Monthly Archives: December 2006

Another word from our attractions – Savannah Historic District Squares X 3

Periodically Savannah Buzz makes our visitor’s aware of some of the often overlooked attractions (at least to we locals) that attract so many visiting tourists every year – chief among those are our garden squares.  Today we will cover three new squares.

Madison Square was named to honor President James Madison and laid out in 1837. On the West side of the square one finds St. John’s Episcopal Church and its parish house, the Green-Meldrim House Poi516_1 which is open to the public. On the corner of Charlton and Bull Streets, there is the Scottish Rite Temple designed by Hyman Witcover who was also the architect for the present Savannah City Hall. Directly acoss the street is the Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory, now owned by Savannah College of Art and Design. Poi518_1 The present day DeSoto Hilton Hotel off the northeast corner was built in the 1960s after the original structure was torn down. This site was originally the Oglethorpe Barracks, circa 1834, the site of early military parades. The center of Madison Square is the Sgt. Jasper Monument.

Warren Square was laid out in 1791, is located in the front of the historic district on the first lineof squares on Habersham Street. This square was named for General Joseph Warren, killed in the 1775 battle of Bunker Hill. Nowadays, the city parking garage covers the two western Trust Lots. The Spencer House built in 1791 on the westside of the square underwent a total restoration in the 1980′s. A private philanthropist has completely redone the double house on the northwest corner of Habersham Street in 1993. On St. Julian Street between this square and Washington Square there are some of the oldest houses in the historic district.

Located in the northeastern quadrant of the district, Washington Square is found on Houston Street across Broad Street west of the site of the old Trustees Garden. For many years until the mid-twentieth century, this square was the scene of the biggest New Year’s Eve bonfires (recently reported on in The South Magazine) often taller than the houses around the square. The Seaman’s House, operated by the Port Society to serve the needs of visiting seaman, is on the southwest side of the square. The Mulberry Inn, also on this square, was originally a cotton warehouse, built in the 1860′s. Several elegant old homes138_01 are available for private vacation rentals through Savannah Getaways off what many consider Savannah’s most beautiful square.

Savannah Irish Festival in February 2007

Savannah celebrates all things Irish in February with great music and dancing at the Savannah Irish Festival.

The Savannah Irish Festival Committee invites you to attend the 16th annual festival February 17-18 at the Savannah Civic Center Arena in the Historic District.

HarryodonoghuePerformers include Harry O’Donoghue, Chulrua, The McKrells, Pog, Dennis Doyle, Roger Drawdy and the Firestarters and The Killdares.

Be sure and make plans to catch this entertaining festival in February 2007!

SoBA Gallery to host Lowcountry works in pastel by Hilton Head Artist

Soba_gallery_interior Many of the travelers that vacation in Savannah and the low country often return home with works of art that could best only be described as “Lowcountry Art” regardless of the medium. Typically these works of art reflect the distinct nature based landscapes and historic architecture that draw tourists to the sea island Heritage Corridor associated with the coastal area between Charleston and Savannah. Hilton Head Artist R. Bolton Smith strikes the appropriate chord on his website when describing his own work:

Take off that coat… it’s going to be hot. Buckets of Humidity make for lush vegetation Brilliant Blooms… a low down slow down pace. Time to spend seeing the many scenes and feeling the mystique of the Low Country. From shrimp boats to lagoons to architecture the south has it’s own feel.

In that same vein, The Society of Bluffton Artists Gallery (SoBA) will host a single artist show at their Bluffton Historic District Gallery from January 7th through February 10th of another Hilton Head artist, Judy McElynn. Palms_and_me_op_800x678 McElynn has made the transition from watercolor to pastels and has a definitive body of work in this show titled: “Changing Tides: The Ebb and Flow of Our Landscape.” A reception will run from 3:00 to 5:00 Pm with refreshments to be served at the opening on Sunday, January 7th. Take in this important show in Bluffton’s Historic District on your coastal Lowcountry trip between those winter dates and view some of the other sixty artists work at this three year old gallery at the same time.

Savannah Tour of Historic Houses of Worship, One Day Only!

Temple_3 Now entering the sixth year, the annual Savannah Tour of Historic Houses of Worship event was first held in 2000 with thirteen participating congregations. This event has grown rapidly to become a highlight of Savannah’s traditional holiday season. Savannah historic district day tripping visitors and locals alike are welcomed into the houses of worship to take self guided tours, ask questions, and enjoy musical performances by organists and traditional choirs during this one day only event. Many of the twenty one participating historic churches at this year’s event are providing presentations on their history and architecture as well as offering refreshments to visitors for this free tour.

