Once one of Savannah’s prime residence locations, the neighborhood around Orleans Square was first gutted in the early 20th century to make way for a municipal auditorium and then again in the 1970s for the construction of Savannah’s new Civic Center and its large parking lot.
All that remains of the former grandeur of this neighborhood is one example of Savannah’s great 19th century houses, now known as the Harper Fowlkes House and open as a house museum, along with a handful of private historic homes.
The square is located on the western side of the Historic District, at the intersection of Barnard and West McDonough Streets. Surrounding Jackson Ward is bounded by Oglethorpe Avenue, Liberty and Whitaker Streets and the Civic Center. See on map
Both Orleans and neighboring Chippewa Square, laid out in 1815, were named in honor of battles and commanders of the War of 1812. Orleans Square was named in commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans, fought early that year during the closing stages of the war.
Jackson Ward, in which the square is located, was named for Major General Andrew Jackson, commander of the battle’s American forces.
Orleans Square, laid out in 1815, would within a few decades become a center of Savannah’s most fashionable residence district. Houses went up within a few years of the opening up of the ward, a few examples of which remain on West Hull and West Perry Streets.
The most striking of Orleans Square’s early homes was William Jay’s Greek Revival Bulloch Mansion, built around 1819 for Archibald Bulloch Jr on the square’s southwest trust lot.
Bulloch lost his fortune, and was obliged to forfeit his new house, as a consequence of Savannah’s devastating 1820 fire; the house itself stood for a century, later joined by the similarly-styled Champion-McAlpin (today Harper Fowlkes) House in the early 1840s.
Many of Jackson Ward’s historic homes and buildings (including the Bulloch Mansion) were lost in the early 20th century, bulldozed to make way for Savannah’s 1916 Municipal Auditorium. That building, itself, no longer stands. It was pulled down in 1971 to allow the construction of the Savannah Civic Center, or rather its parking lot, which today occupies the entire western side of Orleans Square.
The principal historic building remaining on the square is the Harper Fowlkes House (also called the Cincinnati House), a large and imposing Greek Revival mansion with two-story colonnades. Its design is attributed to Charles B Cluskey.
It was built in the early 1840s for the wealthy merchant Aaron Champion. After his death in 1881, the house passed to his relatives, the McAlpins, who also owned the Hermitage Plantation at which Savannah’s famous grey bricks were made by artisan slaves.
The house was later purchased and renovated by Alida Harper, a preservationist and antiques dealer who saved several other significant Savannah buildings, including the Pink House on Reynolds Square. In 1985, Harper donated the property to its current owners, the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of people descended from officers in the Revolutionary War. The house is open to visitors. More details
The fountain in the center of Orleans Square commemorates the earliest German immigrants to Savannah. It was placed in 1989, funded by the German Heritage Society, the German Friendly Society, and the Georgia Salzburger Society.
There is an abundance of places to park near Orleans Square. Besides on-street parking, there is the Civic Center lot on the western side of the square, two parking garages on Liberty Street (one city-owned near the intersection with Jefferson Street, and one private near Whitaker Street) plus the city-owned Robinson garage, two blocks north of the Civic Center.
The nearest stop on Savannah’s free shuttle route is at Liberty and Jefferson Streets, two blocks southwest of Orleans Square. Several paid city bus services also stop on the streets bordering Jackson Ward. Get public transport directions