Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Everything’s been something else
Founded in 1733, Savannah, Georgia, has survived three major fires, two hurricanes, one earthquake, and a yellow fever epidemic that killed 8,000 residents. Our Old Savannah Tours guide relayed the city’s backstory as he wove our trolley through residential neighborhoods of tall houses dating back centuries. During Savannah’s nearly three hundred years, natural disasters and generations of people changed generations of buildings. Our guide put it this way: Everything’s been something else.

Savannah’s squares

In 2.1 square miles, Savannah’s historic district contains twenty-four squares—grassy openings bordered by public buildings and churches on the east and west and residents’ homes on the north and south. Originally, the squares represented political wards. At some point after one of the three big fires, a bell was installed on each square to call firefighters and militia in emergencies. Today, the squares offer tranquil greenery, paths and benches, and statues and fountains. Many statues are of military heroes. Our guide explained that whether a monument commemorates a veteran of the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, or the Vietnam War, the soldier stands facing his enemy.

Savannah’s founding ideals

James Oglethorpe, the British general who founded the colony of Georgia in 1733, had some noble ideals for the new colony—no slavery and no rum—as well as some curious ideals—no lawyers and no Catholics. None of these prohibitions lasted long. Alas, Georgia quickly buckled to its own residents’ demand for rum and the surrounding states’ pressure for slave labor. Who knows what happened to the ban on lawyers? To build its population, Savannah eventually welcomed a broad spectrum of immigrant ethnicities and religions.

Savannah takeaways

As we disembarked the trolley at the Visitor Center that used to be a cotton warehouse across the parking lot from a Savannah College of Art and Design building that used to be a railroad depot, I thought about the application of city histories to individuals’ lives. We all used to be someone else. Needs and priorities change. We mature on the outside and on the inside as well, sometimes from events we can’t control, but hopefully, mostly from lessons wisely learned. And if we’re smart, we stand facing our enemies.

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