Our Guide to Savannah Squares.
Crawford Square was laid in out in 1841; it holds the distinctions of being both the smallest square and the only square that still retains its original fence. The square is named for William Harris Crawford, who was a Georgia Senator, Minister to France, Secretary of War and a Presidential candidate. During the era of Jim Crow Laws, Crawford Square was the only square in which African Americans were permitted. The square now houses a gazebo, basketball court and playground. Crawford Square has also retained its cistern, a holdover from early fire fighting practices when firefighters maintained stations on the squares and water was stored in cisterns in the squares.
Pulaski Square is named after Casimir Pulaski, a Polish immigrant who became a Savannah hero; not only is the square named after him, but there is also a monument dedicated to him in another square, Monterey Square. Pulaski fought alongside the French in the Continental army and died a hero in the Siege of Savannah in 1779. His square is surrounded by historical “Savannah style” homes, many of which were built in the 1850s, and have since been restored to further glory, and feature Italianate and Greek revival style in their designs.
Monterey Square was named to commemorate the capture of the city of Monterrey, Mexico by the American forces led by General Zachary Taylor, but its prominent feature is the aforementioned monument erected in honor of Casimir Pulaski. Monterey Square gained popularity after it was featured prominently in John Berendt’s “Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil,” or “The Book,” as it’s referred to here in Savannah. The Mercer-Williams House, which is located on Monterey Square and is also as much of a character of “The Book” as any person, took over a decade to build. It was later restored to its current glory by Jim Williams, also of “The Book” fame.
Calhoun Square was created in 1851 and was named for John Calhoun, who was known as “The Great Orator of the South.” The Wesley Monumental Church is on this square; this church was intended to be a monument to brothers John and Charles Wesley. John Wesley founded the movement that would become the Methodist denomination, while Charles Wesley wrote the words to over 6,000 Christian hymns. The groundbreaking for this church was held in 1875, but the progress was slowed and nearly stopped by the yellow fever epidemic and financial hardships. Eventually the church became the edifice it is today, and is now considered “the church of all Methodists,” as well as being open to the public. The Massie School, which is now known as the Massie Heritage Center, was originally founded in 1856 by a Brunswick farmer named Peter Massie as a school for poor children. It has been recognized as Georgia’s oldest school in continuous operation.
Whitefield Square, which, by the way, is pronounced “Whit-field,” Square, is named for Reverend George Whitefield, the fourth reverend of the Georgia colony and founder of the Bethesda Orphanage. The square was laid in 1851, and is surrounded by charming row houses and the First Congregational Church, which was built in 1895 for New England Congregationalists who came to teach freed slaves at Savannah’s Beach Institute. Most locals recognize the square for its picturesque gazebo, which makes it a popular spot for weddings.
Madison Square was laid out in 1837 and was named in honor of Sergeant William Jasper, who fought in the Revolutionary War. While there is a large marker in the center of the square that is dedicated to Sergeant Jasper, this granite marker also marks the limit of the British southern defenses. There are also two cannons on the edge of the square commemorating the first 2 Georgia highways. Several prominent buildings surround this square, such as St.John’s Episcopal Church, the Sorrel-Weed House, the Masonic Temple, and the Green-Meldrim House. The Green-Meldrim house was used by William Tecumseh Sherman as his headquarters during the Civil War; its owner offered the house to Sherman when the North’s occupation of Savannah became imminent. The Sorrel-Weed House is known for both its architecture and color, which was originally boycotted by the Historic Foundation of Savannah, since it was not considered one of the “original” colors of Savannah. After much debate. the then-owner of the house showed where he had scraped off some 20-plus layers of paint, thus proving that the house was its “original” color. It has remained that way ever since. The Masonic Temple,which was once a Scottish Rite Temple, now houses the Gryphon Tea Room on its first floor, which serves lunch and high tea in the afternoons.
LaFayette Square is, of course, named for the Marquis de LaFayette, who visited Savannah in 1825 and was highly regarded by the local citizens; so much so that the square was laid out in his name in 1837. While no monuments exist on this square, there is a fountain to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the colony of Georgia; this was installed in 1983 by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. Also on this square are the Andrew Low House; built by Andrew Low in 1849, his widow, Juliette Gordon Low, went on to found the Girl Scouts of America. The square also houses the Hamilton-Turner House, a beautiful home that has since been restored to a quaint bed and breakfast, and its most well-known building, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Although the church was destroyed by fire in 1898, it was rebuilt to its former glory, and today its spires are some of the most well-known landmarks in Savannah. In fact, the church itself is a sort of lodestone to tourists and locals alike, and it is the starting point of the annual Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Troup Square is one of the smaller squares, but it is certainly no less charming, largely in part due to the bronze Victorian armillary that occupies the center of the square. Mounted on 6 bronze turtles, this is an 1870s-era astronomical model that is used to display the relationships between celestial circles. A cast-iron pet water fountain also occupies the square. The Unitarian Universalist Church sits on the west side of the square, and legend has it that James Pierpont wrote the song “Jingle Bells” while performing in his capacity as an organist when the church was first built.
Chatham Square was one of the last four squares laid out in the South, being laid in 1847. It was named for William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, who was also known as “the Great Commoner.” In fact, William Pitt was held in such high regard that the county was named for him — Savannah is located in Chatham County.
Some folks are divided on their opinions of the squares in Downtown Savannah. They may say that they impede the flow of traffic, while others claim that they encourage you to slow down and enjoy the scenery around you. Either way, the squares are part of what makes Savannah special — they are important reminders of the past, and provide enjoyment here in the present. Every Savannahian has a Square that’s their favorite, so if you don’t have one, go visit them all and decide which one you like the best!