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Countdown to Savannah: Savannah's Squares
Kathy Wood (kaydee)
In early 2007, we started our official Countdown to Savannah. Each Sunday, we posted a different topic about this special city where we met for our first Great Slow Travel Gathering in Spring 2008.
With 63 posts over 14+ months, we learned a lot about the many facets of this historic, hospitable and intriguing American city. Our weekly posts touched on Savannah's history, famous people, architecture, food, culture, surrounding area and much more. We hope this information acquaints you with Savannah, entices you to visit this historic city, and prepares you for a very memorable trip.
Savannah's Priceless Jewels
Savannah's Historic District, planned by General Oglethorpe in 1733, is internationally recognized for its simple layout and its "priceless jewels": the famous squares.
The Historic District is a grid, featuring 13 main north-south streets stretching from the Savannah River to Forsyth Park, intersected by 23 main east-west streets stretching from East Broad Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (formerly West Broad Street). Sitting in an orderly pattern within this grid are 22 squares, or small city parks, most of which occupy a full city block. Two of the original 24 squares have been “lost” over the years to urban progress, though Ellis Square is now being reclaimed after being buried beneath a parking garage. The squares are all the same size north to south, but they vary considerably in size going east to west.
Although it wasn’t Oglethorpe’s original intent, the squares make Savannah especially charming and romantic and definitely add to the relaxed way of life. Savannah is very much a walking city, and pedestrians have the right of way. The squares slow down the traffic and actually make driving a bit awkward. Visitors don't need a car. The squares are planted with old live oaks, many dripping with spanish moss, which creates a cool canopy even during the hottest days of summer. In spring, the squares explode with color, filled with azaleas and other flowers. After dark, the squares create a more mysterious and eerie environment.
Each One is Unique
The squares are surrounded by historic homes, churches, museums, businesses, and public buildings. Many have a beautiful fountain or monument in the middle. There are wide sidewalks, gazebos and comfortable places to sit, though you won’t find the famous bench where Forrest Gump waited for the bus at Chippewa Square. (It was a prop made for the movie and is now in the Savannah History museum.) Some of the squares sit in busy areas with a steady flow of residents and tourists. Other squares are in quiet residental sections. Every square has its own distinct story and personality.
Most of the squares are named for a famous person from history (Franklin, Washington, Calhoun); some squares are named for places (Monterey) or battles (Orleans) or mythical figures and ideas (Columbia). A couple of squares include graves or were once the site of public lynchings and hangings. But today, individually and collectively, Savannah’s squares are beautiful and elegant and inviting ... an important part of what makes Savannah one of America’s most unique cities.
Learn more about Savannah’s squares:
Great Public Spaces - Squares of Savannah
All About Savannah: Links to many information pages about Savannah (where to eat, where to stay, places of interest, getting around town, and more)
Woods Family Grand Tour of Europe: List of articles and photo albums by Kathy Wood
© Kathy Wood, 2007
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