Sweet Savannah: Part Two

Patricia Cleveland-Peck is seduced by Savannah – arguably the most enchanting city on America’s Atlantic coast

Continued from Friday

The Mercer House (and yes, the original owner was an ancestor of Johnny Mercer, Savannah’s most famous songwriter) is just one of many old Savannah homes worth a visit. From the earliest days, the colonists had made money and lived in great style.

One such was Scotsman, Andrew Low, who arrived from Kincardineshire at the age of 16 to work in his uncle’s firm buying and selling cotton. He married a Savannah belle and having made serious amounts of money, he commissioned leading New York architect John Norris to build a splendid mansion facing Lafayette Square for his wife and young family. Before they could move in, however, both his wife and little son died and it was as a devastated 35-year-old single parent that Low took up residence. It was his second wife Mary who was responsible for the exquisite furnishings: the Grecian couches and chairs and the stunning silver which visitors can admire today. The house was also famous for its receptions – and its guests. Both William Makepeace Thackeray who, during his stays there enjoyed “leisure all morning to think, sleep, read and do as I like…” and General Robert E Lee, were Low family friends.

This house is also remembered as the place where, in 1912, Andrew Low’s daughter-in-law Juliette Gordon Low, known as Daisy, wife of his son and heir William, founded the Girl Scout movement. Another big Regency house on Bull Street, in which she was born is now owned and operated by the Girl Scouts of America and is regularly visited by bands of guides and scouts from all over the world.

In Savannah, anyone interested in architecture can experience Federal, Georgian, Gothic, Greek Revival, Italianate, Regency, Romanesque and Empire styles in the course of one walk. The Green Meldrin house, General Sherman’s headquarters when he captured the city, also built by John Norris, has wonderful carving and plasterwork: The Davenport House is an exceptionally fine Federal building and the big Regency Owens-Thomas House still has it"s interesting if thought-provoking slave quarters are intact. Worth noticing too throughout the city is the ironwork which decorates balconies and railings, and the particularly engaging dolphin head water spouts.

Savannah is a relaxed, laid-back destination which is blessed with plenty of delightful inns and restaurants. The Planter’s Inn is convenient and comfortable and the President’s Quarters is a delightful small inn where, as in many American inns, not only do guests enjoy bed and (in this place, a very good) breakfast but in the evenings they gather in the lobby or on the garden terrace for wine and canapés – a delightful and friendly interlude hosted by innkeeper Jane Sales with typical southern charm.

Just one square away is The Olde Pink House Restaurant and Tavern, a building (haunted of course) dating from the 1770s where the menu is steeped in the traditions of the Lowcountry. It is hard to choose between such starters as the local specialty she-crab soup or fried green tomatoes with applewood bacon and sweet corn cream or even sautéed local shrimp with country ham gravy and cheddar cheese grits. The room must be left for the main course of crispy scored flounder with apricot shallot sauce, creamy grits and collards or crispy half duck, black vinegar BBQ glaze, seasonal fruits and vegetable crepes. Replete with such a satisfying meal what a pleasure it is to go downstairs to the tavern and relax listening to live jazz or blues.

Savannah owes its wealth to its port and although this is still used by huge container ships, the centuries-old warehouses have now been converted into hotels, cafes, pubs and shops and the area redubbed Historic River Street. Savannah is taking care of its economic future. Y’all enjoy!

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