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City Profile: Savannah

Savannah’s history is one beginning in 1733. Its history has spanned through the Colonial period and survived the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

25 October 2016

Savannah’s name hails from the Savannah River, which is believed to be derived from variant names for the Shawnee, a Native American people who migrated to the river in the 1680s.

As the oldest city in Georgia, Savannah has a long and colorful history chock full of interesting characters and beautiful locales. Its cobblestone historic district is filled with squares and parks shaded by magnolia blossoms and oak trees dripping Spanish Moss. From the manicured public squares and horse drawn carriages to ornate architecture, it’s no wonder Savannah is one of the most visited cities in the South.

In the last 10 years, more than 50 million people have visited Savannah, drawn to it by its elegant architecture, intricate ironwork, fountains, and lush green gardens. Savannah’s beauty is rivaled only by the city’s reputation for hospitality, being referred to as the “Hostess City of the South”. It’s a perfect place for visitors and new residents….easy to navigate, brimming with beautiful scenery and bursting with some of the friendliest and hospitable people you will find anywhere.

Out and about…..

Savannah is also known as ‘America’s First Planned City’ due to General James Edward Oglethorpe who founded Savannah in 1733 and had the foresight to carefully organize the town on grids with wide streets and 24 public squares. 21 of those public squares still exist today and lend a peaceful, lush green landscape to the city.

To say Savannah is well known for its beautiful Spanish Moss, would be an understatement. The famous hanging plant graces the landscape throughout all of Savannah. You might be tempted to touch it but beware, it contains bugs and mold. It’s better to look and not touch.

Historic Savannah was declared a National Landmark and it is one of the largest historic areas in the US. One of its landmarks is the Gothic-Revival Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The Cathedral is an iconic symbol of Savannah, gracing the skyline with its towering steeples and providing city wide views. At Wormsloe Historic Site, you can interact with costumed interpreters and view Colonial era artifacts unearthed at the former plantation, as well as a short film about the site and the founding of Georgia.

Another thing you will discover about Savannah, is it’s haunted history. It’s known for being one of the most haunted cities, even being named one of America’s top 10 haunted cities by USA Today. There is no shortage of ghost tours you can partake in. If you feel like hunting spirits, make a visit to the Moon River Brewing Company, The Gribble House, or Madison Square. Since the city was built right over Indian burial grounds and old cemeteries, almost everyone has their own account of a haunted experience.

The city’s newer museums are the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum in Pooler and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. The Mighty Eighth honors the sacrifices made during and after World War II by the largest air strike force in history, which was formed in Savannah in 1942. The Civil Rights Museum tells the story of Savannah’s role in the 1960’s civil rights movement.

Immerse yourself in more history and visit the First Africa Baptist Church. First organized in 1773, it is the oldest African American church in North America. For anyone who loves trains, you can be regaled at the oldest and largest existing nineteenth-century railroad operations complex in the nation, the Georgia State Railroad museum.

Savannah is a town with a strong artistic side and it shows. There is no shortage of art festivals throughout the year, as well as galleries, to keep your creative juices flowing. The Jepson Center for the Arts that houses community galleries as well as traveling exhibits. The building itself is quite contemporary and beautiful. All within walking distance you’ll also find the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences which opened in 1886 and is the oldest public art museum in the South. Here you’ll find a nice collection of 19th and 20th century European and American art. And of course there’s the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum. One of the best art colleges in the world, it not only holds classes for its students….you can also find 19th century photo galleries along with several permanent collections including the Walter O. Evans collection containing more than 150 years of African American art.

Savannah is host to more than 200 festivals and events annually, which is quite considerable. The Savannah Irish Festival is held in the Historic District. There’s also the Sheep to Shawl Festival. This festival takes place on Oatland Island and provides the opportunity to watch the annual shearing of the sheep and the processing and hand-weaving of the wool. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is Savannah’s biggest event and the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the country! More than one-quarter of a million people participate in this event which began in the early 1800s. Savannah Music Festival is a 15-day fest featuring concerts in downtown venues and includes international talent in blues, jazz, and classical music. You might find some of these concerts being held at the Savannah Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theater site in the country.

There are so many ways to get around that don’t require a car! Take a tour of the city by water or by rail by enjoying a cruise on a riverboat down the Savannah River or one of many trolley tours. And don’t forget the horse drawn carriages that still are in operation for locals and visitors alike.

It might sound a bit weird to some, but the cemeteries alone are worth a trip to explore. Stroll through the grounds and not only take in that ubiquitous Spanish Moss but reveal in the ornate, alluring and almost hypnotic statues that adorn the resting places of Savannah’s citizens. Why not make a day of it and pair it with a hearse driven ghost tour of Savannah? Remember….there’s no shortage of haunted buildings within the city to see.

For the animal lover, make your way to Oatland Island Wildlife Center and meander the rustic trails through marshland and forests, observing more than 50 species in large natural habitats.

And to top it all off….you’re less than 2o miles away from the Tybee Island, or as locals call it, Savannah Beach. For the nature buff, it’s salt marshes are teeming with birds and wildlife unique to south eastern Georgia’s coast. If you enjoy fishing you will be happy to find that Tybee has many different options for you. There are many fishing piers available, offshore and deep sea charters, or you can walk out and fish right in the surf!

