The original four squares of Savannah date to 1733 and were a distinctive part of James Oglethorpe’s plan for the city. Eventually squares were located in the center of each of the city’s 24 neighborhoods or “wards.” The foresight of Oglethorpe’s design continues to provide an extraordinary example of how public space provides a timeless and lasting amenity to a community. Very much used and beloved, the squares are essentially public “living rooms” where residents and visitors alike go for morning and evening strolls, afternoon games and activities, and special events and celebrations.
Savannah’s 22 squares are located across a one-square-mile area of downtown. Each square is typically 200 feet north to south and 100 to 300 feet east to west.
Twenty-one of the 24 original squares, all located within the boundaries of the city’s National Landmark Historic District, exist largely the way they did when originally built during the 18th and 19th centuries. Each square has its own identity, reflecting a sense of place that mirrors the character of its neighborhood and surroundings. The 22nd square, Ellis, is being rebuilt after having been used for the site of a parking garage.
The squares help calm traffic, making the pedestrian and bicyclist experience in Savannah safer and more enjoyable.
Three Centuries of Planning
– In 1733 James Oglethorpe, Trustee of Georgia on behalf of the British Parliament, founded Savannah and personally laid out the first six squares (initially four followed by two more) in order to create a classless agrarian society
– City officials recognized the value of the grid-with-centered-squares design; in 1796 nine additional squares were included to accommodate city growth; the pattern continued until the 24th square was set aside in 1856
– In 1935, three squares were destroyed to make way for U.S. Hwy 17; one of the lost squares, Franklin Square was rebuilt in 1985
– Georgia’s state legislature established the Savannah-Chatham County Historic Site and Monument Commission in 1949 to oversee the restoration of monuments and public art in the squares and the building of new ones; commission remains active, recommending to city council new monuments and public art for squares
– Engaged citizens help draft Downtown Master Plan now under final review; one principle entails retaining elements of Oglethorpe Plan in order to promote the squares’ quality public space and amenities throughout downtown
Defines Savannah Town Plan
– Downtown Savannah comprises seven-acre wards or neighborhoods, each centered around a square with four trust lots and eight larger tithing blocks; trust lots typically contain a civic institution such as a church or government building, tithing lots generally contain residential with offices, small retail shops, and inns interspersed
– For approximately 100 years, Ellis Square was home to four public markets and a social gathering place; between 1954 and 2004 the city leased the Ellis Square property as a multi-story parking garage; parking garage has been removed and the square is now being rebuilt as a public space (completion expected by December 2009)
Iconic Community Space
– Most squares contain at least one feature in the center, such as a monument, statue, fountain, obelisk, gazebo, public art
– All squares contain benches, period lighting, brick sidewalks, and shade trees; extensive landscaping and vibrant colors from flowers including azaleas, camellias, and seasonal blooms
– Approximately 15,000 people use the squares each day
– Squares used for private and public events, including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, summer concerts, and private events including weddings and receptions
– Squares located at intersections of two streets, thus calming traffic and making the pedestrian environment safer and more pleasant
– Walkways through squares connect to various close-by destinations in neighborhoods and downtown
– Monuments, other architectural details make squares interesting and engaging places to walk and experience
, ABECORN AND WAYNE STREETS Calhoun Square was designed in 1851 and named in honor of John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was a South Carolina statesman and Vice President under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Calhoun Square is the only square where all of the original historic buildings remain. Located on the square: Massie School and Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church
CHATHAM SQUARE, BARNARD AND WAYNE STREETS – Chatham Square was designed in 1847 and named in honor of William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham. Pitt was an early supporter of the colony and though he never visited Savannah, Chatham County and Chatham Square were named in his honor. Located on the square: Gordon Row, 15 four-storied townhouses each 20 feet wide with identical architecture. Admired for its ironwork and unique doorways
CHIPPEWA SQUARE, BULL AND MCDONOUGH STREETS – Chippewa Square was designed in 1815 and named to commemorate the Battle of Chippewa in the War of 1812. In the center stands a bronze statue of the colony’s founder, General James Edward Oglethorpe, who faces south protecting Savannah from the Spanish in Florida. Located on the Square: First Baptist Church, the Savannah Theatre and the Eastman-Stoddard House. Also known as Forrest Gump Square, the bus stop scenes from the Oscar winning motion picture were filmed on the north end of the square.
COLUMBIA SQUARE, HABERSHAM AND PRESIDENTS STREETS – Columbia Square was designed in 1799 and named “Columbia,” the female personification of the United States of America. In the center sits a fountain from the Wormsloe Plantation, an early Savannah settlement. Located on the square: The Davenport House and the Kehoe House
CRAWFORD SQUARE, Crawford Square was designed in 1841 and named in honor of William Harrison Crawford, Minister of France during the reign of Napoleon. Crawford was said to be the only foreign politician with any influence over Napoleon.
ELBERT SQUARE, HOUSTON AND MCDONOUGH STREETS – Lost to urban sprawl, Elbert Square was designed out in 1801 between Montgomery and McDonough streets. It was named in honor of Samuel Elbert, a Revolutionary War hero and Georgia Governor.
ELLIS SQUARE, BRYAN AND BARNARD STREETS – Once lost to urban sprawl, the old city square was restored thanks to a public/private partnership by the City of Savannah and area developers. The restored square features underground parking, retail centers and hotels. Ellis Square was designed in 1733 and was named in honor of Henry Ellis, the second Royal Governor. It was here that the “Old City Market” was located and merchants sold crops and wares.
FRANKLIN SQUARE, BRYAN AND BARNARD STREETS – Franklin Square was designed in 1791 and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, for many years the square was the site of the city’s water tower and was referred to as “water tower square.” Located on the square: First African Baptist Church and the west end of City Market.
