When I want to see Savannah, Georgia, I set out on foot to walk its squares. Each one of these lush greenspaces comes complete with businesses, homes, and churches. Some of these neighborhoods are tiny; others are huge. Some rest amid urban bustling, while others sit quietly, disturbed only by the occasional blue jay's call.
Savannah's squares invite me to stroll or simply relax and listen to the breeze stirring the oak trees and the clippity-clop of horse-drawn carriages wending around the roads. They're the ideal jumping-off places to explore the walkable historic district.
I love Chippewa Square best. It sits adjacent to the First Baptist Church and among beautiful townhomes. I never tire of seeking out its architectural secrets, such as the charming fish-shaped caps on the downspouts that grace the homes facing the square.
I'm also fond of Madison and its neighborhood. I'll find a bench and read while tourists clamber around the twin cannons. E. Shaver, Bookseller―my favorite local bookstore―operates across from the northeast corner. When I want to know more about the district, first I'll browse the shelves for a bit of history; then I'll take my new treasure book over to Madison and spend an hour absorbing the wonderful story of Savannah.
For instance, I recently learned that when General Oglethorpe designed the grid work in 1733, streets interrupted by public squares were unfamiliar to the Europeans. The only city with a similar plan was faraway Beijing.
From the beginning, the east and west sides of the squares housed public buildings such as churches. Over the years, the number of squares increased from the original 6 to 24. Before the city could preserve all its squares, 3 were lost to "road improvement." In the 1950s a group of concerned citizens made sure the 21 that survived would remain protected.
Johnson, the original square, sits in the financial center of the city. Georgia's first house of worship, Christ Church―established in 1733―flanks the greenspace. The square's green marble obe-lisk dedicated to Nathanael Greene is the oldest and one of the best-known monuments in the city.
Another of my favorite places is Reynolds Square. It holds a memorial to clergyman John Wesley. I like to spend a few minutes strolling around this one before heading across the street to The Olde Pink House for appetizers, drinks, and an evening of piano bar music.
Finally, Forsyth Park―almost too big to be called a square―always entices me to visit. Crowned by an elegant fountain encircled with delicate wrought iron, Forsyth defines Savannah's love affair with its public spaces and makes an ideal spot for a picnic lunch. In the spring, mounding azaleas topped by the graceful boughs of magnolias and white-blossomed dogwoods create a postcard scene.
Be sure to seek out the different squares, and find a favorite of your own. There you may simply want to sit and let the lovely green park envelop you with its whisperings of centuries of life in this delightful city.
Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: toll free 1-877-728-2662 or www.savannahvisit.com.