A Savannah you didn’t know…..

Savannah was the home of Union Camp, which housed the world’s largest paper mill. The plant is still a fully operational paper factory and remains one of Savannah’s largest employers. Savannah is also home to the Gulfstream Aerospace company, maker of private jets.

If you’re a Tom Hanks fan, you’ll be interested to know that parts of Forrest Gump were filmed in Savannah…most notably the bench scene in which Forrest sat in Chippewa Square, for the famous “life is like a box of chocolates” quote. The bench was preserved and is now on display at the Savannah History Museum. Savannah actually has quite a Hollywood history with many films including Cape Fear and The Legend of Bagger Vance, being filmed there.

There have been many movies filmed in Savannah, including the film adaptation of the best-selling novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. You can walk in the actual garden famously shown on the cover of the novel as well as see The Bird Girl statue, also on the book cover.

For the baseball fans, legend Shoeless Joe Jackson played for the Savannah Indians in 1909 and lived in an apartment near Oglethorpe Square. For the cookie fans, Savannah is the birthplace of the Girl Scouts which is a great because who doesn’t like Girl Scout Cookies?

Time to eat…..

Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite thing….food!  Anytime you go anywhere, you should try to eat where the locals eat and what the locals eat.  Typically, any city you go to will have some signature dishes or two of their own.  And as Savannah is the south you will find a lot of Cajun and Creole influences and dishes, and a lot of comfort foods.

Crabs are a staple in Savannah cuisine and the crab stew is the dish to try.  And to add to the souther’ness of the dish, have it served atop some cheese grits and you have yourself a proper southern meal.  And though it’s true you can get shrimp and grits in many places, they just seem to taste a little more authentic while dining in Savannah.

Have you ever had a fried green tomato benedict?  In Savannah you can!  Or feel a bit British with a stop at a cafe for afternoon tea, which is not uncommon with Savannah natives. And while you’re at it, have a nice slice of pecan pie with your tea!  And don’t forget, you are in Georgia so indulge in a big piece of peach cobbler or just bite into a true Georgia peach.

Savannah has its own drink.  That’s right it’s known for the cocktail Chatham Artillery Punch.  This drink was concocted after the Republican Blues returned from a drill in Macon sometime in the 1850s, and were welcomed back by Sergeant A.B. Luce and the Chatham Artillery. Luce created the punch using a horse bucket filled with ice, to which a quart of brandy, whiskey and rum were added….sweetened up with a little lemon and sugar!

A local dish you will most likely come across is Savannah Red Rice.  You will find this dish of rice cooked in tomato with bacon, sausage and spices on many menus around town.

Whether you enjoy some fried chicken and smoked beef brisket or crab soup with cheese grits, your belly will be satisfied.

Supporting Savannah…..

Understand that you are moving to the South and it is not uncommon to encounter some left over remnants of the old ways of the old South. Unfortunately, such a beautiful and charming southern town has also been besieged with a higher crime rate than other locations in the south. With that being said, don’t let that sway you. No one place will be perfect. The people of Savannah are making strides toward a better image and lower crime rate. Savannahians take pride in the southern charm of their city, which is why there are ongoing projects to preserve the remarkable architecture.  It is definitely a city focused maintaining and restoring their heritage.

If you research where you want to be within the city, you should be able to find a nice area to settle into. Savannah is often high on the lists of the tops cities to visit in the US.  In fact, if you need reasons to move there are or apprehensive of being relocated there, we can give you a few pros.

1. The cost of living in Savannah is 3% below the national average.

2. The weather is fantastic! The city sees over 2,842 hours of sunshine each year. Temperatures rarely drop below 40 degrees, and the average high in February is 64 degree. Enough said.

3. Do you have kids or plan to in the future or maybe thinking about going back to school yourself? Well, Savannah is a great place to do that. Several colleges and universities are located here, such as the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah State University, Armstrong State University, and Savannah Technical College. The school district is well-regarded with schools considered to be some of the best in Georgia. Savannah Arts Academy is even considered to be one of the top high schools in the nation.

4. It’s just a beautiful city. Savannah residents often like to say they feel like they are on permanent vacation, because of the city’s vibe and beauty.

5. There’s a neighborhood to suit everyone….a vibrant beach house on Tybee Island? A quiet getaway in a private community? A charming home on a bustling street in the heart of Historic Savannah? No matter what you are looking for, you will find it.

6. There are many places in Savannah to build a career. Some of the city’s top employers are Memorial University Medical Center, Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education, the Savannah College of Art & Design, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Georgia-Pacific Corporation and Marine Terminals Corp. And more opportunities are appearing everywhere as Savannah grows.

Welcome home…..

You walk through the streets of the Historic District, covered by natural archways made of long oak branches, dripping with Spanish moss….hanging over the street creating an ethereal, romantic, almost supernatural feeling.  Among the original cobblestone roads and buildings, you stand on River Street and envision Savannah of old while enjoying a leisurely lunch while gazing at the opulent buildings of the mid 1800’s that line the street.  This could be you.

The city of Savannah inspires all with its emerald tree canopies, quaint cobblestone streets and majestic architecture. Let it inspire you.  Let it make you one of its own. Take pride that you’re a Savannahian and be the community that helps build and shape the city for others like yourself, to enjoy for years to come.

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