The six squares in the northeast of Savannah’s Historic District, just below the eastern end of River Street and historic Emmet Park, were all laid out in the 18th century. The eastern four – Washington, Warren, Columbia and Greene – are quiet and residential; the western two – Reynolds and Oglethorpe – are closer to Savannah’s central commercial areas and a little busier and more built-up.
This is the place to go if you want to see Savannah’s few surviving 18th century homes, as many of them are in this district, concentrated in the region between Warren and Washington Squares.
The Historic Savannah Foundation has done a great deal of work, beginning in the 1960s, to restore the neighborhood and its houses, several of which have been moved from their original locations elsewhere in the city, where they were threatened with destruction.
See also: western squares (Franklin, Elbert, Liberty, Orleans, Ellis and Telfair); 19th-century squares (Pulaski, Chatham, Lafayette, Troup, Calhoun, Whitefield and Crawford); Bull Street squares (Johnson, Wright, Chippewa, Madison and Monterey).
One of the original six squares envisioned by James Oglethorpe’s plan for Savannah, Reynolds Square was laid out in 1734. Then known as Lower New Square, it was renamed two decades later, after the first Royal Governor of Georgia, John Reynolds.
As one of the first squares created and settled during the early years of the colony at Savannah, Reynolds Square functioned for decades as a center of government and the site of public buildings, of which none today survive.
The Filature House, for example (used to process the silk cocoons of Georgia’s failed silk industry), formerly fronting on the western side of the square, served for thirteen years as the makeshift offices of the Mayor and Aldermen of Savannah, until they were able to move into the City Exchange.
Olde Pink House One of very few surviving historic buildings around Reynolds Square, but one of the oldest surviving buildings in Savannah, the Olde Pink House was built for James Habersham in 1789. Today it is a popular restaurant, and one of the many locations in Savannah that enthusiasts of the paranormal consider to be haunted.
Oliver Sturges House The historic voyage of the SS Savannah, first ship to cross the Atlantic under partial steam power, was planned from this house on the west of Reynolds Square.
Wesley Monument John Wesley, a founder of Methodism, established his parsonage in Savannah on Reynolds Square. Georgia Methodists erected this monument in 1969.
A pretty square unfortunately marred by some of its surrounding buildings, Oglethorpe Square is named for founder of Savannah and the Georgia colony James Oglethorpe (1696-1785). It was one of the six squares originally conceived of in its namesake’s 1733 plan of Savannah, though it was not itself laid out until 1742. At first known as Upper New Square, it was later renamed in Oglethorpe’s honor.
Owens-Thomas House This Regency-style house, designed by William Jay in the 1810s for banker and cotton merchant Richard Richardson, is one of Savannah’s architectural triumphs and one of the most completely preserved historic houses in the city, with intact outbuildings, gardens and slave quarters as well as the house itself. Open to the public. See visitor information
Moravian Memorial This memorial, placed in 1933, honors Savannah’s early Moravian missionaries.
Marshall Houses Three of the properties of one of Savannah’s most successful businesswomen, Mary Marshall, can be seen on or near Oglethorpe Square. On the square’s southwestern trust lot, she built a pair of Greek Revival houses in 1859, according to a design by Charles Cluskey.
Two blocks south of the square, on Oglethorpe Avenue between Lincoln and Abercorn Streets, is Mary Marshall Row. Two blocks north of Oglethorpe Square, on Broughton Street between Drayton and Abercorn, stands the Marshall House Hotel, built in 1851 and one of the earliest hotels of its kind in Savannah.
Columbia Square was laid out in 1799. It is named for Columbia, the female figure once used to personify the United States. It is one of Savannah’s smaller squares; those on the eastern side were laid out on a smaller plan in order to fit the required number of wards into the available space.
Columbia Square presents a particularly open appearance, with views out upon the buildings – mostly examples of subdued but substantial 19th-century architecture – around its border. Savannah’s preservationists substantially restored the square in the 1970s.
Davenport House Builder Isaiah Davenport constructed this Federal-style house from 1820. An early target of the Historic Savannah Foundation’s preservation efforts, the house once served as the Foundation’s headquarters. The restored historic home is open to the public. See visitor information
Kehoe House Irish-born iron foundry owner William Kehoe built this house for his family in the 1880s. It is currently a bed and breakfast establishment.
Sheftall House Abraham Sheftall, businessman and descendant of the prominent German-Jewish Sheftall family (members of which were amongst Savannah’s first settlers), originally built this house on Elbert Square.
