Part Four: The Modern Age – History of Savannah, GA

November 30th, 2012 by Dresser Palmer House

The Fall of the Cotton Kings

Savannah marched its way into the Twentieth Century with its head held high. In addition to cotton, Savannah became the leading producer of naval stores, which included pine lumber, railroad ties, rosin, and turpentine. Exports from the Savannah seaport were said to be greater than all other Atlantic seaports’ combined. But, as the 1920’s roared in, so did the boll weevils which had been ravaging their way up through the Cotton Belt.

Georgia’s cotton industry was devastated, losing well over half of their 5.2 million acres in just ten years. As always, though, Savannah persevered, rising again to become a leader in both the paper-pulp and food-processing industries. The 1930’s welcomed the rise of large-scale operations like the Union Bag and Paper Company (now International Paper Company) and the Savannah Sugar Refinery (now Dixie Crystals), still in operation today.

The Military Style

As World War II pressed down on the nation, so did Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, which targeted the Southern states. Military training facilities were springing up at a consistent rate. Savannah answered the call of duty in its own fashion, by building thirty-six Liberty Ships in the Savannah River. These ships helped to transport troops and goods to both the European and Pacific theaters of war.

Near the close of the war, the Georgia Ports Authority had established operations on Savannah’s waterfront, steadily expanding trade with foreign nations. Meanwhile, Hunter Army Airfield was in development alongside the nearby Fort Stewart. These bases would become crucial to the magnitude of U.S. military power available during the Persian Gulf War.

Savannah’s Civil Rights Campaign

By 1950, Savannah’s African-American citizens comprised nearly fifty percent of the entire population, yet there was an unsettling divide between them and their white counterparts. The following decades saw numerous nonviolent protests headed by Mark Gilbert, the “father of the Savannah civil rights campaign” and leader of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His and his followers actions led way to the early-on integration of local law enforcement in Savannah, one of the first agencies to hire African-American officers in the South.

Savannah GA International Shipping Port

Savannah is one of the few cities in the United States in which citizens can proudly view their history right before their very own eyes. Regardless of the turbulent past, Savannah managed to remain relatively untouched. Little growth took place outside the historic and Victorian districts before the 1920’s, with much of present Savannah developed by the mid-1960’s.

Savannah remains, to this day, a bustling port city ranked among the top five busiest container shipping ports in the United States. The paper industry still prevails, while Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation has risen to be a world leader in the manufacturing of corporate aircraft.

Where shipping had previously succeeded, though, tourism now dominates in Savannah industry. When a city is so in-tune with its history as Savannah is, it isn’t hard to see why. The ever-growing efforts to research and preserve this American treasure has earned it a ranking among both the top ten of American and World City lists, truly fitting titles for the Hostess City of the South.

Thank you for staying tuned for our “History of Savannah, GA” blog series! We hope you enjoyed them. Click here is you missed part 1part 2, or part 3 of the History of Savannah, GA.

Experience the history of Savannah, book your stay at the Dresser Palmer House!

Part Three: Wealth and Prosperity – History of Savannah, GA

November 30th, 2012 by Dresser Palmer House

Wealth and the Antebellum Period

Mercer Williams HouseThe nineteenth century arrived with grandeur upon Savannah. Cotton exports left the international shipping port en masse, returning only scads of wealth and prosperity to overzealous plantation owners. Capital could only be limited by the efficacy of transportation throughout Georgia, which gave way to the development of the Central of Georgia Railway, running from its chief investor, Savannah, through the vast cotton fields of the upland, and into Macon.

Nothing could stop Savannah from becoming the eighteenth largest city in America by 1820, just short of a century since its colonization. Savannah suffered two devastating fires in 1796 and 1820, destroying the commercial district, which made up nearly half of the city. Mid-century saw a major hurricane,damaging the shipping port and flooding the local rice and cotton plantations. Yellow fever also ran rampant in Savannah, killing 700 in 1820 and over 1,000 in 1854.

Savannah persevered, however, managing to maintain its rank as Georgia’s largest city with nearly 15,000 citizens. Over 7,500 made up the slave population, at the time, but were not considered part of the general population. The city did have a small free black population, averaging about 700 persons. Interestingly, many of the free blacks invested in Savannah small businesses, agriculture, and land ownership, while a few even owned slaves.

During the years leading up to the Civil War, Savannah was already considered one of America’s most beautiful and peaceful cities. The wealth from the lucrative cotton trade was evident in the city’s homes, businesses, and parks. The lush Forsyth park was added in 1851. Its elaborate fountain, now popular with locals and tourists alike, was added later, in 1858.

