The city of Savannah was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe. Although cherished by many today for their aesthetic beauty, the first squares were originally intended to provide colonists space for practical reasons such as militia training exercises. The original plan resembles the layout of contemporary military camps, which were likely quite familiar to General Oglethorpe. The layout was also a reaction against the cramped conditions that fueled the Great Fire of London in 1666, and there is speculation that Oglethorpe’s military studies had made him familiar with the similar layout of Beijing (or “Peking,” as it was formerly spelled). A square was established for each ward of the new city. The first four were Johnson, Percival (now Wright), Ellis, and St. James (now Telfair) Squares, and themselves formed a larger square on the bluff overlooking the Savannah River. The original plan actually called for six squares, and as the city grew the grid of wards and squares was extended so that 33 squares were eventually created on a five-by-two-hundred grid. (Two points on this grid were occupied by Colonial Park Cemetery, established in 1750, and four others—in the southern corners of the downtown area—were never developed with squares.) When the city began to expand south of Gaston Street, the grid of squares was abandoned and Forsyth Park was allowed to serve as a single, centralized park for that area.
All of the squares measure approximately 200 feet (61 m) from east to west, but they vary north to south from approximately 100 to 300 feet (91 m). Typically, each square is intersected north-south and east-west by wide, two-way streets. They are bounded to the west and east by the south- and north-bound lanes of the intersecting north-south street, and to the north and south by smaller one-way streets running east-to-west and west-to-east, respectively. As a result, traffic flows one way—counterclockwise—around the squares, which thus function much like traffic circles.
Each square sits (or, in some cases, sat) at the center of a ward, which often shares its name with its square. The lots to the east and west of the squares, flanking the major east-west axis, were considered “trust lots” in the original city plan and intended for large public buildings such as churches, schools, or markets. The remainder of the ward was divided into four areas, called tythings, each of which was further divided into ten residential lots. This arrangement is illustrated in the 1770 Plan of Savannah, reproduced here, and remains readily visible in the modern aerial photograph above. The distinction between trust lot and residential lot has always been fluid. Some grand homes, such as the well-known Mercer House, stand on trust lots, while many of the residential lots have long hosted commercial properties.
All of the squares are a part of Savannah’s historic district and fall within an area of less than one half square mile. 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.
Architect John Massengale has called Savannah’s city plan “the most intelligent grid in America, perhaps the world”, and Edmund Bacon wrote that “it remains as one of the finest diagrams for city organization and growth in existence.” The American Society of Civil Engineers has honored Oglethorpe’s plan for Savannah as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and in 1994 the plan was nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The squares are a major point of interest for millions of tourists visiting Savannah each year, and they have been credited with stabilizing once-deteriorating neighborhoods and revitalizing Savannah’s downtown commercial district.
so theres the real History of the Squares, me being a northerner.. im use to saying park.
Florence Martus is her name, and each time we took the trolley we got a different story, but the one thing that held true was ,she waved to the sailors. this is a small , but gorgeous park along the river, we watched many cargo ships pass.. as you’ll find out another day .
while we were there the temps were always 100 or above.
one of these squares was made famous by…Forrest Gump. the story goes. the Savannah Gov. thought the movie was going to be a flop , and told the movie peeps they didnt want the bench Forrest sat on so they took it away. they also changed the” one way” to the Other Way for the movie.. just a little trivia for Ya’ll 🙂
and that will do it for my little tour today. if you stopped by , I thank you. please have a nice day and rest of the week.