Wormsloe Fountain This memorial to Augusta and Wymberly DeRenne was moved to Columbia Square from nearby Wormsloe Plantation in 1970. The plantation was founded by their ancestor Noble Jones, one of Georgia’s first settlers.
Greene Square was laid out in 1799. It is named for the Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. A pretty, quiet space, the square derives its character from the surrounding buildings. The architecture of this neighborhood is distinctive, consisting primarily of often attractively-colored wood frame houses, many of them dating back to the 19th century.
Before the Civil War, Greene Square and the surrounding streets were a popular residence place for Savannah’s comparatively large and in many cases well-to-do population of free African Americans. Eastern Savannah remained popular with Savannah’s black citizens through the 19th century and beyond.
Henry Cunningham House Free African-American preacher and businessman Henry Cunningham built this house in 1810 on the northern edge of Greene Square, west of Houston Street. Cunningham founded the Second African Baptist Church, which stands across from the house.
Second African Baptist Church One of Savannah’s oldest historic black churches, Second African Baptist organized in 1802, its first building on Greene Square completed that very year (the current structure dates from 1925).
Besides being a center of 19th-century African-American life in Savannah, Second African Baptist is famously the location from which General Rufus Saxton proclaimed Sherman’s Special Field Orders (No. 15), more popularly known as the “40 acres and a mule” order, intended to grant a parcel of land to the region’s freed slaves after the Civil War (Sherman’s order was later revoked by President Andrew Johnson).
Tiny House Don’t miss the aptly-named “Tiny House,” to the very northeast of Greene Square. This unmistakable structure, a small red frame house with yellow detail and fence, was built in 1845 for the shipbuilder John W Dorsett, but at 422 Hull Street, in Crawford Ward. It was moved to its present address (536 East State Street) after the mid-20th century to preserve it from destruction.
Washington Square was laid out in 1790. After George Washington’s official visit to Savannah the next year, it was named in his honor. The square, in the very east of the city, is on a spot once occupied by the Trustees’ Garden. This was the early settlers’ experimental agriculture project, where many varieties of fruit and produce were grown to see which could be cultivated in the Georgia climate and soils.
Many of the historic houses and structures around the square and surrounding neighborhood have a decided New England character. This district was historically occupied by many seafarers either stopping over or permanently residing in Savannah.
International Seamen’s House The Savannah Port Society have operated this Christian missionary establishment for visiting sailors in this location on the west of Washington Square since 1898. The current building was dedicated in 1965.
Hampton Lillibridge House West of Washington Square on East Saint Julian Street are two of Savannah’s oldest houses. The Hampton Lillibridge House was constructed in the 1790s. Originally a boarding house, it was moved to its present location by local preservationist Jim Williams.
Charles Oddingsells House The smaller house opposite also dates from the 1790s. It was one of the first structures built in the newly laid out Washington Ward. Odingsells was a wealthy planter, formerly of South Carolina. He mostly lived at his plantation on Skidaway Island, but like many of coastal Georgia’s planters, he kept a house in town.
Warren Square is one of Savannah’s smaller, quieter, residential squares, less densely settled and less visited too. The neighborhood around Warren Square, so near to the Savannah River and its oceangoing trade, was historically populated by visiting seafarers, besides its permanent, predominantly Irish, population.
Warren Square was laid out in 1791. It is named for Joseph Warren (1741-1775), former President of the Provincial Government of Massachusetts. The ward in which it lies was created as part of a rapid expansion of Savannah in the late 18th century, at the end of which the number of squares and wards in the city had doubled.
This is one of the neighborhoods which has benefited most from the work of the Historic Savannah Foundation and the city’s other preservationists. Many properties around the square – more modest, often frame constructions in contrast to the mansions seen in other portions of the Historic District – have been restored, and several of the city’s oldest structures, when threatened in their original locations, have been moved to the surrounding streets.
The Eppinger House, the large frame house to the northeast of Warren Square, at the intersection of Habersham and East Bryan Streets, dates from the early 1820s. It was moved to this location from West Perry Street.
The Spencer Woodbridge House on the east of the square was built for George Basil Spencer around the 1790s, shortly after Warren Square was laid out. The neighboring Mongin-Carswell House was constructed for John David Mongin in 1797, originally located a little further around the square. The house has been used both as a hospital, during Savannah’s 1876 yellow fever epidemic, and as a rectory for the Christ Church.