The Civil War Era

Before the first shots of the Civil War, Confederates overtook Savannah’s only fortification, Fort Pulaski, then considered impervious, at the mouth of the Savannah River. Like much of American technology, vast improvements had been made in the artillery used to conduct siege warfare which allowed the Union to overtake Fort Pulaski in 1862. Savannah was blockaded from its seaward side, cutting off one of the last remaining ports for the Confederates, and creating unfavorable conditions for the citizens within.

Union General William Sherman held Savannah throughout the extent of the Civil War. Receiving a personal invite from Mr. Charles Green, General Sherman utilized the elaborate Green-Meldrim House on Madison Square (now St. John’s Episcopal Church) as his headquarters. It was here that the general penned his famous letter to President Lincoln: I beg to present you, as a Christmas-gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.

Population Reconstruction

The war left Savannah structurally unharmed, but population surged as freed slaves began inhabiting the city, often in the squalid conditions imposed upon them. Cultural clashes inevitably ensued between the blacks and whites, particularly where education was concerned. As Savannah rebuilt its commercial prosperity, the blacks progressively gained ground for education. 1890 saw the first school for blacks established, Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth (now Savannah State University). By the turn of the century, Savannah was once again the leading seaport on the Atlantic coast, while blacks throughout began pushing for equal rights.

Remember to come back to learn about the modern history in part four of this series! Click here is you missed part 1 or part 2 of the History of Savannah, GA.

Experience the history of Savannah, book your stay at the Dresser Palmer House!

Part Two: The Formative Years – History of Savannah, GA

November 30th, 2012 by Dresser Palmer House

Slaves, Catholics, and Lawyers, “Oh, my!”

Savannah CathedralThe years following Savannah’s founding saw the arrival of its uniquely diverse and influential population. The eminence of these vastly different groups manifests itself in everything from the hospitable culture to the rare architectures of Savannah. Predominant groups include Jewish groups from London, Lutheran “Salzburgers”, Scottish Highlanders, German Moravians, Dutch, Welsh, and Irish especially.

With the increasing population came the unfortunate digression from Savannah’s founding principles. James Oglethorpe grew increasingly detached from the city he helped to conceive and returned to England quietly. Oglethorpe’s departure fostered a sense of liberation among the population, which began its push for the legalization of slavery. By 1750, just two years after the Catholics had settled in, the ban on slavery was lifted and West Africans were brought to Georgia by the droves.

By 1755, Savannah was host to a party of lawyers, and well on its way to being ensnared by the Revolutionary movement.

The Revolutionary Era

Georgia, having flourished under British rule, was hesitant to join the Revolutionary efforts of the other American colonies to band trade with Britain. One group of Savannah patriots, the Liberty Boys, was vital to Savannah’s involvement, staging demonstrations against British trade before war broke out. With word of the battles at Lexington and Concord, however, Savannah citizens, along with the rest of Georgia, felt an inclination to join the radical movement.

Savannah was captured early during the American Revolution, succumbing to British rule throughout the duration of the war. It proved a strategic stronghold for the British army in Georgia, seeing hundreds from both the American and British lines fall.

Two heroes, to note, Sergeant William Jasper and Count Casimir Pulaski, surrendered their lives during an unsuccessful assault attempt at liberating Savannah in 1782. A proud, bronze statue of Jasper can be seen bolstering the flag of the Second Regiment of South Carolina Continentals in Madison Square, just yards from where he lies in an unmarked grave. Within Monterey Square can be found the stately, marble and granite monument fit for the Polish nobleman, Count Pulaski, who had ventured to America and died solely in defense of liberty.

A Capital Idea

After the Revolution had subsided and Georgia was joyously reclaimed, Savannah served as the first capital, rotating the role with Augusta. However, while Savannah was still a growing commercial haven and bustling seaport, Augusta’s inland location better served the growing Western frontier expansion, relinquishing the title in 1786.

Throughout the remainder of the century, Savannah continued to advance, both in wealth and size, fueled by the slaves who reaped its primary cash crops, cotton and rice. The late eighteenth century promised a dark future for anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the wake of the cotton industry. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin had achieved perfection, promising the highest returns to the plantations with the most laborers. As a result, tens of thousands of African slaves were purchased, demands for land acreage rose drastically, and the expulsion of the once neighborly Creek and Cherokee tribes commenced.

Be sure to stay tuned for part three! Miss part one? Read the start of the History of Savannah, “Built on Integrity”. Read the next part, “Wealth and Prosperity“.

Experience the history of Savannah, book your stay at the Dresser Palmer House!

Fun Things to do in Savannah GA for the Family or Couple

November 22nd, 2012 by Dresser Palmer House

Planning to visit Savannah? Keep your mind sharp and your blood flowing with these great activities which provide a first-hand look at Savannah’s eclectic history, breathtaking architecture, and vibrant culture.

