Category Archives: –CHATHAM COUNTY GA–

Hunter Field Base Chapel, 1941 – Whitefield United Methodist Church, 1948, Savannah

I’ve been passing by this church on the corner of Waters Avenue and 55th Street for years, on my way to watch rugby tournaments at nearby Daffin Park, and always presumed it to be a much older building that had been modernized at some point. Its actual history is much more interesting.

It was built as the base chapel at Hunter Field between 1940-1941, for the sum of $28,000, and was apparently a standard design found on many newly commissioned bases during World War II. I can just imagine the young men at the base finding solace in its sanctuary, as they prepared to ship off to the European Theater of Operations. Many of these chapels were surplussed after the war, as was the case with the Hunter chapel, but thanks to its solid construction, it was purchased in 1946 for the sum of $1 by the Savannah United Methodist Church Board of Missions. The church was sawed in half and moved on trailers to its present location and a yet-unnamed congregation held its first services on 10 October 1948. It was officially chartered as the Whitefield Methodist Church on 30 January 1949.

These two photographs likely date to the earliest days of the Methodist Congregation, circa 1948 or 1949. They were included in a 2017 article by the U. S. Army.

Photo Credit: U. S. Army
Photo Credit: U. S. Army

Soon after the Army article was published, the church, whose membership had greatly dwindled in recent years, decided to close its doors. I believe it is now a mission site of the Isle of Hope United Methodist Church.

10 Places: Black History in Coastal Georgia

Our Top Ten post was so popular that I’ve decided to try to do one of these each month. For Black History Month, I thought these would be timely. There may be a greater concentration of historic African-American-related sites on the coast than anywhere else outside Atlanta, but like all history on the coast, they are under constant threat from population growth and changes in land use and land value.

#1- 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Darien

#2- Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, 1928, & Good Shepherd School, 1910, Pennick

#3- Praise House, Bolden

#4- Dorchester Academy Boys’ Dormitory, 1934, Midway

#5- African-American Madonna Monuments of Camden County

#6- Lambright House, Freedmen’s Grove

#7- Sam Ripley Farm, 1926, Liberty County

#8- Freeman’s Cottage, Circa 1820, Savannah

#9- George Washington Carver School, 1939, Keller

#10- First African Baptist Church at Raccoon Bluff, Circa 1900, Sapelo Island

Baldwin-Neely House, 1887, Savannah

This Richardsonian Romanesque landmark near Forsyth Park was designed for George Johnson Baldwin by architect William Gibbons Preston, who was also responsible for the Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory, the old DeSoto Hotel and the Cotton Exchange, among others. Baldwin’s wife Lucy made the home a center of society in late Victorian Savannah.

Alvin Neely

Recently, my friend John Brown and I had a delightful visit with longtime owner, Alvin Neely. Alvin grew up in Waynesboro, in one of the town’s best-known homes, and his family has a long and prosperous history in Burke and Jefferson counties.

Alvin has continued the tradition of being an elegant host and visiting with him is like a glimpse into another era. He was a good friend of Jim Williams, the main character in John Berendt’s head-turning bestseller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and shared some wonderful anecdotes about those days.

He graciously invited me to photograph throughout the home and I’m grateful to be able to share a few images.

Alvin has carefully decorated the house with antiques that reflect the spirit of the architectural style and the era with which it is associated.

As a result, it is a comfortable and welcoming space.

Over the years, the home has regularly played host to Alvin’s large circle of friends.

Marble sculpture
Library
Solarium
Stairway landing
Decorative relief

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

Berrien House, Circa 1791, Savannah

Considered one of Georgia’s most iconic houses, the Berrien House was built circa 1791 for Major John Berrien (1759-1815), a hero of the Revolutionary War.

Major Berrien left college in New Jersey to enlist in the American Revolution. Quickly rising through the ranks, he was commissioned Captain of the first Georgia Continental Brigade in 1777, under the command of Lachlan McIntosh. Berrien followed General McIntosh to Washington’s Headquarters and served, at age 18, as Brigadier Major of North Carolina Troops at Valley Forge and Monmouth. Washington is believed to have made his headquarters in Berrien’s ancestral New Jersey home, Rockingham, and may have written his Farewell Orders to the Armies from that location. The Berriens were close personal friends of General Washington. After the war, Berrien returned to Savannah with his family and became very prominent in local affairs. He was Collector of Customs and an alderman and also served as state treasurer at Louisville (1796-1799).

John Macpherson Berrien, by John Maier, 1870. Public Domain

Major Berrien’s son, John Macpherson Berrien (1781-1856), began the practice of law at Louisville in 1799. After service in the War of 1812, Berrien was elected to the Georgia senate and served as a United States senator from 1825-1829. From 1829-1831, he served as Andrew Jackson’s attorney general; from 1845-1852, he again served in the United States senate. Berrien County is named for him.

The home, which was in bad condition for many years, has been exquisitely restored by one of Berrien’s descendants, Andrew Berrien Jones, and is a wonderful example of preservation.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

Charles Wakeman House, 1924, Savannah

Charles Wakeman was a pioneer in the burgeoning automobile industry in Savannah. As early as 1911 he was listed as a partner in the Sawyer Auto Livery Company.

Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Tudor Revival House, 1925, Savannah

Kavanaugh Park

Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Georgian Revival House, 1923, Savannah

Kavanaugh Park

Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Dutch Colonial Revival House, 1912, Savannah

This delightful house, located on Kavanaugh Park, is one of the most iconic residences in Ardsley Park.

Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Savannah High School, 1935

Savannah High School traces its origins to Chatham Academy, a school chartered in 1788. During the Great Depression, this campus was built by the Public Works Administration around the foundation of a hotel whose developers went bankrupt. It was said to be the largest public school building in the United States at the time.

The school was integrated relatively early, in 1963, by twelve African-American students. In 1997, Savannah High relocated and this campus became the Savannah Arts Academy.

Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Tudor Revival House, 1937, Savannah

Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, National Register of Historic Places