Savannah by the Squares
Neatly arrayed on a grid system, Savannah’s Historic Landmark District promises a clean elegance befitting the classic Southern city. What really gives downtown Savannah its timeless charm, however, is the preservation of enchanting squares interspersed among its many historic homes, churches, museums and businesses.
Out of the original 24 squares designed between 1773 and 1851 as the city expanded, 22 remain as scenic respites from the city and testaments to Savannah’s rich colonial heritage. Here’s a quick run down of what you’ll find in each square:
Calhoun Square, located on Abercorn and Wayne Streets, is the only square surrounded entirely by the same historic buildings that were present when it was designed. This square is also infamously built over a slave burial ground, making it an easy feature for Savannah’s plethora of Ghost Tours.
Like Chatham County, Chatham Square on Barnard and Wayne Streets is the namesake of the Earl of Chatham, who supported the colony but never actually visited.
Chippewa Square, which you’ll find on Bull and McDonough Streets, is home to a bronze statue of the colony’s founder, James Oglethorpe, brandishing his sword towards the south to protect against the Spaniards occupying Florida. Fun fact: this square was also the site of the Forrest Gumpbench.
Columbia Square on Habersham and Presidents Streets is home to a fountain originally from the historic Wormsloe plantation, elaborately decorated with forest motifs.
A family friendly affair, Crawford Square is on East Hull and Houston Streets, featuring a park-like atmosphere with a playground, basketball court and gazebo.
Ellis Square was once known as Marketplace Square due to its proximity to City Market on Bryan and Barnard Streets, but was raised in 1954 to give way to a parking deck. Luckily, when the lease expired in 2004 the land was reclaimed and Ellis Square was reborn as a contemporary addition to the Savannah aesthetic, featuring a statue of Johnny Mercer, the Savannahian singer and songwriter.
Franklin Square, on Bryan and Barnard Streets, was once home to the city’s principal water tower, earning it titles such as “Water Tower Square,” and is now host to a monument to the Haitian volunteers who fought on behalf of America during the Siege of Savannah.
Greene Square, located on Houston and President Streets, is famous for being the site where Union General William Sherman announced “40 acres and a mule,” granting land and livelihood to all formerly enslaved African Americans.
The first of all Savannah’s squares, Johnson Square is a memorial to General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero who is interred beneath the square that hosts his monument. Located on Bull and St. Julian Streets, Johnson Square was a commercial hub in the colonial days, and continues to be the center of Historic Savannah’s financial district. One thing you won’t find on this square is Spanish Moss, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that General Greene had a profound hatred for the stuff.
Lafayette Square on Abercorn and Macon Streets is the one whose fountain you will most certainly found dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Madison Square at the crossing of Bull and Macon Streets has a monument honoring William Jasper, a sergeant who died during the Siege of Savannah. It is also home to the stone marker where the colonists held back the British line of defense.
Monterey Square on Bull and Wayne Streets is home to the Casimir Pulaski monument, and they the unidentified body buried beneath might belong to this polish noble who perished during the Siege.
In Oglethorpe Square you’ll find a marker dedicated to Moravian missionaries who came to Savannah in 1735 tucked right at the crossing of Abercorn and Presidents Streets.
If you are of German heritage, you might want to check out Orleans Square on Barnard and McDonough Streets, where there is a fountain honoring the contributions German immigrants have made to Savannah’s development.
While his monument is not in this square (see Monterey Square) Pulaski Square is another testament to Casimir Pulaski, located on Barnard and Macon Streets.
Reynolds Square is notable for its monument honoring John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. In this square on Abercorn and St. Julian Streets, Wesley is depicting preaching to Native Americans, which was a unheard of at the time.
Originally St. James Square, Telfair Square on Barnard and President Streets was renamed after the Telfair family, whose home and faces the square, along with the Jepson Center. This is also the square to see if you’re looking for tributes to Girl Scouts and its Savannahian founder, Juliette Gordon Low.
Troup Square is a doggy friendly stop at the crossing of Habersham and McDonough Streets, featuring the Myers Drinking Fountain for canines. It is also home to the Armillary Sphere, if you’re into celestial circles.
Warren Square on Habersham and St. Julian Streets is a commemoration of the pivotal relationship between Boston and Savannah during the Revolutionary War.
Housed at the crossing of Houston and St. Julian Streets, Washington Square was the site of the colonial Trustees Garden, where settlers experimented with growing what they hoped would turn into cash crops. They unfortunately reaped a lot of disappointment.
Whitefield Square was the last to be constructed, and its gazebo is a testament to the Victorian architecture surrounding it on Habersham and Wayne Streets.
Wright Square, nestled at the cross of Bull and President Streets, is one of Savannah’s most renowned squares. As the burial site of Tomochichi, a leader of the Creek Nation Tribe, the square originally hosted a monument dedicated to his generosity towards James Oglethorpe and the colonists. It was torn down however, when locals elected to honor Savannahian William Washington Gordon with the central statue. Ironically, Gordon’s widow was pretty insulted by the slight to Tomochichi, and she led the initiative to erect another granite monument in his name. If you run in circles around it, Tomochichi will trip you.
We’ll leave some of the history for you to read on your own as you stroll through the hostess city’s gorgeous Historic Landmark District.
What’s your favorite Savannah square and why? Please share in the comments below!