Savannah, Georgia is known for its lush beauty with moss-draped live oaks, palmetto, and magnolia ornamenting streets and squares across the city. Savannah’s Squares play an important role in the historic city’s enduring reputation for elegance – but where are they and why are they there?
Savannah was initially laid out in 1733 on a grid of four “wards” – open squares surrounded by eight blocks of mixed residential, commercial, and civic use buildings. These central, open squares were originally meant as space for military exercises, very similar to military camps, which makes sense as it was all part of the “Oglethorpe Plan,” as proposed by … General James Oglethorpe.
The plan allowed for ease of growth for Savannah and, as she grew, more squares were added. This process continued until the 1850’s and Savannah’s Squares numbered 24. Below you’ll find the first part of our list detailing the original 24 of Savannah’s Squares, presented in order of their creation.
Johnson Square – located at Bull and St. Julian Streets
Johnson Square was the first and largest of Savannah’s squares, consequently, it is surrounded some of downtown’s most magnificent buildings, such as City Hall and the Christ Episcopal Church. The square is named after Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina when Georgia was founded. It holds a monument of General Nathanael Greene: Revolutionary War hero and Savannah patriot.
Wright Square – located at Bull and President Streets
Wright Square, named for Sir James Wright, Georgia’s third and last colonial governor. This square contains two monuments: One honoring William Washington Gordon, one of Savannah’s early mayors, known for establishing the Central of Georgia Railroad. The other is a large boulder marking the grave of the Yamacraw Indian Chief named Tomochichi who welcomed the first colonists.
Ellis Square – located at Bryan and Barnard Streets
The original location of the “Old City Market,” Ellis Square, named in honor of Henry Ellis, Savannah’s second Royal Governor, was once lost to urban sprawl. Now it’s back and one of the city’s most exciting squares with a water fountain, shaded tables, a life-size chess set, and right next to the modern Savannah City Market collection of restaurants and shops.
Telfair Square – located at Barnard and President Streets
Originally named after a London, England green space – St. James Square – Telfair Square was renamed for Edward Telfair a three-time governor of Georgia and patron to the arts. Today it is quite appropriately adjacent to The Telfair Museum of Art and Jepson Center for the Arts.
Reynolds Square – located at Abercorn and St. Julian Streets
Named for Georgia’s first Royal Governor, John Reynolds, Reynolds Square holds a monument to John Wesley, Anglican minister to the colony in 1736 and founder of Methodism. Savannah’s Lucas Theatre and The Olde Pink House, among others, are on the square.
Oglethorpe Square – located at Abercorn and Presidents Streets
The first “new” square of the expanding city, Oglethorpe Square was designed in 1742 and named after the aforementioned James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah’s founder. This square is home for a marker honoring the Moravians who arrived in Savannah in 1735.
Washington Square – located at Houston and St. Julian Streets
Some of Savannah’s oldest and most historic surround this square named in honor of President George Washington in 1790.
Franklin Square – located at Bryan and Barnard Streets
Designed in 1791, this square honors Benjamin Franklin and is central to the busiest part of Savannah’s lively downtown. Originally used for the city’s water tower, it was long also known as “Water Tower Square.”
Warren Square – located at Habersham and St. Julian Streets
Also designed in 1791, this quiet, oak-lined neighborhood square was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero General Joseph Warren, killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Columbia Square – located at Habersham and Presidents Streets
Another square serving as an island of calm amidst the bustle of Savannah’s downtown district. Columbia Square features a fountain from the historic Wormsloe Plantation and was named “Columbia” after the female personification of the United States of America. Designed in 1799, it is bordered by a number of historic Savannah homes, including The Davenport House and Kehoe House.
Greene Square – located at Houston and Presidents Streets
Honoring General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero, quiet, park-like Greene Square was also designed in 1799.
Liberty Square –
Once located at Montgomery and Presidents Streets Liberty Square was named in honor of Savannah’s “Liberty Boys,” a group instrumental in Georgia’s involvement in the American Revolution. Liberty Square was paved over to make way for the Chatham County Courthouse and a parking garage. A small site displaying a sculpture entitled “Flame of Freedom” is all that remains.
This is only the first 12 of 24 historic and beautiful Savannah Squares. Look for part 2 of our series on Savannah’s Squares!
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