Savannah Walking Tours with Savannah Dan

Savannah Tours - Things to do in SavannahA Savannah exclusive, the unique character, Savannah Dan, can often be found leading captivated groups of tourists through Savannah’s picturesque squares all summer long.  The original Southern gentleman will charm you with his sharp, intelligent wit and extensive knowledge of everything local as you stroll through Savannah’s historic downtown.

Don’t feel like walking? Savannah Dan also offers a horse-drawn carriage tour! Arrange to be picked up at your lodging before embarking on this first-class excursion.

Walking tours are available Monday through Saturday during the June, July, and August months at 10AM and 2PM.  Tours begin at Johnson Square.

Horse-drawn tours are available by making a reservation twenty-four hours in advance.  Accommodations allow four adults maximum.

Savannah Bike Tours

Take a relaxing, guided bicycle ride through historic downtown Savannah! Visit some of Savannah’s top tourist spots while avoiding the crowds at places like Forsyth Park, Factor’s Walk/River Street, and the Savannah College of Art and Design.  Guided tours are available every day led by Savannah Bike Tours’ knowledgeable owner/operator.

For a personalized experience, couples and groups can take a private tour catered to their interests.

Reservations are required for Savannah Bike Tours, and are strongly recommended to be made at least two days in advance.

Oglethorpe Trolley Tours

With stops at many of the most popular locations of Savannah’s historic district, the Oglethorpe Trolley Tour invites you to truly experience Savannah’s Southern hospitality.  Perhaps the fastest way to traverse the downtown while gaining valuable insight on the area, all while enjoying a relaxing shaded ride through the city.  Oglethorpe Trolley Tours provide ninety minutes of narration with tours beginning every twenty minutes.

One or two-day passes are available with unlimited hop on/hop off.  Tickets can be purchased online or at the circular, blue and yellow building on West Boundary Street, where the tour initially begins.  Tours run until 5:30PM.

Savannah’s Squares and Parks

Self-guided tours have long been a favorite of Savannah tourists wanting to fixate their eyes on the historic downtown district, which features Savannah’s unique squares and parks.  Walk, bike, or drive between the twenty-two distinct squares and submerse yourself in the rich history of the city. Three lush parks also grace the area, offering a more contemporary look at the history of Savannah. Notable squares and parks include:

Calhoun Square

For a true look into Savannah history, visit Calhoun Square: the only square where all of the original historic buildings still remain intact.  Notable buildings include the Massie School (now the Massie Heritage Center), the Low, Mercer, and Green-Meldrim Houses, and the Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church.

Forsyth Park

This thirty-acre park’s crowd drawing feature is an elaborate two-tier cast iron fountain, an homage to the Parisian fountain found at Place de la Concorde.  On the grounds, you can also be find the Fragrant Garden for the Blind and various historical monuments.

Enjoy your time in and around Savannah! We do hope you’ll make your stay a great one, and visit us at the Dresser Palmer House – true Southern hospitality and gourmet breakfast.

Thanksgiving in Savannah GA, A Day Plan

November 17th, 2012 by Dresser Palmer House

Thanksgiving in Savannah, GAThe holiday season is once again upon us: Thanksgiving is about to come knocking, are you ready? Instead of the formal meal this year, why not bring the family to Savannah? Or, if you’re needing a break this year, bring your sweetie for a long, romantic, holiday weekend to The Dresser Palmer House, who will be your family away from home! Regardless, whether you leave the family or bring them along, here is one plan to spend your Thanksgiving day immersed in Southern hospitality.

Breakfast at The Dresser Palmer House

Wake up Thanksgiving morning to the rich scents of delicious edibles like Pecan French Toast, Blintz Souffles with Strawberry Sauce, and every man’s favorite, Peppered Bacon! Each morning you stay at The Dresser Palmer House will be treated like a holiday, with hand-crafted, Southern gourmet recipes, prepared by your hosts, waiting for you in the Victorian dining room. See more of the menu at our bed and breakfast.

Stroll through Forsyth Park

Mere blocks away from The Dresser Palmer House lies Forsyth Park, a lush, Parisian-style park featuring an ornate, two-tiered cast-iron fountain. Oak trees romantically draped with Spanish moss line the brick-paved walkways of the park. Photo opportunities are abundant here to commemorate this year’s unique Thanksgiving in Savannah.

Eating Thanksgiving Dinner

Any number of restaurants in Savannah serve up a traditional Southern all-you-can-eat meal, but here are two uniquely different ways Savannah is serving up the fanfare.

