by Dr. Denise R. Ames
I recently visited Savannah, Georgia with a group of women relatives for our annual reunion. It was really fun but I also got to see the city of Savannah up close for several days. I would like to share with you my impressions of the city.
Savannah is known for its superb southern cooking and our group was only too willing to experience the taste sensations. After mouth-watering BBQ the night before, we had reservations for brunch at B. Matthews Bistro in an old Savannah neighborhood.
There were many unusual selections but I settled on Crab Cake Benedict, egg on English muffin with sauce and eggs. It had a taste of the South with a side of savory grits. Yum! After our breakfast the eight of us decided to walk around old Savannah. After a while, some got tired and returned to the house, while my daughter, my daughter-in-law and her mother, and I decided to walk along scenic Bull Street heading towards our Airbnb.
The street was delightful! The day was delightful! The humidity, which can be stifling in the southern city, was low, the temperature mild, and the beautiful live oaks provided cooling shade. We were particularly enchanted with the squares located at frequent intersection along Bull Street. I read where “the squares and parks of Savannah are the community’s most beloved icons.” Originally city planners had designed 24 squares, luckily 22 remain today.
I find the fact that these squares that take up a large chunk of urban land to be an anomaly in American cities. Where urban land is often priced according to the square meter, Savannah has devoted generous tracts of land to “unproductive” squares. However, now these places of tranquility and beauty are paying for themselves by helping to attract over 14.8 million visitors in 2019.
General Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia in 1696, came up with the idea of laying the city of Savannah out in a grid pattern with squares, which are open areas made for public use, spaced out throughout this grid. These Squares were originally used to practice and drill for the militia,
As our group of four strolled along Bull Street heading away from the river, we marveled at the enchanting squares. Located at Bull and St. Julian Streets, Johnson Square was our first intimate look at a square. It was designed in 1733 and named for Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina when Georgia was founded. Johnson Square was the first of Savannah’s 24 squares and served as its commercial hub. In the center stands a monument of General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero and Savannah patriot. It is only a 3-minute walk to the Old Pink House Restaurant, a Savannah icon. Alas, we couldn’t get reservations for our group.
We next stumbled upon the striking Chippewa Square, located at Bull and McDonough Streets. It was designed in 1815 and named to commemorate the Battle of Chippewa in the War of 1812. In the center stands a bronze statue of the colony’s founder, General James Edward Oglethorpe, who faces south protecting Savannah from the Spanish in Florida. It is also known as Forrest Gump Square since the bus stop scenes from the Oscar winning motion picture were filmed on the north end of the square.
While strolling along Bull Street an artisan chocolate shop caught our eye. This was no ordinary chocolate shop but one for the wealthy and try connoisseurs. Chocolate was concocted into whimsical shapes. My daughter couldn’t resist and bought four different chocolate pieces, totaling around $10. I said it was for the elites. I savored every bite.
Our next square was the Madison Square, at Bull and Macon Streets, It was designed in 1837 and named to honor James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. In the center stands a monument of Sergeant William Jasper who fell during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. A granite marker denotes the southern line of the British defense during the 1779 battle.
Our final square before we called it quits and called an Uber back to our Airbnb was the Monterey Square located at Bull and Wayne Streets. It was designed in 1847 and named to commemorate the 1846 Battle of Monterey during the Mexican American War. It was the battle of the Mexican War in which a Savannah unit of the Irish Jasper Greens fought. The square’s monument honors Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who was mortally wounded during the Siege of Savannah while fighting for Americans.
My serene feeling visiting the squares lasted with me a long time. I felt tension leave my body as I looked up at the towering Live Oaks laced with Spanish moss. I marveled at the foresight the people of Savannah had when they preserved these jewels scattered across the urban landscape. I was beginning to appreciate Savannah more and more as I shut the door on my Uber ride.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.
The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program Gatt, Global Awareness Through Travel. Gatt is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.
Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.