Savannah, Georgia was founded in 1733 by James Ogelthorpe when his ship Anne landed on the shores there. The settlers were greeted by Tomochichi, chief of the Yamacraws. Tomochichi granted the British permission to establish Savannah on the land, because, according to historians, he wanted to take advantage of the trading opportunities and diplomatic connections. Tomochichi played a large role in the early success in Savannah, not only did his tribe remain on friendly terms with the settlers, but he also helped to negotiate treaties between Savannah and the Lower creek tribes. Unlike many early settlements, the lack of warfare allowed Savannah to flourish. Tomochichi’s grave is still in Savannah, but in 1883, his grave was desecrated in favor of building a memorial to William Gordon, founder of the Georgia railroad, on top of his grave. Gordon’s own daughter-in-law was outraged at this insult and organized a new memorial to be placed nearby the original gravesite. It is still their today.
Savannah was one of the US’s first planned cities, which you can see reflected in the amazing design. There are beautiful squares with trees, fountains, benches (essentially a mini park), on every other block. The city is simply stunning to walk around.
Here are some of the highlights of our visit:
Savannah Bee Company
The Savannah Bee Company is a local company that is famous for their various honey products. Not only do they have a large variety of honey flavors (acai was my favorite), but they also have bath products, and they carry mead. They even had a mead tasting station in their storefront. For $5 you can taste test 6 different meads. Mead is an alcohol made from fermented honey. I had never tried it before and had no idea what it would taste like. We tried one that tasted like every very sweet wine, and one that tasted more like a ginger ale.
I love visiting craft breweries when visiting other cities, it’s such a good way to get in touch with the local side. I looked up breweries to visit in Savannah, and Southbound was one of the first hits I got, and had good reviews. It is a little out of downtown so you have to take an Uber, but it’s a short drive. From the outside, this brewery looked kind of sketchy, just like an empty warehouse, but once you walk inside, the vibe totally changes. The walls a graffiti painted, they have a very lively bar where you can try all their beers on tap, and just walk around their warehouse and look at the equipment. For $15 you get 6 beer tickets, a free tour, and a souvenir glass. It was honestly one of the more fun brewery visits I have done. The brewery is only three years old, but seems to be doing very well – Almost every bar in Savannah carries them, and they are starting to establish a presence outside of Georgia.
Haunted Walking Tour
Southerners love their ghost stories. It seems that whenever I visit a southern city one of the highly recommended activities is always a ghost tour. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I think these tours are really entertaining because all of these ghost stories are usually based on true historical figures, or it’s just an interesting folklore passed through the generations. I always end up learning about interesting historical facts on these tours.
Savannah has many different tour groups running ghost tours, but the most economical and convenient way I found was to download a $2 app for a self guided walking tour. We could go at our own pace and didn’t have to pay $20 for it.
Colonial Park Cemetery
Colonial Park Cemetery is where many original Savannahians were buried. In fact, it was the only cemetery in Savannah between 1750 and 1853. Note that this is too old for Confederate Soldier graves. However, during the civil war, Union soldiers were stationed in the cemetery and it appears they didn’t show much respect for deceased buried here. They altered some of the gravestones in pretty comical ways. One grave lists a man dying at 11 years old, leaving his 13-year-old wife and 12-year-old son behind (lol). There is another stone for a woman who had 700 children and lived to be 138 years old (tough).
There are also a marker for a mass grave of hundreds of Yellow Fever victims, and a marker for men who fell in duels.
Of course, legend has it that the cemetery is haunted, and the most famous story is about Rene. Born in 1777, Rene was feared by the townspeople due to his seven and a half foot frame, and he reportedly would kill small animals, although the story is sometimes told he would accidentally kill animals due to him not realizing his own strength, some stories say it was purposeful. Anyways, the townspeople pressured his parents into building an 8-foot brick wall studded with broken bottles to confine Rene. In 1796, two small girls were found dead near Rene’s home. A mob formed, and assumed Rene was the killer, and tracked him down to the colonial park cemetery, where he was known to often play before his imprisonment. The mob immediately hung him from a tree in the cemetery. Shortly after the lynching, two more murder victims, similar to the two girls were found near the cemetery, this time the townspeople blamed Rene’s ghost. The tree he was lynched on supposedly never grew Spanish moss, which is a sign that innocent blood was spilled; the tree has since been uprooted by a hurricane. People say a shadowy figure is sometimes spotted in the graveyard. This ghost story is so popular that the cemetery has been nicknamed “Rene’s Playground.” Of course, some people believe this, and some people say this is just a legend.
