Thursday, January 5, 2012

Downtown Savannah

Savannah and the colony of Georgia was founded in 1733 by James Oglethorpe on a charter from the King of England. Savannah is known as the "hostess city of the South" and is considered the first planned city of the U.S.

This handwrought weathervane came from the 12th century Church of Cranham, Essex, England, where James Oglethorpe is buried.

There are still many cobblestone streets throughout the downtown area, dating back to the cities beginnings. The cobblestones were used as ballast on arriving ships. Upon arrival the stones would be removed and the holds filled with cargo from the New World, to be taken back to England. The stones were then used to build roads and walls.

The Port of Savannah was once known for it crop of King Cotton. This is the Savannah Cotton Exchange, located on the waterfront. Completed in 1887 when Savannah was ranked first in the shipment of cotton, the port shipped over 2 billion bales of cotton a year. Eli Whitney, who came to Savannah as a school teacher, and his invention of the cotton gin made cotton the most valuable crop for America back in the late 1800s.

Christ Church, the Mother Church of England, was the first established church in Savannah in 1733. A notable rector was Rev. John Wesley, 1736-1737.

Although the original charter for the city and the first 114 founders were all tradesmen and their families, strong in the faith of the Church of England, it was discovered the city needed more skills and people. Although this was officially against the charter, Jews, and German Lutherans as well as other people were encouraged to bring their skills to this city. As such, Savannah is the home to many early churches.

The Lutheran Church of the Ascension was founded in 1741 by the Germans from Salzberg.

Savannah has been the location for many movies, including Forest Gump. This is the location of the park bench where Forest was sitting with his box of chocolates. The bench has been moved to a museum.

The museum was closing so we didn't get to go in, but found we could see the bench and Forest's suitcase from the hallway.

First Baptist Church of Savannah is the oldest original church building still standing, dating from 1833. The other churches, although established in the mid 1700s, have been rebuilt or remodeled over the years.

Trinity Methodist Church, Mother Church of Methodism, is the oldest Methodist church in Savannah. The cornerstone of the building was laid in 1848 and completed in 1850.

Savannah boasts the second largest St. Patrick's Day Parade and celebration in the U.S., only New York City being larger. The first celebration was held in 1813 by the Hiberian Society, a group so Irish Protestants.

Juliette Gordon Low was born in Savannah, but is best known for her founding of the Girl Scouts. This building was the first headquarters for the organization.

The Candler Oak is estimated to be 270 years old and 50 feet high.

Real estate in Savannah has bottomed out just as in other areas around the country. This 10,000 sq ft house has been marked down from $3.5M to $1.5M. Doesn't it make you want to run out and buy several!

I think they are having a hard time selling this place.

The Pirate's House, today a popular restaurant, was once a well known hangout for sailors and as rumor has it, pirates. It is also associated with Robert Louis Stevenson and his famous book, "Treasure Island". Built in 1754, many people believe the building is haunted.

I enjoyed the story about why many of the homes have staircases going up each side. Our guide reminded us that back when these homes were built, women were not allowed to show their ankles. Since the first floor of most homes were built up to avoid possible flooding, they had high stairs. Women were to go up one side and the men the other, thus avoiding the possiblity the men would accidently (or on purpose) look at the women's ankles when they hiked their skirts going up the steps. Wouldn't those people be scandalized by our dress today?

Even though it was Thanksgiving, the Christmas decorations were already up all over town.

We did go downtown on Saturday night for the boat light parade. Decorated and lite up boats of all sizes and shapes paraded up and down the harbor.

Some were quite elaborate, while others were pretty simple.

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