The historic sites of Savannah are its legacy. No one need ask the rhetorical, “If Savannah could talk,” because she doesn’t just talk; she sings her Southern song through the preservation of her past. Here are some of her finest features. (P.S. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture some unforgettable memories along the way!)
There are many awe-inspiring places of worship all throughout Georgia’s First City. A trip here would not be complete without visiting a few. None are quite as magnificent as Lafayette Square’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. This church has two magnificent bell towers that ring out the hour, beckoning folks to venture through its echoing aisles. Just south of this cathedral, off Bull Street, is Savannah’s Temple Mickve Israel. It the third oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, which dates back to 1733. While there are many tall spires around town, none are quite as famous as Independent Presbyterian Church. Founded in 1755, the Independent Presbyterian was acknowledged as the mother church of Georgia’s Presbyterians.
But that’s not all! Don’t leave without first stepping inside of First African Baptist Church. It is considered one of the oldest African-American Congregations in the country, even though the physical church was not completed until 1859.
From Mansions to Museums
Our live oak tree canopies, dripping with Spanish moss would not be as amazing without all of the historic homes side by side. Some of these antebellum mansions in Savannah were transformed into museums so visitors could go inside and explore.
- The lovely Federal-style Davenport House was occupied by Isaiah Davenport, a master builder, who used his home as a model and his enslaved people as his construction crew until 1827. Today, the Davenport House operates as a historic house museum by the Historic Savannah Foundation.
- The Green Meldrim house was built for Mr. Charles Green, who came from England in 1833, As Savannah’s most expensive 19th-century home, it served as General Sherman’s headquarters during the Civil War. General William T. Sherman wrote the famous telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, sparing Savannah from his destructive March to the Sea from inside its walls.
- All girl scouts in town must make it a point to stop by the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the most famous National Girl Scout Program Center in the world, to learn about and honor the life of their founder, Juliette Gordon Low.
- And don’t miss the Mercer Williams House, famous for its role in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The home’s private restorationist Jim Williams haunts the estate, it is said.
Cemeteries in the Coastal Empire
Many a dead men have called Savannah their final resting place, and some say their spirits still linger. Whether it’s a tour or an adventure of your own, you can’t leave “America’s Most Haunted City” without first visiting her cemeteries. In the heart of the Historic District is the Colonial Park Cemetery, founded in 1750. Many of Savannah’s earliest citizens were laid to rest here. With over 10,000 graves, it is an especially popular spot for local ghost tours.
Just outside of Downtown Savannah, is the Laurel Grove Cemetery, named for the native laurel oak trees that thrived on the burial grounds. The 90-acre Laurel Grove South Cemetery is the resting place for African Americans who died in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 67-acre Laurel Grove North Cemetery, on West Anderson Street, features an entire section dedicated to the Civil War dead.
If you only have time to visit one cemetery in Savannah, make it the 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery. Bonaventure (which translates to “good fortune” in Italian) is not only expansive, but also beautiful and peaceful. Beautiful live oak trees shade thousands of graves. Bonaventure still sells interment rights. The cemetery is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In search of history about the wars fought in Savannah? There’s no better place to learn than the three historic forts around the city. Fort Pulaski is the most popular, located at the mouth of the Savannah River on Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island. The fort served as an active base for the Union Army during the Civil War. Later, it was used as a base for the U.S. Navy during World War II and a prisoner-of-war camp. A few miles up the Savannah River is Old Fort Jackson, the fort closest to downtown. Its strategic location allowed guns to open fire on any vessel entering Savannah. To get the full experience, be sure to catch the fort’s cannon-firing programs, presented daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Located close to I-95 south of Savannah on the banks of the Ogeechee River, Fort McAllister is a 1,725-acre state park that boasts a rich Civil War history. The fort houses a museum specializing in Civil War artifacts and welcomes visitors daily.
Savannah’s layout is a grid system. Over the years, these patches of greenery have held monuments sharing stories of Savannah’s past. There are 22 squares throughout downtown. Don’t miss out on seeing the following: