At the Presidents’ Quarters Inn, our guests often ask us about the history of Savannah. There is honestly so much history in Savannah, it’s hard to tell someone about it all in one sitting. We could write days on the historical and cultural influences that have shaped our city. Nevertheless, we wanted to give you a brief history lesson. A primer if you will. We hope you enjoy!
Savannah has a rich history to say the least. Officially, Savannah’s recorded history is said to have started in 1733, which is when General James Oglethorpe and his120 passengers landed along the Savannah River. Oglethorpe decided to name the 13th and final American colony “Georgia” after King George II of England. Savannah would become the first city of Georgia.
When Oglethorpe settled the area, he developed a relationship with the local Yamacraw Indians. Oglethorpe and the Yamacraw chief, Tomochichi, promised mutual goodwill and the English settlers were granted permission to settle area presently known as Savannah.
In addition to being Georgia’s first city, Savannah is known as America’s first “planned city” as Oglethorpe specifically laid the city out in a series of grids that allowed for wide open streets intertwined with shady public squares and parks. These squares and parks that can still be found in the city today would function as town meeting places and centers of business.
With the onset of the American Revolution came the occupation of Savannah by the British from 1778 to 1782. After independence was secured, the Americans and becan to flourish as a riverside city retook Savannah. Not long after, many of the area farmers found that the soil was ripe for planting cotton and rice, which became two main cash crops and heavy drivers for the economy. These farms were organized into plantations and Georgia decided to legalize slavery to support its agrarian economy. The ensuing trans-Atlantic slave trade brought many African-Americans through the port of Savannah. Many of the slaves who stayed in the region preserved some of their traditions and shaped the unique Gullah culture of the coastal communities that can be found in both Georgia and South Carolina.
Over the course of the Civil War, the city suffered from sea blockades so strict that the economy crumbled. However, after the Civil War, the Reconstruction period began in Savannah, although the economy remained stagnant. At the turn of the 20th century, cotton as a crop witnessed a resurgence and the city of Savannah thrived again.
Savannah’s Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It is one of the largest historic landmarks in the country. Savannah is still a major port city, but much of the economy is now driven by tourism. Visitors to Savannah are drawn to the city to experience its beautiful architecture and history. When you visit the city of Savannah, you’ll find that the natural beauty, the culture, and the hospitality make it a unique American city that will inspire memories to last a lifetime.