GREENE SQUARE, HOUSTON AND PRESIDENTS STREETS – Greene Square was designed in 1799 to honor General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero who fought against the British in Savannah. Located on the square: Second African Baptist Church.
JOHNSON SQUARE, BULL AND ST. JULIAN STREETS – Johnson Square was designed in 1733 and named for Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina when Georgia was founded. Johnson Square was the first of Savannah’s 24 squares and served as its commercial hub. In the center stands a monument of General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero and Savannah patriot. Located on the square: Christ Episcopal Church
LAFAYETTE SQUARE, ABERCORN AND MACON STREETS – Lafayette Square was designed in 1873 to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, who aided the Americans during the Revolutionary War. In the center sits a fountain dedicated by the Colonial Dames of America. Located on the square: The Hamilton-Turner House, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Low-Colonial Dames House and the childhood home of author Flannery O’ Conner.
LIBERTY SQUARE, LOST TO URBAN SPRAWL – Lost to urban sprawl, Liberty Square was designed in 1799 between Montgomery and Presidents Streets and named to honor Savannah patriots, the “Liberty Boys.” The Liberty Boys were instrumental in setting the stage for Georgia’s involvement in the American Revolution.
MADISON SQUARE, BULL AND MACON STREETS – Madison Square was designed in 1837 and named to honor James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. In the center stands a monument of Sergeant William Jasper who fell during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. A granite marker denotes the southern line of the British defense during the 1779 battle. Located on the square: St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Green-Meldrim House and the Sorrel-Weed House.
MONTEREY SQUARE, BULL AND WAYNE STREETS – Monterey Square was designed in 1847 and was named to commemorate the 1846 Battle of Monterey during the Mexican American War. It was the battle of the Mexican War in which a Savannah unit of the Irish Jasper Greens fought. The square’s monument honors Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who was mortally wounded during the Siege of Savannah while fighting for Americans. Located on the square: Temple Mickve Israel and the Mercer House.
OGLETHORPE SQUARE, ABERCORN AND PRESIDENTS STREETS – Oglethorpe Square was designed in 1742 in honor of James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of Savannah, Georgia’s First City. In the center sits a marker to the Moravians who arrived in Savannah in 1735 from the current day Czech Republic. Located on the square: The Owens-Thomas House.
ORLEANS SQUARE, BARNARD AND MCDONOUGH STREETS – Orleans Square was designed in 1815 in honor of the heroes of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. The fountain in the square was dedicated in 1989 by Savannah’s German Society to recognize the contributions of Savannah’s early German immigrants. Located on the square: The Champion-McAlpin House.
PULASKI SQUARE, BARNARD AND MACON STREETS – Pulaski Square was designed in 1837 and named in honor of Count Casimir Pulaski of Poland, the highest ranking foreign officer to die in the American Revolution. Pulaski fell during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. Located on the square: The house of Confederate hero Francis S. Bartow.
REYNOLDS SQUARE, ABERCORN AND ST. JULIAN STREETS – Reynolds Square was designed in 1733 and named for Georgia’s first Royal Governor, John Reynolds. In the center stands a monument to Reynolds, the founder of Methodism and the Anglican minister to the colony in 1736. Located on the square: The Olde Pink House and the Lucas Theatre.
TELFAIR SQUARE, BARNARD AND PRESIDENT STREETS – Telfair Square was designed in 1733 as St. James Square; and it was renamed in 1883 to honor Edward Telfair a three-time governor of Georgia and patron to the arts. Located on the square: Trinity United Methodist Church, the Telfair Museum of Art and Jepson Center for the Arts.
TROUP SQUARE, HABERSHAM AND MCDONOUGH STREETS – Troup Square was designed in 1851 and named in honor of George Michael Troup, a Senator and Governor of Georgia. In the center stands the Armillary Sphere a astronomical device designed to show the relationship among the celestial circles. Located on the square: The Unitarian Universalist Church and the McDonough Row Houses.
WARREN SQUARE, HABERSHAM AND ST. JULIAN STREETS – Warren Square was designed in 1791 and named in honor of General Joseph Warren who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War.
WASHINGTON SQUARE, HOUSTON AND ST. JULIAN STREETS – Washington Square was designed in 1790 and named to honor George Washington, the first President of the United States. Some of the oldest houses in Savannah reside on this square.
WHITFIELD SQUARE, HABERSHAM AND WAYNE STREETS – Whitfield Square was designed in 1851 and was the last of the Savannah squares. Named to honor Reverend George Whitfield, founder of the Bethesda Orphanage, the oldest orphanage in the United States. A gazebo sits in the center and Victorian architecture is prominent in this area. Located on the square: The First Congregational Church.
WRIGHT SQUARE, BULL AND PRESIDENT STREETS – Wright Square was designed in 1733 and named for Sir James Wright, Georgia’s third and last colonial governor. The monument in the square honors William Washington Gordon, an early mayor of Savannah who established the Central of Georgia Railroad. The large boulder marks the grave of Tomochichi, the Yamacraw Indian Chief who welcomed General Oglethorpe and the first colonists. Located on square: Lutheran Church of the Ascension.
EMMET PARK, BAY STREET BETWEEN ABERCORN AND EAST BROAD – Once an Indian burial ground, Emmet Park was named for an Irish patriot and orator Robert Emmet. Sections of Factor’s Walk border the park and contains monuments to German Salzburgers, the Celtic Cross, Savannah’s fallen soldiers from the Vietnam War, the Chatham Artillery Memorial and the Old Harbor Light.