The area around Washington Square is one of Savannah’s quieter neighborhoods, many of its historic houses and buildings sharing a decidedly New England character. The square was laid out in 1790 (along with Franklin Square on the city’s west), in a spot once occupied by the early settlers’ experimental agriculture project, the Trustees’ Garden.
The square is located in the far north-east of the Historic District, at the intersection of Houston and East St Julian Streets. Washington Ward is bounded by Bay, Price, East Broad and Broughton Streets. See on map
Washington Square was named in honor of the United States’ first president, George Washington. Washington visited Savannah in May 1791, during the southern leg of his nation-building tour of all the new country’s states.
Washington stayed several days in Savannah, where he received – as symbol of the new nation and the city’s most distinguished visitor – an enthusiastic welcome. Washington attended services at Christ Church on Johnson Square and public dinners and entertainments given in his honor, along with a tour of the town’s Revolutionary War defenses.
He also found time during his short stay to pay two visits to Catherine Greene, the widow of his general, Nathanael Greene, at her Mulberry Grove plantation. Greene is remembered today through his monument in Johnson Square. The remainder of Washington’s Georgia tour (his only visit to the state) was spent at Waynesboro and Augusta.
Many of the houses in Washington Ward and its vicinity were once occupied by the seafarers and dock workers who labored at and out of Savannah’s port.
This aspect of the neighborhood’s history is today most evident in the International Seamen’s House, facing on the west of Washington Square. The Savannah Port Society have operated this Christian missionary establishment for visiting sailors in this location since 1898. The current building was dedicated in 1965.
Simon Mirault, a free person of color, had the house at 21 Houston Street (facing on the west side of Washington Square) built in 1852. His father Louis Mirault, a French tailor, was one of Savannah’s numerous refugees of the Haitian Revolution, in which French rule of the former colony of Saint-Domingue was overthrown by slaves.
Simon Mirault was among the more prosperous of Savannah’s free black residents, running a confectionery on Broughton Street and together with his wife Mary Jane owning property that was valued at $1500, far more than most whites at the time would have owned.
The Miraults’ house was formerly a one-story-plus-attic residence located in Troup Ward, at Habersham Street just north of Jones. It is one of dozens of properties in Savannah renovated by noted preservationist Jim Williams (more famous as the erstwhile owner of Mercer House on Monterey Square), who moved it to its present location in 1963. The restoration added another story to the house, which was renovated again (retaining its Williams-era appearance) in 2015.
Two 18th-century houses are on East St Julian Street, west of Washington Square. Both are privately owned.
The Hampton Lillibridge House at 507 was constructed in the 1790s. Originally a boarding house, it was also moved to its present location by the historic restorer Jim Williams.
The smaller house opposite is the Charles Oddingsells House, this too built in the 1790s. It was one of the earliest structures built in the newly-laid-out Washington Ward.
Odingsells was a wealthy planter, formerly of South Carolina. He mostly lived at his plantation on Skidaway Island, around 15 miles south-east of Savannah, but like many of coastal Georgia’s planters, he also kept a house in town.
North of Washington Square is the riverfront, and Emmet and Morrell Parks (the latter the site of Savannah’s Waving Girl statue). To the west is Warren Square, which shares many of the qualities of Washington. South is Greene Square, site of the historic Second African Baptist Church, and to the east is the boundary of the Historic District, beyond which are the remnants of Revolutionary War-era Fort Wayne.
Washington Ward is predominantly residential, and there are very few options for food and refreshments. In the immediate area is Pacci (601 East Bay Street), an Italian restaurant operated by the owners of the Brice Hotel on the north side of Washington Square.
Otherwise, there is The Pirates’ House (20 East Broad Street) just east of the Historic District, an 18th-century former seafarers’ inn that claims to be haunted and is consequently much frequented by tourists. For more choice, head westwards, back toward downtown, especially along either River or Broughton Streets.
On-street parking should usually be available around Washington Square and Ward. The nearest parking garages are the Lincoln Garage, immediately east of Warren Square, and the city-owned Bryan Street Parking Garage (entrance on Drayton Street north of Bryan), around three and six blocks west of Washington Square, respectively.
Washington Square and vicinity are served by Savannah’s free downtown shuttle, which stops on East Broad Street south of Bay, near The Pirates’ House. The city’s regular paid bus service does not go especially near this area, the nearest route stopping around 10 blocks south of the square.