Savannah Vacation, Historic Savannah Attractions
Savannah Art and Architecture: A Fusion of Past and Present
Savannah’s remarkably well-preserved historical buildings and celebrated contemporary arts scene offer an elegant feast for the eyes.
At a moment when the United States’ sprawling pattern of development is being questioned, Savannah just may hold an answer. Even a short stroll through the historic district reveals its remarkable town plan, which allows urban density and private space to coexist.
At regular intervals within the grid of streets and lanes are 21 public squares. About a half-acre each, they are lushly planted and furnished with monuments and benches. Without them, the stately calm which is one of Savannah’s greatest attractions might not exist, and they’re well worth checking out on your next Savannah vacation.
Savannah: National Historic District
Along those streets and facing the squares is a trove of old buildings, nearly all of which are in superb condition. (This is one of the country’s largest National Historic Landmark Districts.) Most houses dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries are in the austere Federal style. Built mainly of brick, they have simple facades, which often hide highly detailed interiors and walled rear gardens. One beautiful example you can tour is the 1820 Davenport House, furnished today as it was originally. Tours run for about 30 minutes every half-hour beginning at 10 a.m.; the last tour runs at 4 p.m.
324 E. State St. Tel. 912-236-8097. Admission: Adults, $8; seniors, $7.20; children 6 to 17, $5; under 6, free. Hours: Mon. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun., 1 to 4 p.m. davenporthousemuseum.org
Town and Gown: SCAD’s Positive Effects
Many of Savannah’s early public and commercial buildings are in the Greek Revival style. An excellent example is the 1856 former headquarters of the Central of Georgia Railroad. Today, it serves as the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art. It houses the Evans Collection of African-American art, the Rhoads Collection of photography, as well as changing exhibitions.
SCAD in Savannah
SCAD has had a powerful impact on both the architecture and the arts scene in Savannah. Rather than choosing a single site, the college acquired dozens of existing buildings scattered through the old part of town. They range from a five-bay 1853 Italianate mansion to a 1925 streamline-modern department store. Renovated—often with the help of students from the school’s historic preservation program—and repurposed, they helped revitalize the city.
Suddenly, a lively contemporary sensibility was injected where once only the formal and historic was revered. Many of SCAD’s buildings contain public galleries, showing work by nationally known artists as well as students.
One must-see SCAD building is Poetter Hall, overlooking Madison Square. It was built in 1892 as an armory, in the Romanesque Revival style. It has massive corner towers, lacy wrought-iron balconies and deep-set glassed archways along the sidewalk. It houses SCAD’s welcome center, a gallery and shopSCAD where inventively designed items—some by students—are available for sale.
Savannah Art and Design for Sale
Savannah antiques shops, especially formal ones, have long been part of the city’s shopping landscape. Perhaps another effect of SCAD’s presence is that the city now has a number of terrific contemporary design shops. Among them is 24e, with a transitional aesthetic in furniture, linens and tableware. 24 E. Broughton St. Tel. 877-274-6724. www.24estyle.com
Arcanum shows a canny and tasteful selection of antique and new furniture. 422 Whitaker St. Tel. 912-236-6000. www.arcanumsavannah.com
One Fish Two Fish offers fun lighting, tableware and linens, and books on design, among other wares. 401 Whitaker St. Tel. 912-447-4600. www.onefishstore.com
Next: Telfair Museum of Art