Visitors will be able to view holiday decorations of the season, explore the rich historic and architectural uniqueness of these renowned Savannah houses of worshipWelpic  during our much anticipated Annual Tour of Historic Houses of Worship this coming Saturday, December 30, 2006. Participating churches will open up their locations from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with the following exceptions: St. Philip Monumental AME tour from 12pm-2pm, Congregation Mickve Israel from 2pm to 4pm, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ascension 11-1pm, and Sacred Heart from 11am-3pm). As has been offered in the past, visitors may tour any or all of the houses of worship on the program and may begin at any of the locations. Programs and maps are available at each site to assist you with planning the remainder of your tour. Plan to spend approximately thirty minutes at each location. And remember there is no cost to visiting any of these sacred sanctuaries.

Isaiah Davenport House kicks off Holiday Evening Tour tonight

Poi61 2004092204_davenport_house_on_columbia_s Between Christmas and New Year’s every year, the Isaiah Davenport Museum offers their Holiday Evening Tour of the Museum for the express purpose of showing how Savannahians circa 1820’s spent their holiday season. But first an excerpt from a newspaper of the day to capture the feeling of that long ago antebellum celebration:

The first day of the year, throughout Christendom, is considered a day of mutual congratulations, of feasting and merriment . . . . We congratulate each other that another year has expired, because it opens to us a prospect of another season of enjoyment . . . But for the delightful excitement of hope, and anticipation of a better futurity, life would be a weary blank, a dreary desert with no spot of green to rest the eye upon, and no cooling spring to moisten the lip of the fainting traveler!" – Daily Georgian, January 1, 1825

So in the Spirit of "Mutual Congratulations, of Feasting and Merriment", The Visitor’s Guide to Savannah and the Lowcountry is pleased to announce that from December 26th through December 30th, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Patrons who wish to have a complete experience should be at the Davenport House no later than 8 p.m. The Davenport House can be found at the corner of East State Street and the Corner of Habersham Street just off Columbia Square. Tour topics will include early 19th Century feasting, music, the Scottish influence on the family, treatment of house slaves during the holiday season, etc. The Dining Room table will be set for an intimate adult meal with special treats for the New Year’s Day celebration and the Drawing Room will be set as if preparing for a dance.  Many travelers come to coastal Georgia for their holiday getaways during the Christmas and New Years holiday season, here is just one more experience to be had during this time.

The Starfish Cafe, a unique dining experience in Savannah

The Starfish Cafe is a nonprofit organization that trains students to enter the workforce.  These students have been helped by Union Mission.  Union Mission, along with Savannah Technical College, run the Starfish Cafe.

Starfish20roker1In April, 2005 the TODAY show kicked off its annual series TODAY Lend A Hand segment. In the series Al Roker traveled to five different cities in five days to help chosen non-profit agencies with items they need for their programs and to also raise awareness of the good works. He started on April 11th in Las Vegas, NV and came across the country to Savannah to wrap up the series at Union Mission, Inc. Although Union Mission is the agency chosen, NBC highlighted the Starfish Café for its extraordinary program. “We chose Union Mission for all the great things you guys are doing, but wanted to focus on the Starfish because we have never seen anything like it,” stated a NBC TODAY Show producer Russ McCarroll, “This is a great program that we see is literally saving lives.”

The Starfish Cafe is open from 7 AM to 3 PM Monday through Saturday.

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Tybee Island invites one and all to the Polar Bear Plunge

What better way to celebrate the New Year than by plunging into the cold waters of the Atlantic!  From 9 AM to 1 PM on January 7, 2007 the 6th Annual Polar Bear Plunge will take place.

Meet at the South Beach by the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. Come early as parking is limited (parking will cost) and last year over 1,500 people participated.

Located a quick 20 minutes from historic Savannah, take the short trip to Tybee for this adventurous annual event.

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When is the best time of year to visit Savannah’s historic district?

Some friends of mine posed the following question: "We were thinking of Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day, but instead we decided we’d rather visit when things are a little more ‘normal’ — quieter and more laid back, if you know what we mean. What do YOU think is the best time?" This question came to me from someone who has "done" St. Patrick’s Day, Savannah style, and is going to be vacationing next year with some friends who’ve not been to Savannah before.

True, I told them, Savannah is a blast around St. Patrick’s Day, but for a more leisurely taste of the local culture and scene you might want to try another time. Like when? Absolutely the most gorgeous time of year, weather-wise, might easily coincide with Savannah’s fabulous Music Festival. The other reason this is a great time is that Savannah does get real gussied up (like the beautiful Southern lady she is) for the huge crowds that visit each year’s St. Patrick festivities, and the Music Festival follows immediately on its heels; the squares and gardens are all looking their best. Other considerations: less hassle enjoying River Street, less hassle parking around town, no problem getting seated at restaurants. It truly IS a kind of "best of both worlds" situation.

