TAKE A WALKING TOUR THROUGH HISTORY
Some of the greatest secrets of Savannah are hidden in plain sight along the oak-lined streets of the city’s historic district. Its squares are a prominent feature of the district, and their unique history and Southern charm make them must-see destinations.
Savannah’s founder, Gen. James Oglethorpe, designed the city in a grid pattern to allow for easy navigation and growth while encouraging citizens to get out and about. Johnson Square was Savannah’s first established square, dating back to 1733. And while back then the city’s squares served two purposes — gathering spots for local residents and practice area for the militia — today they are serene spots to sit and observe the city.
“I live by Troop Square and at night some of residents of that square will sit with a beer or some wine with their neighbors,” said Zach Powers, author of the book “100 Things to do in Savannah Before You Die.” “I love when that happens because the square is functioning the way it was originally meant to.”
The city’s 22 squares cover 2 square miles of the historic downtown and offer the perfect way to spend a day. Comfortable shoes are highly recommended for this walk through history.
While there is never a bad time to explore the beautiful squares, visiting during the cooler spring and fall months could make the trip more enjoyable. But not to worry: The dense canopy provided by hundreds of live oak trees will provide shade even on the hottest days.
The most visited squares — the “crown jewels of Savannah” — are found on Bull Street and include Monterey, Madison, Chippewa, Wright and Johnson squares. Each is home to a variety of interesting historical tidbits.
Chippewa Square is most famous for being the location of the bench scene in “Forrest Gump,” while Wright Square is home to ancient history in the form of a giant boulder marking the burial site of Chief Tomochichi, leader of the Yamacraw Indians. Tomochichi and Oglethorpe formed a fierce friendship and worked together in the creation of Savannah.
But don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path to discover the other jewels of the city’s landscape.
“The most visited squares offer plenty to see, but other squares like Troop and Ellis have unique things that are worth seeing, but often get overlooked because they are not on Bull Street,” said Christopher Berinato, author of the forthcoming book “Secret Savannah.”
Walking Tour Tips
Ready to hit the pavement? Here are a few tips that will help make your tour a little more enjoyable:
- Pick up a free map of Savannah’s Historic District at the Savannah Visitor Center, 301 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
- Carry a water bottle.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes.
- Bring a hat and sunglasses.
- Consider carrying an umbrella.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SAVANNAH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE