General James Edward Oglethorpe laid out the basic design of Savannah’s squares in 1733, shortly after his arrival here, creating America’s first pre-planned city. Among other charms, the squares of Savannah serve to slow the pace of traffic, so that visitors and residents alike can take it slow and savor the beauty of this lovely place.
All of Savannah’s squares are carpeted in lush, green grass, almost bursting with the brilliant seasonal colors of the flowerbeds so carefully tended. Some squares, such as Johnson, sit like oases in the midst of a bustling commercial center. Others, like Whitfield Square, with its exquisite cupola, site of so many romantic weddings, rest amid beautiful residential areas. A precious few, like Troup Square, have the benefit of a small café at one side, where residents and visitors can munch a bit and sip their sweet tea or a glass of wine and absorb the loveliness of the trees and flowers, architecture, and monuments of Historic Savannah.
The First Four Squares
Bull St. between Bryan & Congress. Named after Robert Johnson, Governor of South Carolina, who helped the infant colony. It was the first square; built in 1733. In the center of the square sits a monument to, and the grave of, General Nathaniel Greene. Overlooking the square is Christ Church, considered the “Mother Church of Georgia.” Several major banks surround this square, the first of which was built in 1911.
Among the very first squares in Oglethorpe’s Savannah was Ellis Square, built in 1733. This historic square was the original City Market. Sadly, the old City Market building was torn down in 1954 and replaced by a parking garage. For more than half a century, Ellis was one of the “Lost Squares” of Savannah. The destruction had been done in a misguided attempt to encourage more downtown shopping. In 2005 the parking garage was torn down and replaced by an underground parking structure developed through a public-private partnership. This provided the opportunity to restore a public square at ground level above the parking structure.
After extensive public debate, a plan was developed to create an urban plaza that could accommodate a variety of uses. The result is a beautiful public space that includes a visitor center, restrooms, an interactive fountain, a variety of seating options, and space for music and other performances.
The park also boasts a bronze statue of Savannah native and well-known songwriter Johnny Mercer.
Barnard St. between State & York. Built in 1733, it was originally called St. James Square and was re-named in 1883 for the Telfair family. The magnificent building which houses the Telfair Museum, the oldest art museum in the South, and the Telfair Academy of Arts & Sciences, faces the square.
Bull St. between State & York. Also laid out in 1733, it was originally dubbed Percival Square but was renamed in 1763 for Georgia’s third and last Colonial Governor, Sir James Wright. For many years it has been colloquially known as Courthouse Square. A monument honors William Washington Gordon, an early Savannah mayor and founder of the Central Georgia Railroad. A large granite boulder marks the grave of Chief Tomochichi, who befriended Oglethorpe and his early band of settlers.
Other 18th Century Squares
Abercorn St. between State & York. Laid out in 1742, it honors General Oglethorpe. Overlooking this square is the Owens-Thomas House, designed by William Jay and built 1816-1819. This lovely house is considered one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in America.
Houston St. between Bryan & Congress. Laid out in 1790, it honors General George Washington and is surrounded by beautiful homes with lovely architectural details.
Montgomery Street at Congress (City Market). Established in 1790 to honor Benjamin Franklin. This square was nearly lost in the 1970s, which saw the demise of Elbert Square, but was ultimately restored to its original state. Site of First African Baptist Church.
Habersham St. between Bryan & Congress. Laid out in 1791, it was named for the president of the Third Provincial Congress, General Joseph Warren, who was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Spencer House faces the square.
Habersham St. between York and State. Designed in 1799, it is centered by a lovely cast iron fountain imported from the Wormsloe Plantation. Facing the square is the Davenport House, a fine example of Federal architecture. While every one of the squares is beautiful, this one is particularly lovely, shaded by four giant live oaks. Here, too, is the charming Victorian mansion, The Kehoe House, built in 1892 by William Kehoe, now a restored inn.
Montgomery St. between State & York. Laid out in 1799, it was named for the Sons of Liberty, who fought for freedom against the British in the Revolutionary War. Another Lost Square, the County Courthouse is now here, but in front of it burns the “Flame of Freedom”.
Houston St. between York & State. Established in 1799, was named for Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene, who is buried beneath the monument on Johnson Square. The imposing First African Baptist Church faces the square.
19th Century Squares
Montgomery St. between Hull & Perry Streets. Designed in 1801, it was named after General Samuel Elbert, a member of the Provincial Congress of 1775 and a governor. This is the second Lost Square, now paved over and open to through traffic.
Bull St. between Perry & Hull. Named for the 1812 battle of Chippewa in Canada. An imposing statue of General James Oglethorpe is featured here. This is also the square made famous in modern days by the bench upon which Forest Gump sat in the movie of the same name.
Barnard St. between Hull & Perry. Laid out in 1815, it honors the War of 1812 Battle of New Orleans.
Abercorn St. between Harris & Charlton. This square, laid out in 1837, honors the Marquis de Lafayette, who visited Savannah in 1825 and spoke from the balcony of the Owens-Thomas House, which overlooks the square. Also on the square is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and the Hamilton-Turner House, built in 1873. Now an inn, this is a fine example of Second French Empire Victorian architecture.
Barnard St. between Harris & Charlton. Laid out in 1837, it is named for Count Casimir Pulaski, the Revolutionary War hero from Poland, who sacrificed his life in the 1779 Siege of Savannah.
Abercorn St. between Bryan & Congress. Honors Captain John Reynolds, Governor of Georgia in 1754. In 1969, the Methodists of Georgia erected a beautiful statue of their founder, John Wesley.. Overlooking this square are the famous Pink House restaurant, the Lucas Theatre, and the lovely Planter’s Inn.
Houston St, between Hull & Perry. Laid out in 1841, it was named for William Harris Crawford, a Governor and United States Senator. It is the only fenced square in the historic district.
Barnard St. between Taylor & Gordon Streets. Laid out in 1847 it honors William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham.
Habersham St. between Harris & Charlton. It is named after a former governor of Georgia, George Micheal Troup. Featured here is a dramatic armillary sphere, an astronomical model with solid rings, all circles of a single sphere, which is used to display relationships among celestial circles. The square was established in 1851.
Abercorn St. between Taylor and Gordon Laid out in 1851, it was named for South Carolina statesman, John C. Calhoun. This is another square highly prized by many brides and grooms who hold their wedding receptions here. The well-known Massie School faces the square as does the Wesley Monumental Methodist Church.
Bull St. between Harris & Charlton. Laid out in 1837, it honors James Madison, fourth President of the United States. The square features a 15.5-foot statue of Sgt. William Jasper, killed in 1779 during the Siege of Savannah. On the square is the Green-Meldrim House Museum, a beautiful Gothic Revival built in 1853 by architect John S. Norris and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Also on the square is the Scottish Rite Temple.
Bull St. between Taylor & Gordon. Considered by many to be Savannah’s most dramatic square, it is named for the capture of Monterey during the Mexican War in 1846 by American forces under the command of General Zachary Taylor. A monument of Count Casimir Pulaski is here. Facing the square is the Mercer House, made so famous by Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil.
Habersham St. between Gordon & Taylor. Laid out in 1851, it honors a Savannah minister, Rev. George Whitefield, the founder of the Bethesda Orphanage. It features a beautiful cupola, often used as the focal point for the square’s many romantic weddings today.