A pretty, quiet and well-kept space, Greene 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.
Greene Square, like several of the squares along the border of Savannah’s Historic District – close to the 18th and 19th century city limits – was historically populated by proportionately more African Americans than the central squares.
The square is in the north-east of the Historic District, at the intersection of Houston and East President Streets. Surrounding Greene Ward is bounded by Broughton, Price and East Broad Streets and Oglethorpe Avenue. See on map
Greene Square’s main attraction is the Second African Baptist Church, important in Savannah’s African-American history but mostly widely known as the place from which the famous “40 acres and a mule” order was read.
North of Greene is Washington Square, with more historic 19th-century frame houses and several examples from the 18th century too. West is Columbia Square and the Davenport House. South is Crawford Square; and east is the eastern border of the Historic District, beyond which there is little of interest to tourists.
Greene Square was laid out in 1799, along with Columbia Square to its immediate west and Liberty Square, since destroyed, to the western boundary of the city as it then stood. It is named for the Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene.
Greene Square is one of only a few of Savannah’s squares to contain – as yet – no monument. The memorial to Nathanael Greene stands in Johnson Square, three quarters of a mile northwest.
Along with other disadvantaged groups (in the case of Savannah, this was often the Irish) black citizens were obliged to live in the less desirable parts of the city. Not only was Greene Square more out of the way than the prestigious inner wards, it was also from the mid-19th century very near to the noisy and dirty depot of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad (later the Atlantic Coastline Railroad).
Savannah’s African Americans created their communities where they could, however, and Greene Square is one of several historic centers of the city’s black population, home to various historic institutions and sites.
In the years before the Civil War too, 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.
One of Savannah’s historic black churches, Second African Baptist, fronts on Greene Square. The Church (descended from the First African Baptist Church) organized in 1802, the building completed that very year.
From this church, General Rufus Saxton proclaimed Sherman’s Special Field Orders No 15, intended to grant a parcel of land to the region’s freed slaves. More popularly known as the “40 acres and a mule” order, it was later revoked by President Andrew Johnson.
The Second African church was founded by free black preacher and businessman Henry Cunningham. He built his house (in 1810) right across from the church, on the northern edge of the square, west of Houston Street. The house was later sold to the Female Orphan Asylum, and is now a vacation rental property.
To the very northeast is the aptly named “Tiny House.” 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. Like the Cunningham House, it has now been converted to a vacation rental home.
You should usually be able to find an on-street space on the streets around Greene Square. To the west and north of the square, parking is $0.50 per hour with a 2-hour limit; to its east parking is free and unrestricted.
If you prefer a garage, the nearest city-owned facility is the State Street Parking Garage on the north of Oglethorpe Square (about 5 blocks away) and the nearest privately-owned garage is on the west of Warren Square (6 blocks). Both can get full during weekday work hours, but should usually have spaces in the evenings and weekends.