So my out-of-town contingent IS coming into Savannah the week AFTER St. Patrick’s Day and is already picking their entertainment choices from the Savannah Music Festival Ticket Online brochure. Wondering myself how many of the Music Festival Patrons come from outside Savannah, since it seems like such a good idea for vacations here, I asked the staff at the Festival offices. The answer came back: "The number of ‘visitors’ to the festival is 46% of all attendees."

So… "doing Savannah" at Music Festival time is an idea whose time has come! That means it’s not a moment too soon to make plans for the 2006 Festival; it runs from March 17 through April 2. And for those traveling in groups, like my friends, it’s time now to find accommodations in Savannah. One way to have that "togetherness" experience and maximize the opportunity for relaxing in a home-like atmosphere before and after the Festival events, is to find just the right-sized, and right-style, and right-priced leisure rental for your party …. on Savannah Getaways.

Wait a minute? Did he say March 17 is the Music Festival opening date? I sure did, and guess what? That is St. Patrick’s Day in 2006. So let me submit another idea for your consideration. Come for St. Patrick’s Day, and stay for the Savannah Music Festival. It doesn’t get any better than THAT, in terms of the whole Savannah experience. See you at a concert or two (and maybe the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, too, for that matter). Better get in a hustle though on reserving your accommodation as many vacation rental properties, hotel rooms, historic inns as well as bed and breakfast lodgings are rapidly disappearing as the early vacation planners are snapping up remaining inventory as we speak.

Contributed by Tom Mott, owner of listing # 1010 on Washington Square and listing # 1033 easily viewed on the Savannah Getaways web site.

Telfair Museum names new director with proven track record

Poi410_1The Telfair Museum of Art named Steven High as their new director effective February of 2007. Mr. High is well qualified for the job with an extensive background tracking back 30 years in the national art community. He earned his M.A. in Art History from Williams College and holds an M.B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University. More importantly, perhaps, Mr. High who hails from the state of Idaho has a connection with the museum dating back to the 1970’s. His is first museum job was actually at the Telfair as a curatorial assistant in 1977. And his career has grown appreciably from there.

High currently serves as director and CEO of the Nevada Museum of Art based in Reno. During his decade long tenure at the Nevada Museum, he has raised their annual operating budget from $500,000 to $2.9 million. The museum’s endowment has grown from $1 million to over $7 million during his tenure and the museum’s total assets have risen from $3.6 million to a whopping $28.4 million. Of equal importance, High said his museum has played a key role in breathing new life into a dormant section of Reno’s downtown commercial district. When the museum opened a new $16-million, 60,000-square-foot facility, there were only two restaurants on the block, and now there are approximately 32 restaurants and businesses. When he comes on board, High will be inheriting the Telfair’s $24-million, 64,000-square-foot Jepson Center for the Arts that opened in March of this year in addition to the Telfair Museum and the Owens Thomas House. The future for this Savannah historic district attraction seems bright indeed.

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New Savannah Art Gallery features contemporary Artists

Fpo225 In an artsy town such as Savannah that has long been dominated by her art and her artists, it is not always easy to separate the unusual from the usual. In his recent article in the Savannah Morning News, City Talk columnist, Bill Dawers does just that in his normal workmanlike fashion by spotting emerging trends in the local arts community, their presentation to historic district tourists and locals alike in the 2 Car Garage Art Gallery grand opening last week on Broughton Street in a recent article.

2CarGarage, a new contemporary art gallery, had a wildly successful opening week.The gallery is located at 30 W. Broughton St., Suite 205. That’s above The Paris Market at the corner of Broughton and Whitaker in a wonderful old commercial building that has been steadily reoccupied as renovations have continued. Judging simply by all the red dots at the gallery’s official grand opening party last Thursday, 2CarGarage has already done tens of thousands of dollars worth of business.

Off and on over the years, I’ve mentioned the rarity and difficulty with which downtown retailers are able to utilize upper and lower floors. Any shop that isn’t at ground level has some pretty big obstacles in its path. But an art gallery is less dependent on random foot traffic than many other businesses, and 2CarGarage obviously has an extensive mailing list and other direct connections to a significant number of buyers. The development of upper stories along Broughton can only mean good things for the overall vitality of the strip. It’s also worth noting that the downtown art market is largely dominated by fairly traditional work – depictions of marshes, river scenes and the like. 2CarGarage’s early success is the result of selling more contemporary and abstract work. The gallery certainly fills an empty niche.

If tracking down contemporary works of art Pickens_county_museum_021 is high on your Christmas wish list and your travels bring you to Savannah this holiday season, 2 Car Garage Art Gallery may have what you are looking for while visiting Savannah’s Landmark Historic District.