Lafayette Square is one of the most central and accessible squares in Savannah – less than five minutes walk from many of its favorite attractions – and one of the most rewarding to visit. It was laid out in 1837, together with Pulaski and Madison Squares.
The square is located in the south-east central portion of the Historic District (just east of Bull Street), at the intersection of Abercorn and East Macon Streets. Surrounding Lafayette Ward is bounded by Liberty, Drayton, Lincoln and Jones Streets. See on map
On the north of the square is the beautiful Cathedral of St John the Baptist, one of Savannah’s most famous landmarks. Lafayette Square is also home to two historic house museums, former residences of two of the city’s most widely-known women: author Flannery O’Connor and Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low.
Continuing northwards from Lafayette you will come to the popular Colonial Park Cemetery. West is Madison Square, where you can visit the Green-Meldrim House, General Sherman’s temporary home during the Civil War.
East is Troup Square, and beyond it African-American cultural center the Beach Institute; south is Calhoun Square and the Massie Heritage Center, a former schoolhouse turned museum of Savannah’s history.
Lafayette Square and Ward are named for the French Revolutionary War general Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de La Fayette (1757-1834), or Lafayette, as he is more commonly known.
Lafayette visited Savannah in 1825, as part of a tour of each of the then 24 states, in celebration of the forthcoming anniversary of American independence. During the course of his visit he laid the cornerstones of the monuments to Nathanael Greene, in Johnson Square, and to Casimir Pulaski, then in Chippewa Square.
Lafayette was an extremely popular figure in post-Revolutionary America. Dozens of towns, parks and streets were named in his honor, so it was perhaps inevitable that one of the first of Savannah’s squares to be laid out after his death should bear his name.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist has stood at the northeastern corner of Lafayette Square since 1876. It is one of the landmarks of Savannah’s Historic District, a large and beautiful white edifice in the French Gothic style.
The Andrew Low House, part of the Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, is to the west of the square. It was built in 1848 by cotton merchant Andrew Low. It was later the residence of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, through her marriage to his son, William Mackay Low.
The Colonial Dames of America purchased the house from Gordon Low’s heirs in 1928. It has been open to the public for over sixty years.
Facing on the southern edge of Lafayette Square is the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home. O’Connor, who died prematurely at only 39 years old, is among America’s greatest short story writers. She lived in the house on Lafayette Square from her birth in 1925 until the family’s move to Atlanta thirteen years later. The house is open to the public.
The Georgia chapter of the Colonial Dames of America donated the fountain in the center of Lafayette Square to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Georgia colony.
The Hamilton Turner House on the east side of Lafayette Square is one of Savannah’s best examples of the Second Empire architectural style. The house, now redeveloped as the Hamilton Turner Inn, was built in 1873 for wealthy businessman and politician Samuel P Hamilton.
Hamilton died in 1899, the house passing to his heirs, from whom Francis Turner purchased the property in 1915. From the late 1920s to the 1940s, the mansion, not then occupied by the Turner family, was used as a boarding house. The Hamilton Turner House is one of the many architecturally-significant buildings saved by the Historic Savannah Foundation.
Options for where to eat or drink in the immediate vicinity of Lafayette Square are fairly limited. Mirabelle Café (313 Abercorn Street), a half block north of Lafayette Square, specializes in waffles alongside usual café foods. Neighborhood bar The Original (318 Drayton Street) opens afternoons through early morning.
Immediately south of Lafayette Ward is Clary’s Café (404 Abercorn Street, pet-friendly), an American-style cafe open for breakfast and lunch. A wider range of establishments can be found around the nearby Bull Street squares, from Madison Square northwards.
If you are planning to visit the Andrew Low house, it has its own (free) parking lot at Charlton and Drayton Streets. Otherwise, metered street parking is available around Lafayette Ward, with more chance of finding a vacant space the further east or south you go.
No city-owned parking garages are especially nearby, but there is a privately-operated parking garage, the Liberty Parking Deck (city passes not valid), on Liberty Street near Bull.
Savannah’s free downtown shuttle has a stop right on Lafayette Square. Several paid city bus services also stop on the square or nearby. Get public transport directions