Posted by: rkurzweil | 08/16/2010

Savannah GA

Savannah is one of the truly great cities in the South. I have been there close to a dozen times, and yet I still enjoy every time I am there.

I recently took a road trip to Florida and on the way back, we decided to spend a few days in Savannah. I should mention that summer is not the ideal time to visit – the climate is very hot and muggy. But it is not the end of the world either and if it is the only time you might be able to go, I would not skip it just because of the weather.

City Hall

Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the US. It dates back to 1733, when General Oglethorpe and his crew landed nearby. It became a major port for shipping of cotton, and thereby became quite prosperous. During the Civil War, it was spared the fate of Atlanta (burned by General Sherman). Lucky for us! Today, approximately 7 million people visit per year (according to the Savannah Chamber of Commerce).

One of the oldest parts of the city is along what is now River Street. This is an area paved by the ballast of the ships that came from England – they would come empty to take cotton, so the British filled them with ballast, which they would then dump to load the cargo. The locals decided to use these stones as a building material, both in their roads and in their buildings. (When the British realized this, they started to require payment for the ballast).

Cathedral of St John the Baptist

Like most parts of America, this area has been taken over to some degree by large corporate groups (restaurant and hotel chains), but there is still a lot of character to the place. This is one of the things that I love about Savannah. It has maintained its uniqueness.

Savannah was the original “planned” city – meaning that it was laid out by design as opposed to organic growth that was more common in the large cities in the Northeast. The city was designed with 24 squares. Each square represented the center of its “community.” 3 of those were lost in the 20th century, but one was recently reclaimed. So there are still 22 of these squares. They are lined by beautiful mansions of all architectural styles, as well as houses of worship. Savannah was founded with the idea of freedom of worship. This was put to the test fairly quickly when a boatload of 42 British Jews arrived from London on the William and Sarah. They founded Congregation Mickve Israel in 1735, making it the 3rd oldest Jewish congregation in the US.

Mickve Israel

The 1995 publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, as well as the 1997 movie based on the book created a buzz about Savannah as well. The book is based on a true story, though it was certainly embellished a lot. You can visit the Mercer-Williams House, which is one of the main settings of the book and movie. I have actually never done this, though I have toured other Houses (The Owens-Thomas House, for example).

Another gem from the movie is Lady Chablis. I can honestly say that “she” is one of a kind. I actually got to see her drag show in Savannah long before the movie made her famous. She now only is in town once or twice a month, so it is not as easy to catch her show. Anyway – I am not usually a fan of drag shows, but she was spectacular!

There is so much to see and do in Savannah. I highly recommend it. I doubt that you would be disappointed. To see some of my pictures, click here.

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