Wormsloe Historic Site is a popular attraction near Savannah, located only a few minutes’ drive outside of the city.
Wormsloe is best known for its beautiful avenue of mature live oaks, stretching for more than a mile between its historic gates and the main site. The former plantation also offers some of the oldest European-built ruins in Georgia, miles of nature trails, a small museum and colonial village, and historical interpretation and tours.
Besides its regular daily programs, Wormsloe hosts a series of special events focused on aspects of colonial history, usually over holiday weekends or during the festive period.
A vist to Wormsloe can easily be combined with one of several other attractions nearby:
Wormsloe’s chief historic significance is as the first plantation established by the British in their new colony of Georgia. Its name – originally spelled Wormslow – is believed to have been derived from one of several places by that name in Britain.
Besides the creation of the town of Savannah on the banks of the Savannah River, the colonizers sought to establish outpost settlements for defensive and strategic reasons. Isle of Hope, situated near the Wilmington and Vernon Rivers, both of which allowed access to Savannah from its rear, was considered a crucial point from which to defend the city from attacks from the south.
In around 1737, four years after the founding of Savannah, the Isle of Hope peninsula was accordingly granted to three British settlers: Noble Jones, who took the southern 500 acres (now Wormsloe); Henry Parker, allocated the northern end of the peninsula; and John Fallowfield, who took its central portion.
Noble Jones was to convert his 500 acres (the Wormsloe tract now covers over 800 acres, following more recent additions of land) into a plantation. He was also instructed to erect a fortification to overlook and defend the adjacent river.
Jones planted crops (both experimental and practical) and raised cattle on his plantation, also growing mulberries for Georgia’s planned, but eventually unsuccessful, silk industry. He died in 1775, passing the plantation and its slaves to his daughter, Mary Jones and through her, to the many descendant generations of the Jones family who have owned and often occupied the plantation ever since.
A new plantation house was built in 1828 and substantially expanded a few years later (this house, still occupied today by descendants of Noble Jones and his family, is not open to the public). By this time, Wormsloe grew a crop of primarily long staple Sea Island cotton, alongside corn and vegetables — all tended by a force of several dozen slaves.
By the 20th century, Wormsloe was no longer an active plantation. The Jones family made several attempts to diversify the former plantation’s income sources, establishing a dairy and a somewhat successful tourist attraction, Wormsloe Gardens, in the early decades of that century. The plantation’s fields, no longer tended for crops, reverted to their natural forested state.
In 1972, the family were obliged to donate most of the property to the Nature Conservancy, retaining the plantation house and an area of land for their own use. The following year, it was sold to the state of Georgia.
Probably Wormsloe’s most famous sights are its entrance gate and its mile-and-a-half-long avenue of mossy live oaks (Quercus virginiana) stretching between it and the ruins of the former house and fortification. If you have seen pictures of an avenue of live oaks in Savannah, this is probably it!
The trees, of which there are more than 400, were planted out in the 1890s on the occasion of the birth of Wymberley Jones De Renne’s son, Wymberley Wormsloe De Renne. The arch was erected in 1913, the year he came of age.
A short walk from the museum parking lot are the ruins of an early colonial fortification, Fort Wymberly, with views out over the marshes of the Skidaway Narrows.
Jones began construction of the first house at Wormsloe – which doubled as a fortified defensive position able to repel any small-scale attacks from the Spanish – soon after the original colonization of Georgia. Interrupted by the War of Jenkins’ Ear, it took him several years to finish work on the structure, which was finally completed in 1745.
Built on a site overlooking the Skidaway Narrows, the house was one-and-a-half stories high, situated inside of a fortified wall with a bastion on each corner. It was built out of tabby, a traditional concrete-like building material composed of lime and oyster shells.
Tabby is highly durable: most of the structures that survive from the earliest days of the Georgia colony are made of this material. The ruins at Wormsloe are believed to be the oldest extant structure on the upper Georgia coast.
The house was abandoned some time in the later 18th century. In 1828, after a several-decades-long period in which the plantation was rarely visited by its owners, a new two-story frame house (later substantially rebuilt and expanded) was constructed as the plantation’s main residence, around a half mile north of the original house. Descendants of the Jones family have lived in the property ever since, and continue to inhabit it today.
During the Civil War, Wormsloe again became the site of military fortifications. The Confederates built an earthwork battery, known as Battery Wymberley, on the banks of the present-day Moon River (then known as the Back River) at the southern end of Isle of Hope, though it saw little use during the conflict.
The earthworks are accessible via a trail through the forest.
A brief historical film examines the founding of Georgia and the history of the site. The small museum has a selection of exhibits focused on the history of the family, with displays of artifacts discovered at Wormsloe.
Guided tours of Wormsloe Historic Site’s trails and historic sites are available daily, with two morning and two afternoon tours. Call for information about topics covered on the day you plan to visit.
Special events, some coinciding with holiday weekends and others commemorating historic events, are occasionally offered at Wormsloe. During these events, Wormsloe’s Colonial Life Area hosts living history programs with costumed interpreters and demonstrations of colonial-era skills and traditions.
Annual events at Wormsloe include the Colonial Faire and Muster in February; programs exploring the War of Jenkins’ Ear and colonial-era tools and trades over the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, respectively; and the Colonial Christmas event in December. See the official website for details of upcoming events.
The following is correct at the time of writing. For additional information, call 912-353-3023 or visit the official website.
Location 7601 Skidaway Road, Savannah, GA 31406 (GPS: N 31.983690, W -081.071790) See map
Hours Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9pm-5pm and on some holidays. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days.
Admission Adults $10, seniors (62+) $9, children (6-17) $4.50, young children (0-5) $2.
Pets Leashed pets welcome on trails, but they may not enter any buildings.