Savannah (city, United States)
Savannah, city (1990 pop. 137,560), seat of Chatham co., SE Ga., a port of entry on the Savannah River near its mouth; inc. 1789. A rail, fishing, and industrial center, it is a leading southern port for the import and export of a wide variety of manufactured goods. Shipping is a major industry, but tourism is becoming increasingly important. Savannah is the seat of Savannah State Univ. and Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. (both part of the University System of Georgia) as well as the Savannah College of Art and Design. The Telfair Museum of Art is also there. Army and coast guard units occupy the Hunter Army Airfield. The well-planned city has wide, shaded streets and many parks; magnolias, pines, and ancient oaks are indigenous there. Several beach and island resorts as well as a wildlife refuge are nearby.
Points of Interest
Savannah's historic district was designated a national historic landmark in 1966; many of its 18th- and 19th-century homes have been restored. Despite devastating fires in 1796 and 1820, many old buildings have survived, including the Pirates' House (1754), an old seaman's inn mentioned in Stevenson's Treasure Island; the Herb House (1734), the oldest existing building in Georgia; and the Pink House (1789), site of Georgia's first bank. The mansion birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (built 1819–21) is owned and operated by the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. as a memorial to their founder. The monument and grave of Nathanael Greene are in Johnson Square. The many churches include the Lutheran Church of Ascension (dating from 1741); the Independent Presbyterian Church (1890s), a replica of an earlier church destroyed by fire and the scene of Woodrow Wilson's marriage to Ellen Axson; and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (1876), one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the South.
Savannah is Georgia's oldest city; it was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733 and served as the colonial seat of government. During the American Revolution the British took Savannah on Dec. 29, 1778, and held it until July, 1782. A land-sea force of French and Americans tried to retake the city in 1779, first by siege and then by direct assault (on Oct. 9), but failed dismally. Savannah was the state capital from 1782 to 1785. With the growth of trade, and especially after the invention of the cotton gin and the construction of railroads extending to the cotton fields of central Georgia, the city became a rival of Charleston as a commercial center. The first steamship to cross the Atlantic, the Savannah, sailed from there to Liverpool in 1819. In the Civil War, Fort Pulaski, on an island near the mouth of the Savannah River, was captured by Federals in 1862, but the city did not fall until Dec. 21, 1864, when Sherman entered.