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Dreaming of Savannah – Rendezvous with an Historic Romantic Southern City

May 7th, 2010 by Teresa Jacobson

Part 1:
Savannah is a city of squares, a city whose rhythms change softly from block to diminutive block. Uncommonly pleasant to visit, it seems to have been planned for those who care to take their time and stroll quietly through the 19th century.  

James Oglethorpe’s Squares
The squares were laid out by Gov. James Oglethorpe in January 1733. The source of his inspiration is debated, although many have noted that Oglethorpe had once lived in London and have surmised that his plan for Savannah was influenced by what he had seen there. But it is generally acknowledged that military considerations dictated the small scale of the town – it had to be compact enough to be easily defended. He laid the plans for a city of shaded squares that did not exclude but led at short intervals one to the other, a long vista of oases. Oglethorpe was a man who fought against the Turks and captured Belgrade – a commanding force, but a practical idealist and philanthropist. He was appalled by the misery of debtors in prison, concerned for Europeans who were the victims of religious persecution, and when he set sail for Savannah he brought with him 115 colonists. There were two groups of Jews from central Europe, hardworking Moravians and persecuted Portuguese, and on later trips he brought in highland Scots, Greeks, and some Irish Catholics, as well as his chaplain, John Wesley. The King’s support, insured by the Royal Patent, also had a military motive – to protect the British Colonists further north and beyond from the encroachment of the Spaniards in Florida. Early settlers were city-bred and of no use with an ax or at clearing forests, however there were no blacks in Savannah in the early days – Gov. Oglethorpe hated slavery.  Though indeed the town held out against slavery for a long time, this shortage of labor plagued the general and in the end, the colony caved in on slavery and thousands of blacks came.

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