Where this actually get’s interesting though, is that in the legend Rene’s parents buried him at their home, but then moved his body to a hidden location when they sold their house. There are, in fact remnants of a wall studded with broken glass at the site of Rene’s home. Also, at the beginning of the construction of a Westin, on Hutchinson Island, nearby Savannah, they came across an unmarked grave dating back to the early 1800s. The Skelton was seven and a half feet tall! The developer decided to leave the grave in tact and continue to pour the cement, sealing the grave forever.
The 17Hundred90 House
The 17hundred90 house was built in 1790 (duh). The most famous story of this house is about a girl name Anna Powers, who was sold in marriage at the age of 13. She worked at the inn, and was severely beaten by her husband. (In that time a man was legally allowed to beat his wife and children with a metal rod no larger in diameter than his own thumb. This is where the expression ‘rule of thumb’ comes from!) According to legend, overtime she fell in love with a young sailor who stayed at the inn, and she made plans to leave with him on his ship, but Anna’s husband found out. He threatened to charge the whole crew with theft (his wife was technically his property). The captain of the ship, in order to avoid this charge, ordered the ship to leave immediately, with the sailor, but without Anna. Her husband ended up beating and then throwing her from the window of guest room 204. His story that she jumped from the window was accepted in the community. Now people say she haunts the inn, primarily with mischievous tricks such as moving and hiding jewelry, or stroking the face of a man. They say she targets married couples out of jealousy.
The Pirates’ House
The Pirates’ House is located in one of the oldest buildings in all of Georgia. Once a herb garden, the building dates back to 1734. It was eventually converted into a bar with small inn upstairs, and became a popular place among pirates and sailors. The Pirates’ house now serves as a restaurant. The Pirates’ house was infamous for men visiting and never returning home. Why? Pirating was dangerous of course, and captains were often looking for new labor, and would sometimes practice impressments (forcing a man into service for a number of years). So the pirates built a long tunnel from underneath this bar all the way to the river. They would buy sailors, or local men way too many drinks, and once they were passed out, they would carry them through the tunnel, down to the river, and on to their ships. By the time these men woke up, they would be many miles at sea and at the mercy of their new captain. There is a story of a Savannah policeman who once stopped at the bar on his way homw from work. He did not return home that night and woke up on a ship bound for China! It took him two years to get home.
They say the famous Captain Flint, who is described in ‘Treasure Island’, haunts the upstairs of the restaurant, where there was formerly an inn. He apparently died in a bedroom at the inn. Flint’s treasure was never found and legend has it that his ghost appears on moonless nights and will try to tell any interested listener where his treasure is buried.
Moon River Brewing Co
This brewing company, formerly, the City Hotel, the first hotel in Savannah, and then the Ogelthorpe Brewery, claims to be one of the most haunted locations in Savannah. The supposed ghosts here, are from back in the building’s hotel days. Employees and guests have reported multiple events, but the most famous, is the lady in gray. The Moon River Brewing Co was even featured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters.
The Olde Pink House
The Olde Pink House was built in 1771 by general James Habersham, and it was here that local Sons of Liberty met to plan colonial independence, and even devised their plan to kidnap the governor of Georgia (sounds like Savannah’s version of Fraunce’s Tavern!) People say General Habersham haunts the tavern still. The strangest story though, is that women patrons would often somehow end up being locked in the bathroom in the restaurant. Of course, they blamed it on ghost activity, but apparently it became such an issue that the restaurant had to remove the locks.
Some of this sounds pretty silly and cliché, but I ended up learning quite a bit about some of the most historic sites here. I particularly thought the tunnel underneath the Pirates’ House was so fascinating.