A visit to Savannah Georgia
My family took a nice trip to Savannah this weekend to escape Downtown Atlanta’s crowd storm, with Garth Brooks concerts, the Hip Hop Fest (Woodruff Park) and the Outkast concerts.
The weather was overcast, but it was the perfect temperature for taking long walks on the marsh trail at nearby Skidaway Island and through the historic old part of Savannah, where even the parking decks are pretty (top left pic).
The large photo in the center is of the children’s museum, next to a train museum — all built into great old buildings, this one with no roof.
Savannah holds a special place in my heart. It was the first walkable city (of any considerable size) that I ever visited. Trips there as a kid and as a young adult left a big impression on me regarding the joy of interacting with a city on foot rather than in a car, and also the power of urban revitalization, since historic downtown Savannah experienced a decline like many urban cores did.
Savannah was Georgia’s first planned city, laid out by founder James Oglethorpe (who later also founded Augusta, GA). It’s nice to see these great precedents for human-scale, compact, walkable cities in Georgia. These are the historical templates that can be used for growth in a post car-sprawl era. We don’t have to use northeastern cities as a pattern — we’ve got a home grown pattern to use.
On this trip, I was particularly happy to see a big boom in the number of people getting around on bicycles.
For those of us who’ve grown up in a world where historic Savannah has always looked nice, full of life and in good repair, it can be hard to believe that this area suffered the same disinvestment and decay as many other historic downtowns in the car-sprawl boom of the post WWII era. But it did, and it took a major preservation effort in the 1960s-70s to undo the damage.
Post World War II was not kind to many of this country’s urban cores, and Savannah was no different. As the automobile came into mass use and suburban sprawl became the public norm, our historic downtown withered. By the 1950s Savannah’s remarkable inventory of 19th century buildings and its renowned Oglethorpe Plan had fallen into neglect and decay. Hundreds of buildings were demolished or turned into slum tenements and three squares were demolished for a highway. Most new buildings failed to relate harmoniously to older buildings in terms of height, massing, scale and materials. Planning for the automobile took precedence over planning the human, and resulted in disinvestment and blight.
It’s crazy to think that we may have lost even more of this beautiful city than we did. We’re very lucky to have it in good shape as an example of what a well-planned Georgia city looks like.