Yesterday was a day to enjoy Savannah, the oldest city in the state of Georgia, and the first state capital of Georgia. The city retains the original town plan designed by founder James Oglethorpe and contains 22 park-like squares (of the original 24). Savannah was founded on February 12, 1733, along with the colony of Georgia. The city sits on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River, approximately 20 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
After breakfast and blog work this morning, we took the free ferry from the Westin across the river to the downtown area. Our first stop was to visit the statue of “The Waving Girl”, aka Florence Martus (1868-1943). She took upon herself the task of greeting all ships that left and entered the Port of Savannah between 1887 and 1931. After a few years, she moved in with her brother, a light keeper on Elba Island. She would wave a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night. Legend states she did not miss a ship in her 44 years on watch. According to some, she greeted the ships because she had fallen in love as a young girl with a sailor and wanted to be sure he would find her when he returned.
From there we walked over to The Pirates’ House for lunch. The Pirates’ House is said to be the oldest standing building in the state of Georgia. The place has a long history dating back to 1734, beginning as a house for the gardener who worked the botanical garden on the site. In 1754, when the so-called Herb House was no longer considered necessary, the place was transformed into an inn and tavern for seamen. It became a meeting place for pirates and the criminal parts of society. Many drunken sailors have gone missing from The Pirates’ House. Some were knocked unconscious and dragged through a tunnel beneath the Inn, down to the river and onto a life of bondage on a pirate’s ship. It is also said that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first few chapters of Treasure Island at The Pirates’ House.
From there we made our way past old homes and charming squares to the Colonial Park Cemetery, which is the final resting place for many of Savannah’s earliest citizens. It dates to about 1750. Among those buried here is Button Gwinett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. One of the tombs contains the remains of James Wilde, who was killed in a duel. The epitaph reads, “He fell in a duel on the 16th of January, 1815, by the hand of a man who, a short time ago, would have been friendless but for him… By his untimely death the prop of a Mother’s age is broken: The hope and consolation of Sisters is destroyed, the pride of Brothers humbled in the dust and a whole family, happy until then, overwhelmed with aflliction.”
A couple of blocks away from the cemetery, we came upon the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The colonial charter of Savannah prohibited Catholics from settling in Savannah. This was a result of the fear that Catholics would be more loyal to the Spanish authorities in Florida than to the English government in Georgia. After the revolution, however, this prohibition was relaxed and a group of Haitian immigrants established the first Catholic church in Savannah. Construction of St. John the Baptist began in 1873. The architectural style is French Gothic, and it is beautiful!
On the way back to town we passed the home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America. Soon thereafter, we came to Chippewa Square, which contains a statue of the founder of Georgia, James Oglethorpe. What the square is most noted for these days is the place where Forrest Gump sat on the park bench for about 80% of the film telling his life story to anyone who will listen. The bench on which he sat was actually a movie prop that has since been placed in a museum, but the spot on which the bench rested is still there.
We soon came upon Johnson Square, upon which sits Christ Church, the oldest church in Georgia. It is an Episcopal church which was founded in 1733. John Wesley was the minister here in 1736, followed by George Whitfield in 1738. Unfortunately, the church was closed and we could not enter, but it’s still pretty cool to walk past these historic places.
From there, our next destination was only a couple of blocks away: Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons restaurant. We’ve eaten at several Food Network Chefs’ restaurants, including Mario Batali’s and Bobby Flay’s. Paula’s is definitely different than the other two. The others are more upscale (of course they were in NYC), while Paula’s is more down-home. The restaurant is housed in an unassuming building in downtown Savannah. The waiters are friendly and professional. And, the food is really good. Not great, but really good. The peach cobbler for dessert? Okay, that was great!
After this busy day, we returned to Beatitude for the evening. I took a brief swim in the Westin pool. This, however, was cut short by a thunderstorm that rolled through with some ferocious lightning and thunder, and brief heavy rain. So, we returned to the boat for a few minutes before heading up to the hotel lobby to watch the finale of Dancing with the Stars. We were happy to see that the best dancer won – Rumer Willis. 🙂