Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Trolley Tour Through Historic Savannah

We decided a great way to get an overview of Savannah would be to take the trolley tour.

The Independent Presbyterian Church has the tallest spire in Savannah. This faith was originally established in Savannah in 1755 after James Oglethorpe (you'll be hearing that name a lot) arrived. The church has had several locations, but this one was dedicated in 1819.

The First Baptist Church claims to be the oldest original church building in Savannah where services were held during the Civil War.

The Six Pence Pub, voted best pub by the locals in 2012. We can attest to the great food!

This is Chippewa Square with a statue of General Oglethorpe. The square is also famous for scenes shot in the movie Forrest Gump with Forrest sitting on the park bench.

The Green-Meldrim House was the home of cotton merchant, Charles Green, but is better known as serving as the headquarters for General Sherman during his occupation of Savannah. It was designed in 1850 and is now the rectory of the adjacent St. John's Episcopal Church, which acquired it in 1892.

The Mercer House, now known as the Mercer-Williams House, was built for General Hugh Mercer beginning in 1860. The work was interrupted by the war and he fell onto hard times and sold the house to John Wilder who completed construction in 1868. Jim Williams bought the house in 1969 after it had been vacant for some time and spent two years restoring it. This is one of more than 50 houses that Jim Williams saved during his 30 year career of historic restoration.

The house is more famous now because of the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil where it was the centre of a murder scene involving Jim Williams and his lover. Supposedly, Savannahians were more shocked by the fact that Jim Williams was gay, rather than by the murder he committed.

Jim Williams' sister now lives in the house which you can tour. She prefers to concentrate the tours on the early history of the home and her brother's talent as a collector of fine art and antiques.

The Scottish Rite Temple was built in 1913 and was designed by the same architect who designed City Hall.

The Georgia Historical Society is the oldest cultural institution and has been collecting, examining and teaching Georgia history since 1839.

Located in the Victorian District at the top of Forsyth Park, Armstrong House was once home to Armstrong Junior College. Since being built it has served as a private home, a college campus, and another of Jim Williams' properties. It is currently home to a prestigious law firm.

One of the many beautiful homes surrounding Forsyth Park...

Here's that house with the ivy steps again!

You can see why a walk around Forsyth Park is so magnificent...


Oh yeah, hard to believe it's just after Christmas. We were having an unseasonably hot week and loving it!

The Telfair Hospital was the concept of Mary Telfair, a woman ahead of her time. She was born in 1789 and her vision was to have a special place where women could receive respectful and compassionate care. It was completed in 1884 shortly before her death, and remains a women's hospital to this day.

The trolley driver described this as the pepto-bismol house with enough scorn in his voice for us to know it isn't an approved colour. Enough said...

This looks like a small castle...

The Hamilton-Turner house was the first house in Savannah to have electricity. It also plays a role in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as the house where the Odom party was held. It is now one of city's most luxurious bed and breakfast inns.

We have not seen anyone panhandling so the law is obviously enforced.

This massive tree is a 300 year old Candler Oak, located behind the Candler Hospital. During Sherman's occupation, wounded Confederate prisoners were treated within a barricade around the tree. It is now on the National Register of Historic Trees.

This lovely double balcony townhouse is a rental property near Forsyth Park...

Clary's is known for its great breakfast, but also is the cafe where the characters in Midnight hung out. The week the book was released, the cafe was taken over by a new owner who renovated it.

Here we are driving by Colonial Cemetery, which we visited with Barb and Ed a few days ago.

Two old original cruisers are parked in front of the police station. The third car is an advertisement for not drinking and driving. You have two options. You can take the yellow part of the car home (a taxi) for $20, or you can take the white part (police car) for $3000 and go home that way.

The Pirates House has been welcoming visitors since 1753. It hosted seamen, pirates and the underbelly of society. It was generally a place that the locals avoided. Captains needing sailors came to the establishment and many drunken sailors went missing from the Pirate House. They were shanghaied through underground tunnels and woke up to find themselves on a ship to a distant land. They used the term shanghaied as many of the ships were bound for China.

Scenes from Robert Louis Stevenson's book Treasure Island were said to have taken place here.

Here the trolley was boarded by Pirate Sam, a true character.


These houses reminded me of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco.

This house was built in 1815 and was typical of the residences at that time, before it became a grander city.

On a visit to Savannah in 1946, the decay of many architectural treasures prompted Lady Astor to call the city "a beautiful lady with a dirty face." The condition of Davenport House inspired the formation of the Historic Savannah Foundation, setting in motion the restoration of Old Savannah to its former glory.

Kehoe House is a bed and breakfast where Tom Hanks and his wife stayed during the filming of Forrest Gump.

The Owens-Thomas House is considered to be one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in America. It is built of stucco over tabby so it should last for many years! A tour of the house features stunning gardens, a brass inlaid staircase and an intact slave house.

Ahh...the Lady Chablis still performs periodically at Club One, a gay bar. Clint Eastwood directed Midnight and after he met her, he decided that she should play herself in the movie. She was so professional she was called "One Take Chablis." Barb and I have decided we're going to see her show. The guys are on the fence...

The Lucas Theatre was almost demolished in 1984 before a 14 year campaign saved it. It held its grand reopening in 2000 thanks largely to donations from Midnight's Kevin Spacey (who played Jim Williams) and the cast and crew of Forrest Gump. It's now part of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design).


The trolley tour was now winding onto scenic River Street. You can see Talmadge Memorial Bridge in the background.

The streets are actually not cobblestones. These irregular stones came from England over 250 years ago as ballast in the holds of sailing ships that brought the first colonists to Savannah. They were no longer needed as the fully loaded ships left Savannah, and were dumped on the pier.

When the original wooden City Exchange building was demolished, the bell, which had been cast in Amsterdam, was saved. It eventually was placed in a replica of the original cupola in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

The winged lion guards the Old Savannah Cotton Exchange. After the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, Savannah was exporting more than two million bales of cotton a year.

City Hall was built in 1901 with its four 7 foot high clocks and 24-karat gold-plated copper dome.

This is the First African Baptist Church, the  oldest black church in North America. The church was an active part of the Underground Railroad.

The trolley tour ended and Stephanie and I went back downtown to walk around and visit some of the shops on River Street. OK, we really wanted to go to River Street Sweets and it was sooo worth it!
 
This monument was at the beginning of our walk down River Street. Many slaves were brought to Georgia via the Savannah seaport, so a memorial to their struggle has been placed on the riverfront. It depicts a family in broken chains and has an inscription by Maya Angelou.

Stephanie is looking pretty pleased with some of her purchases. Across the river you can see the city's largest luxury hotel, the Westin Savannah Harbour Golf Resort and Spa.

Florence Martus, the Waving Girl, lived on an isolated island, and in 1887 began waving to passing ships. For 44 years, she waved and each ship sounded its horn in return. She became known all over the world and when she died more than 3000 sailors from around the world attended her service. This bronze statue is at the end of River Street and passing ships still respectfully sound their horns.


Phew! This ends of the first tour of the city...there is lots to see and do.

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