable chairs clustered in front of the fireplace. There is a sideboard where you will find iced tea and snacks when you return in the afternoon. That first afternoon the treats offered were pecan bars, on subsequent days we were treated to lemon bars, chocolate pound cake and orange cake. Hot tea and coffee is also available. I loved to grab a glass of iced tea to take up to my room.
There are 15 non-smoking rooms, all with private baths. We had the two rooms on the third floor. The stairs are not for the faint of heart but it was well worth it to have the whole floor to ourselves. Al and I had the Parkview room
and Joe had the Yellow room. They were very similar is size and style. We had a fireplace (non-working) in our room, and Joe had an extra chair. Both rooms were tastefully decorated and immaculate. The beds were comfortable, covered in a quilted coverlet, and although we were on the street side, I never heard a sound. The bathroom was small but certainly adequate, with a tub and shower combination. We had a huge walk-in closet with an iron and ironing board. An armoire held our TV with had remote control and cable. There was plenty of reading light. The wood furniture was covered with plexiglass, giving me no qualms about putting down my iced tea glass.
Breakfast is served from 8 to 10am. There is homemade granola everyday and fresh nut bread. You can always order eggs, and another choice of the day is offered. It may be eggs Benedict, buttermilk pancakes, or orange-pecan waffles. Breakfast seating is family-style, and we met some very interesting people each morning. There are three tables inside, and there are small tables on the back deck.
Parking is on the street, and after 4pm check-in, you are given a parking pass for the duration of your stay.
This is a charming and warm bed-and-breakfast, and I would love to return. A special thanks to Pamela for making us feel so welcome.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 15, 2005
B & B Inn
117 West Gordon
Royal governors, patriots, merchants, the state's first newspaper publisher, and members of the First Continental Congress are among those buried there. Button Gwinnett who was one of the three Georgian signers of the Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most famous. He was killed in a duel with General Lachlan McIntosh. Both men are now buried in this cemetery. within a short distance of each other. If you are interested, you can view the dueling pistols that they used at the Georgia Historical Society. Duels were so common that there is a Duelist section
in the cemetery. Colonial Cemetery also figures very prominently in many of the ghost stories prevalent in the city .
Today, this is a well-used city park as well as a cemetery. It is also the only place in Savannah where you don’t need to keep your dog on a leash. It is a fascinating place to just walk through. There are historical plaques all over telling you about the famous and infamous people who are buried here and there are very pretty walkways. What we first noticed as we walked along Abercorn was a cluster of Irish names, then as we kept walking the names became French, then there were some Scottish names. It was a microcosm of life in Savannah and each group of immigrants. As we walked through, I watched three cemetery workers as they probed a grave. I was almost curious enough to ask them if they were going to have a burial, but I didn’t. Usually the reason they probe is to see if there has been a previous burial in a grave.
Along the far wall of the cemetery, they have a whole line of tombstones mounted on the wall.
These are ones that were removed by General Sherman's troops when they set up their camp in the cemetery and they no longer know where they belong. One good thing is that they have remained quite well preserved. They do make for interesting reading. We found one for a young man name Bowles, who it says was from Connecticut. Bowles is a very well know name in our state.
Take the time to appreciate the gate at the entrance;
it is quite impressive. Paid for by the Daughters the American Revolution, it has recently undergone extensive renovation. Allow yourself an hour or more for a leisurely stroll through this history lesson on Savannah.
Colonial Park Cemetery
201 W Oglethorpe Ave
Savannah, Georgia 31401
It was all very nicely presented and well-marked. There was James Ogelthorpe’s snuffbox. A flintlock rifle taken from the Serphin by John Paul Jones and given to his friend Ben Franklin. A walking stick made from the wood of the Frigate Constitution. The grapeshot removed from Casimir Pulaski’s leg and what we found the most telling, the dueling pistols used by Button Gwinnett and Lachlan McIntosh in the duel that led to Gwinnet’s death. There was also a small sword used by Lafayette and a Confederate Officers sword.
TO CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE, GO TO WWW.GEORGIAHISTORY.COM
If you have a family history in Georgia, this is a great place to begin your genealogical research. The women at the desk were wonderful and will be glad to get you started on your search. In our case they just pointed us to the cases on either side and welcomed us to enjoy their contents. Beyond the historical displays, the Historical Society offers practical information about the history of Georgia. Census records for the state of Georgia as well as other southern states are available for the years 1790-1870. There are no Georgia Federal Census records for the years 1790, 1800 and 1810 as these were destroyed in a fire.
They have an extensive collection of manuscripts, personal papers, wills, family bibles and other family papers. They have vital records, cemetery indexes, newspapers from as early as the 1700s, city directories, military and church records and land and tax records.
