Surrounded by some of the most magnificent buildings downtown – including City Hall, the Christ Episcopal Church and several banks – is Johnson Square, the oldest and largest square in Savannah. It was laid out in 1733 and named after Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina in 1733, because of his help growing the colony.
Not only was this the largest square downtown, but it was also one of the central hubs for social activities for decades. Significant events that have occurred at this square include: Chekilli, the head Chief of the Creek Nation, reciting of the origin myth of the Creeks, Reverend John Wesley posting a public notice revealing his plans to return to England in 1735, a reading of The Declaration of Independence in 1776 and a ball for President James Monroe in 1819.
Johnson Square has two fountains and a 50-foot marble monument to honor General Nathanael Greene, a hero during the American Revolution. Greene died near Savannah on June 19, 1786 and was originally buried at what is now known as the Colonial Cemetery. Vandalism during the Civil War resulted in the loss of many burial sites, including Greene’s, but his remains were found in the Graham vault and placed beneath the monument in 1901.
Architect William Strickland designed the obelisk monument in the Egyptian style of Cleopatra’s Needle, which Napoleon Bonaparte made popular. Marquis de Lafayette installed the foundation for the monument on March 21, 1825 and Strickland completed the monument in 1830.
The sundial, which is surrounded by four mosaic-tiled panels, was placed in recognition of Colonel William Bull of South Carolina and the aid that he provided General Oglethorpe with when establishing Savannah. He laid out the plan for the city and contributed to Oglethorpe’s grid pattern of Savannah.