It was Oglethorpe who, in strategic military fashion, conceived the ingenious grid-like foundation on which Savannah
is laid, with 24 squares providing balance, structure and beauty.
fabled squares draw legions of tourists.
These lush, magnolia-scented green spaces embody the city's ethereal mood.
Each is surrounded by mansions and townhouses built by long-ago cotton barons and shipping moguls.
While all are adorned with the de rigueur fountain or monument, their real individuality lies in the historic edifices that frame them.
Monterey Square is known for ivory-columned Mercer Williams House, the elegant manse that figured in the mega-bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; Columbia Square boasts the austere Isaiah Davenport House, erected in 1820 and celebrated as one of the South's finest examples of Georgian architecture; Madison Square is all about Green-Meldrim House, the Gothic-style gem where General William Tecumseh Sherman stayed when his Union troops occupied Savannah
in 1864; and so on.
has gracefully moved into the 21st century, accumulating all the hallmarks of a contemporary urban hub-from trendy restaurants to stylish condos and hotels-its rich history is still the main attraction.
People can't get enough of the mystique of the Old South, and Savannah has it in spades.
To a large extent, this city's original architectural masterpieces (1,100 have survived) were made possible by Dixie's storied crop: cotton.
Between 1820 and 1890, when cotton was king, Savannah's
flourishing market determined the world price of what was often referred to as 'white gold.' A lot of folks got very wealthy very quickly.
Fringed by piney woods, marshes and a tangle of lazy inlets, Savannah
stretches seductively over a coastal plain some 18 miles from the Atlantic.
Two hours to the north is Charleston, S.C., until recently the city's vastly more extroverted and popular older sister.
In 1994, something amazing happened to Savannah
, something that brought this introverted, secluded city out of its shell and onto the world stage.
was a white-hot tourist magnet; people from around the globe streamed in, eager to immerse themselves in the atmospheric setting that had captured the imagination of millions of readers.
The tour provides visitors with the chilling experience of witnessing the scene of an infamous crime, as well as an intimate glimpse into Savannah's
old-guard lifestyle, brimming with rare antiques and art treasures.
In more recent times, the carriage house behind the mansion was transformed into a gift shop overflowing with all things Southern-from pralines to sweetgrass baskets.
became the backdrop for an international bestseller was only natural, perhaps inevitable.
Indeed, the unique beauty and deep gentility described by the author saved Savannah
from ruin during the Civil War.
In the winter of 1864, after torching Atlanta, General Sherman and his
troops made their way to Savannah
, intent on conquest.
As they approached the city, Savannah's
mayor rode out to meet them, offering unconditional surrender.
The general, who lodged at a local private residence for several weeks, was instantly charmed by his
Immediately after settling in, he
wired President Lincoln, announcing, "I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift, the City of Savannah."
One hundred and forty-four years later, the queen of coastal Georgia has much to offer vacationers and residents alike.
For those who live in Savannah
, entertaining out-of-town guests is as easy as pecan pie.
Dining and shopping options abound, as do sporting activities.
And there's all that incredible history to explore.
Known as 'America's Most Haunted City,' Savannah
has more than two dozen ghost tours...guaranteed to produce goosebumps.
For after-hours revelry, there's only one thing to do in Savannah
: Go Irish.
hosts the second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the nation and many of its residents have deep roots in the Emerald Isle, so it's no surprise that the city has a surfeit of Irish pubs, the best of which are McDonough's (a Savannah institution, where Guinness flows like tap water) and Kevin Barry's Irish Pub, which features Irish folk singers every night; grab a pint and a seat on the River Watch Balcony to take in the late-night merriment on River Street.
Among the stand-out venues for retail therapy: Melonie's, stocked with Confederate artifacts, Southern-themed decorative items (such as magnolia-emblazoned teapots) and lace parasols for wannabe belles; Southern Antiques & Interiors, an enormous showroom filled with antique and reproduction furniture, fine art and exquisite porcelain pieces-many items are from the homes of Savannah's
aristocracy; and The Jack Leigh Gallery
, a showcase of evocative black-and-white images of the Low Country captured by the lens of the late Jack Leigh.
best-known photographer, Leigh is renowned for his
photo of the Bird Girl statue on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Southern Hospitality is "Inn"
hospitality scene is defined by cozy inns redolent of the city's past.
The newest and most luxurious place to stay is Mansion on Forsyth Park, which is more Manhattan than Savannah
An idyllic day trip, Tybee-long known as "Savannah's
beach"-is a breezy, sleepy dollop of sand dotted with cottages dating to the 1920s and seafood shacks where the dress code is bare feet and T-shirts.
A seemingly endless pier invites visitors to drop a line and there's a lighthouse, too-the oldest and tallest in Georgia.
growth and increased visibility have inspired a broad range of residential developments, many of which are ultra-groomed, gated enclaves that attract prospective home buyers with a vast array of leisure pursuits, from boating to nature hikes.
Among the more mature communities in this category is The Landings, tucked away on lovely Skidaway Island.
The Landings has long been one of Savannah's
most coveted addresses, offering beautiful custom homes and choice homesites set amid marshes and cascades of Spanish moss, as well as an unrivaled community spirit and bonhomie.
Ten miles west of downtown Savannah
is Southbridge, a newer, equally tony community.
At the still-evolving Savannah Quarters
, a sylvan, 2,600-acre community 12 miles west of the city's historic district, the deep serenity is interrupted only by the thwack of golf balls.
The ultimate in carefree, luxurious living might well be found south of Savannah
, in the upscale suburb of Richmond Hill, where the very new River Oaks tempts potential buyers with spacious condominiums (up to 3,143 square feet) that require no yard work-indeed, no exterior maintenance whatsoever.
Set among ancient live oaks and beautifully landscaped grounds along the banks of the winding Ogeechee River, the stately, brick River Oaks villas feature cherry cabinets, stainless steel appliances and sunrooms that encourage reading a good book followed by an afternoon nap.
The sound of the rippling river, where cargoes of cotton and lumber were once ferried, could lull even an incurable insomniac into a blissful slumber.
A Savannah Treasure
Housed in an ornate neoclassical Regency mansion built in 1875, the oldest art museum in the South-the Telfair Museum of Art-is
as cherished as Savannah's
Touring this elegant edifice provides a visual feast as well as insights into the lifestyle of Savannah's
earliest prominent citizens.
The downstairs kitchen, where family meals were prepared by servants, has been faithfully preserved.