Appreciating Savannah for Her Rich History and Architecture
In Savannah, you'll have many opportunities to imagine what life was like here in the past. You'll see and experience history like you may have only read about before. We invite you to make the most of this experience by staying with us in an authentic, historic bed and breakfast or inn located in Savannah's historic district.
Bed and Breakfasts of Savannah:
A Part of the City's Rich History
Each of the historic hotels and inns of the Bed and Breakfasts of Savannah collection is a member of the Historic Savannah Foundation, and is a part of Savannah's rich history. These inns were all built between 1847 and 1892, and offer much more than just an ordinary hotel stay for the history lover. Our inns and hotels make it possible for you to experience what it was like to live and work in Savannah in the 19th century.
Savannah Architectural History, Meticulously Maintained
These properties have all been meticulously restored without compromise of modern convenience or comfort! All of the modern amenities today's sophisticated guests wish to enjoy have been added. You may bathe in a claw-foot bathtub and walk on original hardwood floors; but you will also enjoy plush mattresses, wireless Internet access, and your own private bathroom during your stay. It's really an amazing experience. Our staff of Guest Service Representatives and Concierges can help you learn, tour and experience whatever aspect of Savannah history fascinates you most. Here's a brief glimpse into Savannah history. We invite you to come experience it with us!
Savannah History in Summary
Savannah's recorded history begins in February of 1733, when General James Oglethorpe and the 120 passengers of the ship "Anne" landed on the high bluff along the Savannah River. Oglethorpe named the 13th colony "Georgia" after England's King George II. Savannah was her first city. The plan was to offer a new start for England's working poor and to strengthen the colonies by increasing trade. The colony of Georgia was also chartered as a buffer zone for South Carolina, protecting the colony from the advance of the Spanish in Florida. While settling, Oglethorpe befriended the local Yamacraw Indian chief, Tomochichi. Oglethorpe and Tomochichi pledged mutual goodwill and the Yamacraw chief granted the new arrivals permission to settle Savannah on the bluff. The town of Savannah flourished without warfare and the accompanying hardship that troubled many of America's early colonies.
Savannah Makes History as America's First Planned City
It's fascinating to note that Savannah is known today as America's first planned city. Oglethorpe laid the city out in a series of grids that allowed for wide streets intertwined with shady public squares and parks that served as town meeting places and centers of business. His plan for the city was based on Venice, Italy—hence Savannah's park-like squares, every other block, throughout the historic district. Savannah had 24 original squares; 22 squares are still in existence today.
Prosperity and Peril in Savannah History
The British took Savannah in 1778 during the American Revolution and held it until 1782. After independence was secured, Savannah prospered. Soon, farmers discovered that the soil was rich and the climate ideal for the cultivation of cotton and rice. Plantations and slavery became highly profitable systems for white land owners in the neighboring "Low Country" of South Carolina. Georgia, the free colony, then legalized slavery. The transatlantic slave trade brought countless slaves through the port of Savannah. Many who stayed in the area formed the unique Gullah culture of the coastal communities in Georgia and South Carolina.
With the wealth gained by cotton, residents built lavish homes and churches throughout the city. After the invention of the cotton gin on Mulberry Grove Plantation, the city of Savannah rivaled Charleston as a commercial port. Many of the world's cotton prices were set on the steps of the Savannah Cotton Exchange. The building is still in existence.
But Savannah was not spared from adversity. Two devastating fires in 1796 and 1820 each left half of Savannah in ashes, but residents rebuilt. The year 1820 saw an outbreak of yellow fever that killed a tenth of its population. Savannah has survived fires, epidemics and hurricanes—and has always rebuilt to its previous splendor.
Savannah Historic District: Always on the National Map
Antebellum Savannah was praised as the most picturesque and serene city in America. Known for its grand oaks festooned with Spanish moss and its genteel citizenry, Savannah was likely the inspiration for The Georgia Historical Society, which was founded in 1839. It was during this period that Forsyth Park acquired its ornate fountain—a sight worth seeing as much today as it was then. A number of famous architects designed and built homes in Savannah for some of the merchants and businessmen who prospered trading cotton and other commodities between the new world and the old.
During the Civil War, the city suffered from sea blockades so strict that the economy crumbled. "Impregnable" Fort Pulaski at the mouth of the Savannah River was captured by Union soldiers in 1862. The city itself did not fall until General William Tecumseh Sherman entered in mid-December of 1864 after burning the city of Atlanta and everything else in his path on his "March to the Sea". Upon entering Savannah, Sherman was said to be so impressed by its beauty that he could not destroy it. On December 22, he sent a famous telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, presenting the city as a Christmas present.
