Field Trip: Travel through time on a stroll down Savannah’s Bull Street
Just before the hectic frazzle of the holidays struck a chord with our family, we hopped in the car and made our way down the road a bit for a lovely afternoon in Girly Girl’s hometown of Savannah, Georgia. After a quick stop at the mall for something very specific and realizing there is no longer a Brookstone store there, we headed through our old ‘hood of Ardsley Park and into the historic district. It was a busy Saturday and we were happy to find a parking spot just off Bull Street – one of my most favorite streets in the world and a place where a family like ours can find a little bit of everything.
When we lived in Savannah our house was (and still is, but it’s not “ours” any longer) actually located on the corner of Bull and a numbered street just over 2 miles south of Forsyth Park. Traveling north of the park though, i.e. the “ritzy” side of Forsyth Park, Bull Street skewers several of Savannah’s famous squares including Monterey Square (home to the Mercer House of Johnny Mercer and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame), Madison Square, Chippewa Square, Wright Square and Johnson Square before ending at the US Customs House and the Savannah River. For the day tripper, a walk along this street is a great introduction to the hostess city and for my family was and still is, exactly like coming home!
Now I am not an expert on Savannah nor a travel professional, but I offer a few highlights from our walk, showcasing some of our favorite stops. If you like art, architecture, history, great food, interesting people and are considering a visit to a historic city in the South, please consider Savannah (along with Beaufort, Bluffton and Charleston).
The winter is actually a great time to visit the Lowcountry, as it should not be congested with tourists and the weather is, in my opinion, quite nice on most days. Not exactly beach weather, but perfect for long walks, a carriage ride, playing golf, what have you. I adore Savannah, so if you have any questions about visiting here, please feel free to send them on to me, I am happy to make recommendations or in the least, point you in the right direction to get an answer.
Forsyth Park: 30-acre public park on the southern side of the historic district. Bordered by trees, mostly live oaks all around and anchored by much-photographed Forsyth fountain on one end. The AAA 4-Diamond hotel, Mansion on Forsyth Park, is located next to the park and several public concerts and civic events are held here annually.
“Squares” are synonymous with Savannah. They were designed by Savannah’s founder General James Oglethorpe and originally intended to provide colonists space for military exercises. Originally intended to have just 6 squares there are 24, all within about ½ square miles. The five squares along Bull Street—Monterey, Madison, Chippewa, Wright, and Johnson—were intended to be grand monument spaces and have been called Savannah’s “Crown Jewels.” Many of the other squares were designed more simply as commons or parks, although most serve as memorials as well. They are all beautiful and unique – just like Savannah.
Monterey Square: Closest to Forsyth Park, this square commemorates the Battle of Monterrey, in which American forces captured the city of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War. The Mercer House is on one side and was home to Jim Williams who featured prominently in John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil which was made into a movie filmed here too. Locals refer to it eerily as “The Book”. The square is also home to Congregation Mickve Israel, which boasts the only Gothic-style synagogue in America, dating from 1878. Between Monterey and Madison Squares are several fancy antique shops.
Madison Square: Named for James Madison, 4th President of the US. Famous for marking the start of several main roads in Georgia and features a statue of Sgt. William Jasper, a soldier in the Siege of Savannah (Revolutionary War) who, though mortally wounded, heroically recovered his company’s banner. One corner houses Shop SCAD and across the street is SCAD’s Gryphon Tea Room. SCAD is the Savannah College of Art & Design, a private university founded here in Savannah in 1978. Their success has been Savannah’s success over the past 25 plus years with much in economic growth and historic restoration in the city due to SCAD.
Between Madison and Chippewa squares there is the Six Pence Pub, Gaucho (upscale women’s clothes) and Gallery Expresso, Savannah’s oldest coffee bar that offers a few outdoor tables and excellent coffee drinks.
Chippewa Square: Named in honor of American soldiers killed in the Battle of Chippawa during the War of 1812. Features statue of Gen. James Oglethorpe, British General and founder and defender of the colony of Georgia. The park bench scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump” was filmed at this square, although the bench used in the film was a prop as there is no bench actually on that spot.
Between Chippewa and Wright Square you’ll find hole-in-the-wall Angel’s BBQ (off West Oglethorpe), Bull Street Station (old fashioned hobby store) and the birthplace of Juliet Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts – USA.
Wright Square: The second square built in the city, originally named Percival Square. It is the burial site of Tomochichi, a leader of the Creek nation of Native Americans. Tomochichi was a trusted friend of James Oglethorpe and assisted him in the founding of this colony. This is my family’s favorite square as its home to both the Wright Square Café AND the Cupcake Emporium plus thousands of beautiful azaleas that bloom profusely in the spring! There is also a neat art glass gallery and a retail store called Simply Irresistible next door to Wright Square Café, that carries some cool handmade items. I gave my sister a “Dammit Doll” purchased here during our day in Savannah.
Between Wright Square and Johnson Square you’ll cross East Broughton Street (Savannah’s ‘main street’) and several ordinary buildings, nothing really of note except for Jen’s & Friends, a local’s watering hole that offers 150 kinds of martinis. People love this place!
Johnson Square: The first and largest of Savannah’s 24 squares. Interred in the square is Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene. An obelisk in the center of the square now serves as a memorial to him. The cornerstone of this monument was laid by the Marquis de La Fayette in 1825. Today, the square is surrounded mostly by bank buildings – I used to work around the corner (now that makes it famous!). During the summer there is a free concert here on most Friday afternoons. Keep walking north from here to cross Bay Street and then BAM! you’re at the Savannah River (or at least in front of the buildings that face the river…).
So, what do you think about my Savannah? Remember this is just part of one street …there’s lots more to see and do. Maybe I’ve piqued your interest a bit? I would be grateful for your comments!