Things to Do in Savannah - page 2
Live oaks draped in Spanish moss greet you at Wormsloe State Historic Site. Delve into the history of early Georgia settlers at this Savannah-area historic colonial estate by walking the ruins and watching live reenactments. Learn about founder Noble Jones, explore hiking trails, and enjoy views of the Isle of Hope.
Factors Walk in downtown Savannah is paved with the rest of the world. If you’re not sure exactly what that means, consider the cobbles that form the streets of uneven Factors Walk; brought to Savannah as ballast on ships and discarded here on shore, the stones came from China, India, Europe, and anywhere engaged with the agricultural trade that boomed in the 1700s. This rundown, funky, and some would say, real, stretch of Savannah is arguably its most authentic, as it shows the grungy underbelly of Savannah’s plantation past. After all, plantation life in Colonial Georgia was more than just mansions and fountains; it was schlepping crates full of Georgia cotton onto ships that were bound for England, and spending the few pence you earned for the job in a seedy riverfront grog shop. When strolling Factors Walk today, where steep stairways and narrow alleyways lead from the river up to Bay Street, there’s a dingy, historic, and industrial charm that’s free of the tourist gloss. One of the best ways to hear the Factors Walk stories is on a walking tour of downtown, lest you think it’s just souvenir shops in a poorly maintained part of town.
Set on Savannah’s Chippewa Square, the Historic Savannah Theater is one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in America. Built in December, 1818, the theater has been damaged by fire and storms in the centuries since it’s been built, and is now renovated with an art-deco façade and state of the art lighting and sound. Of the thousands of performers to have graced the stage, notable amongst them are Oscar Wilde and the baseball player Ty Cobb, who performed here back in 1911 in a showing ofThe College Widow. Today, not only is the Historic Savannah Theater a popular stop on walking tours, but it’s still one of the classiest and enjoyable nights out you can find in downtown Savannah. Shows run 4-6 days per week, and range from live theater to musical performances and special shows for the holidays. If you do decide to attend a live show at the Historic Savannah Theater, you might feel as if you’ve stepped back in time from the moment you walk inside.
The First African Baptist Church was organized in 1773 under the leadership of Reverend George Leile, and it is still under dispute today whether it was the first officially organized African Baptist church, or if Petersburg, Virginia’s First Baptist Church holds the title.
Under third Pastor Reverend Andrew C. Marshall, the congregation obtained the present-day property and organized the first black Sunday School in North America. The name of the church was then changed from “First Colored Baptist” to “First African Baptist.”
Visitors to First African Baptist Church in Savannah can view many historical pieces. Among these are the stained-glass windows along the edifice that were installed by 5th pastor Reverend George Gibbons. A stained glass window of Reverend Leile is located outside the church.
Balcony pews are original to the church, made by slaves. The lighting fixtures, 1832 Pipe Organ, and the baptismal pool are all original as well. Cursive Hebrew (African dialect) markings are seen on the original balcony pews, and the ceiling of the church has a “Nine Patch Quilt” design, representing the church as a safe house for slaves. Holes in the floor are known as Congolese Cosmogram, African prayer symbol shapes. In Africa, it also means “Flash of the Spirits,” representing the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.
The church also has an underground railroad below the auditorium floor. The entrance is unknown and there is no record as to who or how many people passed through this four-foot tall tunnel.
During segregation, First African Baptist Church served as the largest gathering place for blacks and whites to meet. The church even held graduation ceremonies for some black students who were banned from walking with their class.
Temple Mickve Israel is the only Gothic-style synagogue in North America, and it's also home to the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the US. Visit to see its impressive architecture, a stand-out in Savannah’s historic district. Established in 1733, the synagogue still hosts religious services, holidays, and community events.
Looking for the Savannah History Museum? You’ll find it inside the Roundhouse Railroad Museum. It’s not hard to locate – the Central of Georgia Railway passenger station is considered the most complete antebellum railroad complex in the United States. Next to it and the Savannah Visitor Center, you’ll find the Savannah History Museum, where through exhibits and a short film you’ll learn about this history of this most-famous of Georgian cities. Housing notable points of interest that lay claim to Savannah, it’s here where you’ll see from what swampy origins Savannah rose, you’ll hear about James Oglethorpe – Savannah’s founder and Georgian governor – as well as see the famous “Forrest Gump” bench.
Located in the Savannah Historic District, the Beach Institute African American Cultural Center (better known as the Beach Institute) was established in 1867 as the city’s first school built specifically for African-American students to assimilate into white society. Today, the Beach Institute is a museum and houses more than 230 woodcarvings by renowned folk artist Ulysses Davis.
The school was originally named for Alfred E. Beach, editor of Scientific American, who donated the funds to purchase the site. When it opened, Beach Institute was originally staffed by white female teachers from the north and had an initial enrollment of 600 students. By 1874, it underwent a change of hands to the Savannah Board of Education, and in 1875, it became a free public school for black children. Enrollment began declining as other area schools opened, forcing the Beach Institute to close its doors in 1919.
Today, the old building serves as an African-American Cultural Center and offers programs and exhibits that feature African-American influenced arts and crafts, like Davis’ noted woodcarvings. Davis was a Savannah barber with an incredible talent for carving wood. His works reflected his deep faith and have been recognized as important examples of African-American vernacular art.
There are ghosts on the loose in Downtown Savannah, and the Gribble House is the epicenter of paranormal experience. Though only a warehouse stands here today, this ground was where three women lost their lives in a gruesome, 1909 axe attack that’s been called “the most diabolical crime in the history of Savannah.” Not everyone believes that the man arrested was the one who committed the crime, and it’s likely that the only people who know the truth are the famous Gribble House ghosts. On a tour of this haunted and infamous site, grab a flashlight and explore the darkness of where the three gruesome murders took place. Feel the hairs on the back of your neck suddenly stand on end, and talk or ask questions to a spooky “ghost box” that can silence the biggest of critics. By the time you emerge from this haunted house in the middle of downtown Savannah, there’s a good chance that you could walk away with a firm belief in ghosts.
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