After General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Savannah struggled to survive. The price of cotton fell to an all-time low and the economy of Savannah, like the rest of the South, was in shambles. It would take more than half a century for Savannah to prosper again. While Sherman spared Savannah his torch, her commerce was left in ashes.
Preservation of the Savannah Historic District
In the 1950s, a group of concerned women organized to preserve historic structures threatened by the wrecking ball of urban renewal. The brave endeavor gave rise to the Historic Savannah Foundation, which—since its inception—has saved countless buildings, the beauty and appeal of which founded Savannah's charm. Savannah's Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and remains the largest historic landmark district in the country.
Savannah experienced resurgence in tourism in the 1980s and 90s when millions of visitors flocked to this Coastal Georgia gem. Today, visitors revel in our elegant architecture, ornate ironworks, fountains, lush green squares, unique shopping, and superb Low County cuisine. Savannah's natural beauty is rivaled only by the city's hospitable reputation, creating one of the country's most popular vacation spots.
Today Savannah's downtown district is a National Historic Landmark and is considered one of America's Most Beautiful Cities. Savannah blends elegance and refinement with Southern sass—making this destination an old-world favorite with modern-day charms. The city's 22 historic squares, stunning architectural details and Low Country landscape make Savannah one of the nation's top travel destinations. Culture, shopping and recreational activities fill Savannah's days while dinning, entertainment and romance extends into Savannah's nights.
Savannah's Famous Firsts
1736—First English HymnalJohn Wesley, the third rector of Christ Church, published the first English hymnal in the United States. Sunday School classes organized at Christ Church by John Wesley are thought to represent the first Sunday School in history.
1742—First Lighthouse on South Atlantic CoastThe first aid to navigation in the South was erected near the present Tybee Island lighthouse. The first tower was never lighted and served as a day mark. A second tower, built in 1742 and lighted in 1748, was the third lighthouse in the United States.
1788—First Black Baptist CongregationThe first Black Baptist congregation was organized at Brampton Plantation outside Savannah. Their descendants established Savannah's First African Baptist Church and First Bryan Baptist Church.
1793—Cotton GinEli Whitney, a Yale graduate, is said to have invented the cotton gin while serving as a tutor on General Nathaniel Greene's Mulberry Grove Plantation outside Savannah. This invention revolutionized the South, making it possible to process cotton on a larger scale.
1819—The S.S. SavannahThis sailing vessel with auxiliary steam power crossed from Savannah to Liverpool England. Two weeks prior to the historic voyage, President James Monroe—the second president to visit Savannah—made an excursion on the vessel to Tybee Island.
1856—Massie SchoolGeorgia's oldest school in continuous operation was built in 1856. It was named for Peter Massie who left $5,000 for the education of poor children. Regular classes were discontinued in 1974, but it continues as a resource center.
1886—Telfair Museum of ArtBuilt in 1819 as a mansion for Alexander Telfair, the academy was left to the Georgia Historical Society in 1875. Period rooms with many Telfair family pieces are maintained. The museum's collection contains works by American and European artists, features special exhibits and is the oldest art museum in the South.
1912—Girl ScoutsOn March 12, 1912, at her residence on Lafayette Square, Juliette Gordon Low formed the first Girl Scout troop in the United States. Mrs. Low's Birthplace—at the corner of Oglethorpe Avenue and Bull Street—is maintained by the Girl Scouts of the USA and is a museum and national program center.
More Famous Firsts in Savannah History
- 1733—First Capital of Georgia, America's 13th Colony
- 1733—First Jewish Congregation in the South
- 1734—First City Planned on a System of Squares in North America
- 1734—First Agricultural Experimental Garden in North America
- 1735—First Silk Exportation from U.S.
- 1740—First Horse Race in Georgia
- 1755—First Cattle Exportation in Georgia
- 1763—First Newspaper in the Colony, The Georgia Gazette
- 1794—First Golf Course in America, Savannah Golf Club
- 1832—First Hospital for Negroes in America, Georgia Infirmary
- 1862—First Use of Rifled Cannon in Modern Warfare at Fort Pulaski
- 1911—First Motorized Fire Department in the U.S.
- 1963—First Garden for the Blind in the Southeast