Category Archives: Savannah GA

Georgia Hussars Storefront, 1897, Savannah

One of my favorite buildings in Savannah, this exotic Moorish Revival landmark [with a dose of Manueline inspiration and Gothic elements] was built by the Georgia Hussars as a retail space to fund their armory, which was located next door. The painted terracotta facade is truly one of the most memorable works of architecture in the city. As Rafe Semmes noted, it may best be remembered as the Pars Oriental Rug Company . It’s now home to Artillery Bar.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Lafayette Square, 1837, Savannah

One of 22 surviving squares in Savannah, Lafayette Square was named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette. It was laid out in 1837 and is adjacent to major landmarks including the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, and the Andrew Low House. The fountain was placed by the Colonial Dames of America to mark Savannah’s 250th anniversary, in 1983.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Tomochichi Monument, 1899, Savannah

Tomochichi (c.1644-1739) was the mico, or chief, of the Yamacraw Indians at the time of the colonization of Georgia by James Oglethorpe in 1733. His cooperation with the British made the creation of modern Georgia possible. In 1735, he accompanied Oglethorpe to England to report on the progress of the colony and was received as an ally and representative of all native people of the colony.

Tomochichi was already an old man when Georgia was colonized and he died on 5 February 1739. His life was honored by a British military funeral and his grave was marked with a pyramid of stones collected nearby. The first memorial was removed in the 1880s and replaced by this large boulder of Georgia granite, placed near the original gravesite in Wright Square by the Georgia Society of Colonial Dames in 1899.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Girl Scout First Headquarters, Savannah

The Andrew Low Carriage House*, at 330 Drayton Street, was the site of the first meeting of the troop of eighteen Girl Guides who would soon come to be known as the Girl Scouts. Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born into an influential Savannah family on 31 October 1860. Her grandfather was the first president of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia, and her father, William Washington Gordon II, was a Confederate captain, brigadier-general in the Spanish-American War, and a Georgia legislator. She attended boarding schools in New Jersey and Virginia, and a French finishing school in New York City.

After completing her education, Juliette married William Mackay Low in 1886. Low was the son of Andrew Low, a wealthy cotton factor of Scottish origin who owned homes in Savannah and the United Kingdom. The young couple spent most of their time in England and Scotland. The union turned sour when Juliette discovered that William had moved his mistress into their home. In 1902 she filed for divorce, but William’s health was deteriorating and before the action could be finalized, he died in Wales, in 1905.

In 1911, Juliette Gordon Low met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and got involved with a troop of Girl Guides in Scotland. She brought the movement to Savannah and the first troop of eighteen Girl Guides met in the carriage house of the Low family mansion on 12 March 1912. The name was changed to the Girl Scouts in 1913. Low’s association with the Girl Scouts continued in various capacities until her death in 1927. The organization has served over 50 million girls in its long history and while it may be best known for its annual cookie sales, has enriched the lives of those who have been associated with it.

The carriage house has served various purposes within the Girl Scouts organization over the years and is presently a museum. It was the first structure in Savannah to receive National Historic Landmark status.

*-Designed by architect John Norris to complement the adjacent Andrew Low House, circa 1848-1849, this structure originally served as the carriage house and living quarters for domestic slaves. Thomas “Tom” Milledge (1818-1886) was the most entrusted of the domestic slaves and after emancipation, remained in the employee of the Low family as a butler. He lived in the carriage house with his wife Mosianna (1844-1909) and their children.

Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Christian Camphor Cottage, 1760s: The Oldest Building in Savannah

This saltbox cottage, built some time between 1760-1767 and raised in 1871, is believed to be the oldest surviving structure in the city of Savannah [Wild Heron Plantation, outside the city, is the oldest structure in Chatham County, dating to circa 1756]. The balcony was remodeled in 1907. I have not been able to locate any information about Christian Camphor, however.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Israel Dasher House, 1858, Savannah

This iconic Savannah home was built for Israel Dasher (26 June 1814-3 February 1894), who came to the city from nearby Effingham County. The Dashers were a large Salzburger family connected to New Ebenezer and many of their relatives remain in the area.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Frank & Co. Dry Goods Mural, Savannah

I love seeing old murals around Savannah. They often bring character to otherwise easily overlooked places. Frank & Co. was a thriving dry goods wholesaler in late-19th-century Savannah.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

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.

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