By: Shilo Urban
It’s mid-April and I’m strolling down Bull Street, cutting through one of the 22 squares that grace Savannah — seeing the centuries-old Southern live oaks laden with Spanish moss, smelling the blossoming azaleas, and hearing the genteel horse-drawn carriage rounding the corner. Savannah is embraced in a time capsule — its sultry seductiveness can quickly capture the soul and calm the mind.
In 1733, General James Edward Oglethorpe, an English gentleman, along with 120 fellow passengers, docked the ship, Anne, near a rise above the Savannah River. Here he founded Georgia, the 13th colony of America, and Savannah, its first city. General Oglethorpe designed what is now, at 2.5 square miles, the largest urban historic district in the U.S. His plan has withstood the test of almost three centuries. When General William Tecumseh Sherman burned cities across Georgia in 1864, a number of Savannah civic leaders rode out to tell him they would surrender if he would not destroy their lovely town. He agreed and posted his troops in the home known today as the Green-Meldrim House, a Gothic Revival structure on the west side of Madison Square. Headquartering there that cold winter, Sherman proudly presented the city of Savannah to President Lincoln that Christmas.
During the 1950s and 1960s, historic Savannah went into serious decline with the loss of some elegant mansions. Soon seven preservation-minded women came together to revive the Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF originally founded in 1955), and demolitions came to a halt. Today this organization works with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to repurpose old buildings, including several nostalgic theaters. It has been said that grand architecture is like a silent symphony. These organizations work in harmony to ensure the music continues for future generations.
Today Savannah serves as a haven for artists, writers and poets and continues to enchant visitors from all over the world.
Breakfast - Clary’s Café Step back in time to the nostalgic diner where breakfast is served each day until 4 p.m. Family pictures and memorabilia adorn the walls from past decades when this cafe served as a drugstore with a soda fountain. Clary’s was featured in the 1994 book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 404 Abercorn St., claryscafe.com
Lunch - Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room The essence of Southern cooking, served family style, this restaurant opened in the early 1940s. No reservations are taken. A line forms each morning, and doors do not open until 11 a.m. sharp. The original Mrs. Wilkes died in 2002, but her descendants continue the tradition. 107 W. Jones St., mrswilkes.com
Six Pence Pub Take a picture in front, and everyone will think you are in London. Six Pence served as a scene in the Julia Roberts 1995 movie, “Something to Talk About.” 245 Bull St., sixpencepub.com
Afternoon Treat - Leopold’s Ice Cream Put aside the no-sugar rule for a bit. Three brothers from Greece founded Leopold’s in 1919. Named one of the top ice cream parlors in the world. Try the lavender flavor. 212 E. Broughton St.,
Dinner - Bella Napoli From the old country to the low country. You will likely meet Franco, the manager, who may remind you of the Soup Nazi in “Seinfeld.” But that is all part of the atmosphere, and the imported Italian chef makes it worthwhile. 18 E. State St., bellanapolibistro.com
The Olde Pink House For fine dining, eat upstairs. The basement bar is also home to dining, plus it has a piano player and possibly one of the best mint juleps in the South. 23 Abercorn St.
See and Do
Walk. “The best way to learn about historic Savannah is to take a tour, but the only way to experience it is to walk it,” said a native resident sitting next to me at Clary’s Café, a woman who made three syllables out of the word waaaaalk. If walking is difficult, hire a pedicab or a horse-drawn carriage.
Tour the Juliette Gordon Low Historic home The birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts and the first Girl Scout Headquarters. Built in 1818, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. 10 E. Oglethorpe Ave., juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org
Visit the Savannah Theatre on Chippewa Square Opened in 1818, it’s the oldest continuously operating theater in the U.S. SCAD assisted in the refurbishing, saving the vintage design. And while on Chippewa Square, notice the spot where Forrest Gump sat. 222 Bull St., savannahtheatre.com
See the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Built in 1876, this French Gothic-style structure burned in 1898 but was restored and reopened in 1912. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the state of Georgia. 222 E. Harris St.,
Stroll through Colonial Park Cemetery Burials here are from 1750 - 1853. See the section where the victims of the 1820 yellow fever epidemic are buried. The story goes that citizens were so fearful of the disease they would bury victims before they were sure they were dead. The buried were provided a ringer (just in case); thus, the term “dead ringer” was born. 200 Abercorn St., savannahga.gov
When in Savannah, a bed and breakfast is the only way to stay.
The Hamilton-Turner Inn, Lafayette Square Located in the mid-historic district, an easy walk to lovely Forsyth Park, the largest park in the historic district, and built in 1873 as a private home, this is one of the most exquisite inns in Savannah. There is complimentary breakfast and wine and hors d’oeuvres in late afternoon. 330 Abercorn St., hamilton-turnerinn.com
Kehoe House, Columbia Square Built in 1892 and located on the northern edge of the historic district, Kehoe House is a short walk to the shops and restaurants lining the Savannah River. Once a private home, the hotel’s rooms are elegantly furnished with antiques. Complimentary breakfast is offered in the morning, and wine and hors d’oeuvres in the late afternoon. This is an adult-only inn. 123 Habersham St., kehoehouse.com
Planters Inn, Reynolds Square Located next to The Olde Pink House and also a short walk to the riverfront, Planters Inn has colorful guest rooms, complimentary breakfast and an afternoon wine and cheese hour — plus bedtime cookies. 29 Abercorn St., plantersinnsavannah.com
24E Design Ruel Joyner follows two previous generations in his family’s business by designing and curating furnishings and objects from all over the world. 24 E. Broughton St., 24estyle.com
City Market Daytime or evening, there is always something happening. Meander through the art galleries and shops, and enjoy live music on certain nights of the week. 219 W. Bryan St., savannahcitymarket.com
By: Shilo Urban