The City of Savannah

There's always something doing in the city of Savannah, Georgia. Ghost tours depart from Johnson Square at 9:30 p.m. every evening. I joined a friendly band of about 10 night walkers on a Sixth Sense Savannah tour. Our guide, Shannon Scott, led us on a 90 minute stroll through the historic district. A practiced storyteller, he knew just how to jangle our chains with local legends and ghastly tales of house hauntings. Nevertheless, he was not above cracking a joke or two to lighten things up. At one point, he quipped, "On the deadest day in Savannah, ghost tours are busy."

The American Institute of Parapsychology has named Savannah "America's Most Haunted City." Speculation has it that apparitions, ghosts, demons and other supernatural beings reside in the city as a result of the large number of violent and untimely deaths.

Shannon told us about the ghost of a young boy who resides in the Kehoe House. Now a gracious bed and breakfast inn, the grand Victorian mansion once served as a funeral home. There's the ghost of a carpenter who fell off a roof, and the ghosts of thousands who died in Yellow Fever epidemics. Just the day before, Shannon reported, at a banquet in one of the historic houses a young woman felt the cold breath of a ghost on her shoulder. It frightened her so much that she ran from the table.

Despite the spine-chilling stories of gore and mystery, I had no difficulty sleeping that night. From my room at the River Street Inn, formerly a cotton warehouse, I looked out onto the moonlit river and two paddle wheelers docked beneath my window. The romantic view stilled any trepidation I might have had.

The next morning I discovered that I was in the neighborhood of another New Englander. An historic marker notes the accomplishments of Eli Whitney, who came to Savannah as a young schoolteacher. The Connecticut Yankee lived just a few doors down, between the River Street Inn and the Cotton Exchange. He invented the cotton gin here.

On a trolley tour, I heard about Englishman James Edward Oglethorpe, who founded Savannah in 1733 and chartered Georgia as the 13th colony for King George II. Georgia was also the last of the original thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England.

But it was the first planned city in America. Sections of the wall that encompassed the original city remain. Within those walls, Oglethorpe laid out Savannah on a grid. Streets framed one acre square parks accented with plantings, fountains and monuments. Today handsome houses look out on the squares, whose benches are shaded with Spanish moss-draped live oaks. By any standard, Savannah ranks as one of the most beautiful cities.

Helping to make it so is SCAD, as Savannah College of Art and Design is commonly called. Although it was founded less than 25 years ago, it is the largest institution of its kind in the country. The city is studded with galleries featuring student work paintings, sculptures, ceramics, metalwork, weavings, photographs, furniture, jewelry- all of which make unique souvenirs. And, there's always the possibility of discovering a budding, famous artist. SCAD also presents live theater at a restored movie palace where actor Charles Coburn ushered in the 1950s.

Too soon, my trip was over. Even a short visit to Savannah, however, is rewarding. There's a lot to discover in Georgia's first city.

Article provided by Homesteader

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