The Spell of Savannah
Annie Singh-Quern

For almost three hundred years, Georgia’s oldest city Savannah has cast a spell upon its visitors and residents with its beautiful homes, tree-lined squares, and scenic riverwalk. Savannah also earned a darker label as America’s most haunted city. Ironically, this dichotomy has brought even more allure to Savannah, as one of America’s most charming and romantic cities to visit and live.

In 1733, Savannah was discovered on a bluff overlooking the splendid Savannah River. General James Oglethorpe, a British colonist, climbed the shores of this new land – America’s 13th and final colony Georgia – to create a home that its residents would come to love. The Oglethorpe Town Plan was soon set into place. Twenty four squares and parks around the town were built over time so that people could gather comfortably with their families, host town meetings, bury their loved ones, and even terminate wrongdoers. Today, thousands of visitors every year are drawn to the fountains, monuments, sculptures, and gazebos in the beautiful shady parks of this historic city.

A few strong women have firmly planted their footprints in Savannah’s history.“The Magnificent Seven,” a group of friends, led by journalist, artist, and activist Anna Colquit Hunter, banded together to create a passionate movement, and subsequently, the 1955 development of the Savannah Historic Foundation, a nonprofit with the purpose to preserve and save buildings that would otherwise suffer demolition or decay. Girl Scouts of U.S.A. founder Juliette Gordon Low was born in 1860, just a few blocks shy of Wright Square. Ms. Low led the movement for 60 million young girls to “catch a bit of the fire and spirit and determination” to dream, realize their limitless potential for themselves, and blaze new trails in life as a Girl Scout.

One of Savannah’s biggest charms is its array of unique and elegant architecture in one of the nation’s largest historic districts. Following America’s Independence and the end of the second world war came the discovery of cotton and a boost in the economy. Individuals and groups alike, collaborated to rebuild and refurbish Savannah’s homes, businesses, and government properties by the thousands. The beautiful buildings of old Savannah sport five main architectural styles – Federal (e.g. The Davenport House), Georgian (e.g. The Olde Pink House), Italianate (e.g. The Andrew Low House), Greek Revival (e.g. First Baptist Church), and Gothic Revival (e.g. Green-Meldrim House). These types of exceptional construction added to the charm of the colonial city, and brought visitors, far and near, to tour them.

River Street boasts a splendid stretch of historic hotels, boutique shops, and restaurants along the Savannah River. It is believed that the riverwalk is haunted by the tortured souls who worked in the warehouses hundreds of years ago. Back then, the buildings were used to store cotton and other goods that were exported from the city. In exchange, slaves and other workers were shipped to land to work under terse conditions for businesses. Tourists and residents alike, visiting the riverwalk, have claimed to “see and hear” the suffering souls of the colonial days.

Although wars, fires, storms, and diseases have plagued the lives of Savannah’s residents over the centuries, the city always found a way to remain standing tall. The Battle of Savannah, one of the bloodiest of the American Revolutionary War, consumed thousands of people. It’s believed that some of the wars’ casualties were buried in the city’s Madison Square. General Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War ended in Savannah, and although the city itself was spared, the river came under siege. Word has it that those who perished at sea were put to rest at the very squares that present-day visitors now use to read, reminisce, and tour. The great fires of 1796 and 1820 engulfed neighborhoods and cost hundreds of lives while survivors were left homeless and unemployed. Yellow fever broke out in 1876, causing much physical anguish, and claiming thousands of lives. In 1893, the people of Savannah felt the fury of a hurricane that flattened thousands of homes. Despite these situations of trials and tribulations, Savannah’s people continued to rise up to preserve and protect their beloved city. 

Savannah is a special brew of charm and mystique. Its antebellum homes, Spanish-moss-tree-lined parks, scenic riverwalk, and its murky past continue to make this historic city beautiful in its own right. Take a stroll through the passage of time: join a ghost tour at dusk, dine in an “old” restaurant, picnic under a 300-year-old live oak tree, browse a bookstore, hop on a trolley tour, and board one of the river cruises. Surrender to the spell of Savannah. 

Scout out the Scary Spots in Savannah this Halloween

  • The Hamilton-Turner Inn
  • Marshall House
  • Sorrel-Weed House
  • 17 Hundred 90 Inn and Restaurant
  • The Pirates’ House
  • Olde Harbour Inn
  • Kehoe House
  • Moon River Brewing Company
  • Sorrell Weed House