Thanksgiving Day Riverboat Cruise

Spend your afternoon or evening aboard the Georgia Queen or the Savannah River Queen, with departure times at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm. During your two-hour cruise along the Savannah River, you will be served roasted turkey and glazed ham alongside all your Thanksgiving favorites. Enjoy a full dessert bar while your ears take in the pleasant sounds of the riverboat’s on-board musical guests. Boarding is one hour ahead of sailing time, reservations recommended.

Traditional Savannah Thanksgiving at the Olde Pink House

Pure elegance will surround you at this beautiful 18th century home near Reynolds square. A formal dining room with like dress-code will leave you awash in Southern hospitality. Traditional Thanksgiving foods alongside Southern favorites will be served. Reservations are strongly recommended to enjoy the Thanksgiving meal here.

Evening Social at The Dresser Palmer House

Before retiring to your room for the evening, stop downstairs for the evening social with other guests of The Dresser Palmer House. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served to fill any niche you may have left, accompanied by a complimentary glass of wine from the cellar. For those wishing to spend a little more time with their family away from home, a cash bar is available featuring Dresser Palmer’s signature Savannah drinks.

While this is a reserved schedule offering you and your family a relaxing, enjoyable way to spend your Thanksgiving day, Savannah is full of that great Southern hospitality which beckons you to explore more. If you have any questions, or need more suggestions on how to spend your Thanksgiving weekend, just chat with your hosts anytime at the Dresser Palmer House.

While you’re here, check out Savannah’s top ten romantic locations.

Top 10 Historic Locations in Savannah GA

November 14th, 2012 by Dresser Palmer House

Savannah has many historic locations that arouse your fascination and curiosity.  Here are the top ten historic sites in Savannah. We recommend that you check it if you’re touring the area, or just looking to learn something new:

#10 Telfair Museum of Art

The oldest art museum in the South, on Telfair square, was once home to the prominent patron of the arts Mary Telfair.  Since 1875, the mansion has served as an art museum and academy of art and science offering classes, events, and numerous collections and exhibits.

#9 Tomo-chi-chi Gravesite

The second monument erected in honor of Chief Tomo-chi-chi can be found in Wright Square, just feet away from the original grave mound, which was destroyed to build the Gordon Monument.  Visitors can learn about the integral role he played in the founding of Savannah.  It is the only memorial built for a Native American by descendants of European settlers.

#8 Factors Walk / Bay Street / River Street

What was once a prominent center of commerce for Savannah is now simply a collection of historic buildings turned into an eclectic array of shops, inns, and restaurants.  Tourists often come to the area to relish the old world architecture and cobblestone paved streets while enjoying their evening meal.

#7 Historic Beach Institute

First serving as an educational facility for newly freed slaves, the Beach Institute became a free public school for African-American children in 1875.  It now houses an African-American Cultural Center and collection of wood carvings by Ulysses Davis.

#6 Mickve Israel Synagogue

Founded in 1733, this active Jewish Congregation is the third oldest in America.  The temple on Monterey Square is the only synagogue in America with Gothic style architecture.  Touring is welcomed, but because this is an active temple be aware of services, Jewish and federal holidays, and other events which may take place.  A calendar of events is available on their website.

#5 Scarbrough House

This elegant mansion built in 1819 once served as home to William Scarbrough, then the president of the Savannah Steamship Company.  It now houses the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, which features ship models, paintings, and maritime antiques.  The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and offers extra activities for large groups.

#4 Davenport House

Threatened with demolition in the mid 1950’s, the Davenport House was a run-down building with little historical significance.  Luckily, the Historic Savannah Foundation secured the building as their first act to preserve Savannah’s historic buildings.  All three floors of the home on Columbia Square underwent an authentic restoration in the early 1990’s and are open for public viewing.

#3 Cotton Exchange

Savannah Cotton Exchange - #3 Top 10 Historic Places in SavannahThe Old Savannah Cotton Exchange building is a remarkable reminder of Savannah’s heyday as the leading cotton seaport on the Atlantic.  While the building had not been open for public viewing since it closed in the 1920’s, the Old Savannah Cotton Exchange now homes the Savannah Chamber of Commerce, which invites you to stop by anytime.

#2 Andrew Low House

Another of Savannah’s historic homes, this Italian Villa style home on Lafayette Square offers a rich history of housing prominent historical figures such as William Thackery and Robert E. Lee.  Guided tours are available by calling ahead.

#1 Historic Savannah Squares

Perhaps the key focal point of Historic Savannah, these twenty-two remaining squares define the downtown Historic District.  As part of the original design of the city, the squares provide Savannah with an unequaled presence of beauty, and offer visitors a look back into the rich history of the city.

If you’re looking to visit Savannah, we’d be happy to make your reservation.


Enjoy your time in Savannah as you visit these different locations! You can find our Top 10 Romantic Places in Savannah post here.