Oglethorpe Square 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.
It possesses all the usual charms of Savannah’s many small parks. In terms of its overall effect of the interplay between landscaped space and surrounding architecture, however, the square is unfortunately not Savannah at its most distinguished.
Oglethorpe Square’s greatest claim to distinction is as the home of one of the most celebrated historic houses in the city, the William Jay-designed Owens-Thomas House, open to the public as a museum.
Whilst the house once overlooked the other mansions and buildings of the 19th century, its neighbors now are mostly modern: housing and hotels, a large and incongruous multi-story parking deck; and the less offensive parking lot of theadjacent Presidents’ Quarters Inn.
Oglethorpe Square is in the north-east central part of the Historic District, at the intersection of Abercorn and East President Streets. Surrounding Anson Ward is bounded by Broughton, Drayton and Lincoln Streets and Oglethorpe Avenue. See on map
The Owens-Thomas House, fronting on the eastern boundary of the square, was constructed in the late 1810s for banker and cotton merchant Richard Richardson. It was designed in the Regency style by William Jay, a noted British architect who also designed several of Savannah’s other great houses and buildings, and is considered his best work.
The house, garden and original outbuildings – including its slave quarters – are open to the public. More details
Oglethorpe Square’s only monument is a small memorial honoring Savannah’s early Moravian missionaries, erected in 1933. The square was originally intended to provide the location for a monument to Chatham County’s World War Two soldiers. The design for that monument, however, was felt to be too large for the square, and it was placed on River Street instead.
Three of the buildings erected by one of Savannah’s most successful businesswomen, Mary Marshall, can be seen on or near Oglethorpe Square.
Two blocks north of Oglethorpe Square, on Broughton Street between Drayton and Abercorn, stands the Marshall House Hotel, built by Mary Marshall in 1851, at a time when there were comparatively few such establishments in Savannah.
Temporarily used as a hospital for Union soldiers during the Civil War, Marshall House reopened as a hotel after the War. Over the following century, it met with mixed fortunes, closed and reopened numerous times and was at one point renamed as the Gilbert Hotel.
The Marshall House closed for what appeared to be the final time in 1957, but in recent years it has once more been fully restored and reopened. Marshall House is now Savannah’s oldest surviving hotel.
Two blocks south of the square, on Oglethorpe Avenue between Lincoln and Abercorn Streets, is Mary Marshall Row. Designed by Irish architect Charles Cluskey in the Greek Revival style he employed in his Savannah works, Marshall constructed this series of investment properties in 1854. The row was saved by preservationists in 1959.
Finally, on the west of Oglethorpe Square itself, Marshall built a pair of Greek Revival houses. These too were erected (in 1859) according to a design that Cluskey had previously prepared for her.
Street parking is available on and near to Oglethorpe Square, and although the area can get busy there is a reasonable chance of finding a space. The city-owned State Street Parking Garage to the north of the square can get full during working hours on weekdays, but should usually have spaces in the evenings and at the weekend.
Almost all street parking nearby is $1 per hour, with a handful of cheaper spaces east of the square; it is free after 5pm and on weekends. Some free weekday, daytime parking is available a few blocks further east, with spaces on Price Street and on some of the streets around Greene Square.
The maximum length of stay in on-street spaces differs considerably on a block-by-block basis in the area around Oglethorpe Square, with shorter limits (30 minutes to an hour) in the northwest streets and longer limits (up to 10 hours) in the southeast. Most of the rest of the streets near the square allow a stay of up to 2 hours.