For those interested in researching the history of a building, there is no better place to look. Not only do they have an extensive selection of records but they also have a checklist to help you to locate records that might be of assistance. They also offer workshops and tours, and last fall, they had a lecture series features John Jakes author of the historical novel "Savannah". They offer a quarterly magazine, "Footnotes", which gives up-to-date information on what’s happening, as well as offering books and other publications for sale.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 15, 2005
Georgia Historical Society
501 Whitaker St
Savannah, Georgia 31401
+1 912 651 2125
Tours are offered at the synagogue daily 10 to noon and 2 to 4pm. There is usually a video to watch before take a tour, but it wasn’t working when we were there. What amazed me most about the building was the stained-glass windows, I never expected to see stained glass in a synagogue. They are memorial windows donated in memory of family members.
This is still a vital community and there are descendants of some of the original 42 people who arrived here in 1733. Thirty-eight were Crypto-Jews from Portugal. who were sometimes known as Conversos, Jews who had basically gone underground and appeared to be practicing Christians. In order to preserve their religion, they escaped to London. Four Germans joined them. James Ogelthorpe's original plan didn’t have Jewish settlers in mind, but when Dr. Nunez helped save some of the victims of the epidemic that was decimating the settlers, they were welcomed with open arms. Some of the original 42 found the Spanish Catholics too close for comfort and moved farther north but the remainder became important members of the Savannah community. Cocked Hat Sheftel was prominent in the Revolutionary War period.
This building was constructed in 1876. There was a fire that destroyed the sanctuary in 1927, but much of the rest of the building is original. The same man who did the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist painted the gilt on the pillars on.
Today the synagogue is of the reform persuasion, and there are two other synagogues in the area one orthodox and one conservative. As beautiful as the building is, the reason to come for a visit is the museum. It is small but beautifully designed. It contains two historic torahs, one of them dating from the Middle Ages. It was given to the congregation in 1737 by the congregation in London who sponsored them. They also have a 16th-century megillah containing the book of Esther. The original corner stone from the building is now in the museum.
Some interesting facts surfaced in the museum; for instance, Lena Guthman Fox was the basis for her grandson’s play, "Driving Miss Daisy". There is also a wall of Presidential letters.
There is a small store when you leave, and you can pick up an "Original Hard Lox’s" T-shirt.
Temple Mickve Israel
20 East Gordon St.
Savannah, Georgia 31401
In 1850, Savannah became the seat of a newly created Diocese, which included all of Georgia and most of Florida. A Catholic population of over 5,000. St. John the Baptist now became a cathedral. A new cathedral was built in 1876 on land acquired from the Sisters of Mercy on Abercorn Street at Lafayette Square.
It was dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and was built in the French-Gothic style. About 10 years later, it was discovered that the Vatican had never approved the change of name, and it resumed the original name St. John the Baptist, with Our Lady of Perpetual Help as a secondary patron. This beautiful cathedral was doomed to only about 20 years of use. A devastating fire in February 1898 all but destroyed it. Only the outside walls and the two spires were left standing. The cathedral was rededicated in May 1912.
Lest you think that they have had all the disasters that any church possibly could, in 2003, an arsonist set fire to the pulpit and totally destroyed it. It has been replaced with an exact copy, and the church is as beautiful as ever.
We were particularly fascinated with the church for a number of reasons. One is that their beautiful mystery of the rosary stained glass windows were created by the Innsbruck Glassmakers,
these are the same artist who created our fabulous stained-glass windows at St. John Church in Middletown, CT. There are only 11 known sets of these windows, and to come across another set was amazing to us. The windows in Savannah were installed in 1904, ours in Connecticut in 1903. Peg also was present when the arsonist attacked the pulpit, she was held captive for some time by the armed man. She bravely escaped to get help and probably saved the rest of the church from the fire.
Since it was early in January, we were also blessed to see their crèche still up. It was fantastic; done under a dark blue sky, it is a whole scene, not just a stable. Another unique--at least to us--decoration in the church was a tree made of poinsettia plants.
That alone was worth the visit.
The church is open daily, except during services, and there is a noon-time Mass.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
222 East Harris St
Savannah, Georgia 31401
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.
Savannah History Museum
301 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Savannah, Georgia 31401
Attraction | "E. Shaver, Bookseller"
As you wander through the 12 separate rooms, you will be amazed at the range and variety of the offerings. I don’t believe that you will find a finer selection of books on Savannah anywhere in the city, probably anywhere in the world. This, while not totally unexpected, was impressive. What was unexpected was an extensive art section, a room of children’s books, history books that impressed me (and I am hard to impress), and all the most popular fiction and nonfiction bestsellers. Joe, Al, and I spent more than a half-hour walking room to room admiring the titles. The staff was very helpful but allowed us to look at our leisure and didn’t hover.
This bookstore is the brainchild of Esther and Edwin Shaver. They visited here in 1975 and fell in love with Savannah. They purchased the historic 1842 Eliza Ann Jewett Townhouse and converted the lower floor into the bookstore, living in the upper floors. Though not locally born and breed, they have become very active in the historic downtown.
Of course, John Berendts’ book brought them more business than most. They have sold over 20,000 copies of his book and hosted a book-signing in the book’s heyday. They are in a great location, and about 50% of their traffic is from tourists. If you are walking around in the area of Madison Square, stop by - you won’t be disappointed.
Shaver E Booksellers
326 Bull Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401