Free admission. Open daily. Leashed pets welcome.
Forsyth Park is a must-see for any visitor to Savannah. Dating from 1851, it is one of the oldest and prettiest urban parks in the United States.
Its original 10 acres center on the distinctive fountain, surrounded by Savannah's characteristic moss-hung oaks and in spring, flowering azaleas. The lower portion of the park, added a few decades later, was formerly a military parade ground. Today it is used for sports and recreation, and is the site of Forsyth Park’s Fragrant Garden, plus a café and visitor center.
The park also hosts numerous festivals and special events (see full list), from the year-round weekly farmers’ market to arts and food festivals, cultural celebrations and fundraiser events.
Forsyth Park is within easy walking distance of many of Savannah’s other sights. It is located in the south of the Historic District, bounded by Gaston Street, Whitaker Street, Drayton Street and Park Avenue (view on map).
History Of Forsyth Park
Savannah’s council officially created Forsyth Park in 1851, but it traces its history to the 1840s, its origins rooted in the leisure habits of the city’s wealthier inhabitants.
At that time, the built up areas of the city ended north of present-day Gaston Street. At the end of Bull Street was a shady stand of old pines, and some city residents (primarily well-to-do men and women who had ample time for leisure) adopted the habit of concluding their daily strolls along their favorite promenade in this cool and wooded area beyond the city limits.
By the end of 1840s, the prospect of dividing the pine woods south of Gaston into streets and lots to accommodate the rapidly expanding city loomed large. Not wanting to give up their recreation place, several citizens petitioned Savannah’s council to make it a permanent park.
Council acquiesced, and early in 1851, when it laid out the new Forsyth Ward, it designated the area today bounded by Gaston, Whitaker, Drayton and the line of Hall Streets as a city park, which was extended later on to its present 30 acres.
In following with the practice of naming (for the most part) Savannah’s squares for the ward in which they are located, the park too was named Forsyth, in honor of former Governor of Georgia, John Forsyth (1780-1841).
It is sometimes stated that local resident William Hodgson, connected by marriage to the wealthy Telfair family, donated the land for Forsyth Park. While he may have taken a role in persuading the city to create the park, however, he did not give it the land. The area which became Forsyth Ward and Park was a part of the former commons allocated during the Trustee period of the Georgia colony, and already belonged to the city.
Over the next few years, improvements were made to the new Forsyth Park (or Place, as it was at first known), with paths cut through the trees and a large, ornamental fountain installed. Eventually, most of the park’s original pines were lost, replaced with the wider mix of species, among which the live oak predominates, that can be seen there today.
What To See & Do At Forsyth Park
For many, the main reason to visit Forsyth Park is to see its beautiful fountain, the most famous landmark in the city. Installed in 1858, the fountain has changed somewhat over its 160-year history, but it has always been one of Savannah’s favorite spots.
The Garden Of Fragrance
Open only on weekday mornings and early afternoons, this small, enclosed garden in the west of Forsyth Park is easy to overlook. The Fragrant Garden was created in the early 1960s as a space for people with visual impairments, its scented and textured plants chosen to appeal to the other senses.
Forsyth Park’s War Memorials
Forsyth Park’s main walk is a continuation of Savannah’s monument avenue, Bull Street, and like that street’s squares, it is home to several memorials.
Walking southwards from the park’s most northerly (Gaston Street) entrance, you will see the Marine Monument, to Chatham County’s Marines; the Confederate Monument, to Savannah’s Civil War dead; and The Hiker, to Georgia’s volunteers in the Spanish-American War.
Saturday Farmers Market
The Forsyth Farmers Market runs almost every Saturday morning, year round, from 9am-1pm in the southern end of the park. Its vendors sell a range of local food, including meat, dairy and produce from area farms; artisanal products; and breads and other baked goods.
Forsyth Park is one of Savannah’s primary open-air venues, and hosts several of the city’s most popular annual events, with something on every other weekend through spring and fall.
Some of Savannah’s finest late-19th century architecture can be seen on the streets around the edge of Forsyth Park: Gaston Street to the north, Park Avenue on the south, and Whitaker and Drayton Streets on the west and east, respectively. The distance around the entire perimeter of the park is exactly one mile.
Highlights include Hodgson Hall, headquarters and library of the Georgia Historical Society (501 Whitaker Street, open to visitors), a few houses south of which is an impressive neoclassical home with a two-story portico (513 Whitaker Street); the Mansion on Forsyth Park, an 1887 chateau-style red brick edifice, now a hotel and art gallery (700 Drayton Street, gallery open to the public); and the former Telfair Hospital, which was the first women’s hospital in Georgia (17 East Park Avenue).
The Candler Oak
Opposite the north-eastern end of Forsyth Park (at 516 Drayton Street) is Savannah’s largest live oak, measuring over 100 feet across. An official Georgia landmark, the tree is protected by a special conservation easement.
The Candler Oak is reckoned to be around 300 years old. Its name comes from its location on the grounds of the former Candler Hospital.
Visitor Center & Café
Open daily: Visitor Center, 8am-5pm/7pm; Café, 8am-7pm.
621 Drayton Street
The Forsyth Park Visitor Center and Café occupies the recently restored East Fort, just inside the park near the intersection of East Hall and Drayton Streets and opposite the Mansion at Forsyth Park, which manages the café.
Public restrooms are available at the Visitor Center. An ornamental fountain and outdoor bandshell, in which open air concerts are held, are also on the site of the new fort development.
The Forsyth Park Café has both indoor and outdoor seating areas. It serves hot and cold drinks (including beer and wine). The food menu consists mostly of light meal and snack items: sandwiches, soups and salads; some fast food options such as fries and hot dogs; cakes and pastries. Expect to pay around $5-10 per person.
Restoration of the East Fort was completed in 2010. The $6.5 million project took six years, designed by architect Thomas H Perdue. It is considered to be one of the most attractive public facilities in Savannah.