Lafayette Square in Savannah Georgia
Lafayette Square is probably Savannah’s most visited historic square—and with good reason, for the Square has some of the awe-inspiring sights and historically significant buildings edging its perimeter.
Originally laid out in 1837, Lafayette Square was named as such after the Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette had arrived to the colonies with the burning passion to help the Continental Army fight for freedom and independence from the British. During the War, he served as George Washington’s Aide de Camp. When he visited in 1825 he stayed at the historic Owens-Thomas House on Oglethorpe Square when the property operated as an elegant lodging house. Lafayette was greatly loved all over the newly minted United States, and eagerly welcomed wherever he chose to visit.
In the center of Lafayette Square is the foundation that the National Society of Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA) dedicated to the city in 1983. The large fountain was installed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Georgia colony in the eighteenth century. The NSCDA is very much an active society all throughout Savannah and the rest of the country. Founded in 1891, the nonprofit seeks to preserve and educate society about the places, events and people which had led to the shaping of our nation today.
Abercorn Street, between E. Charlton Street and E. Harris Street.
Attractions in Lafayette Square
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
One of the 'Must-See' locations in Savannah, The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist sits on the Northeast side of Lafayette Square in Savannah. Easily one of the most impressive buildings in Savannah, the Cathedral is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Throughout the day, depending on that day's schedule, you can walk into the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and check it out. Make sure you take a camera as you'll want to take some pictures, I can assure you.
The Hamilton-Turner Inn: A House Lightyears Beyond all the Others
The Hamilton-Turner Inn at 330 Abercorn Street is also known as the “Grand Victorian Lady,” which is entirely appropriate. Architecturally designed in the Second Empire Baroque style with Italianate influences, Number 330 Abercorn looks quite different than any of the other homes on Lafayette Square. A pitched Mansard roof and cast iron balconies all aided in making this home a standout property. Even at the time of its construction in 1873, this property was the height of luxury. Designed by J.D. Hall for Samuel Hamilton, a jewelry and former mayor of Savannah, The Grand Victorian Lady was fitted with everything from talking pipes in the walls (so that the conversation could flow throughout all four floors of the home, naturally) to a dumb waiter and even skylights. If that weren’t enough, an indoor bath and a bathroom were installed three years later.
And then because Hamilton was not to be outdone, in 1883—only four years after the light bulb was invented—he installed electricity to the parlor. It is said that each night, locals in the area would tromp out onto Lafayette Square to wait as Hamilton flicked on the electricity and the parlor flooded with light.
As one can imagine, Samuel Hamilton proved to be such a man ahead of his time, he was gallantly referred to as the “Lord of Lafayette Square.” It seems that even today, the Hamilton-Turner Inn has maintained its prestigious reputation. Known as the “Gem on Lafayette Square,” staying or dining at this Inn is a glorious affair. (Confession: Rachel Ray deemed the Hamilton-Turner Inn as “glorious,” although I wholeheartedly agree).
The Andrew Low House
Seated at the southwest corner of Lafayette Square at 329 Abercorn is the grand Andrew Low House. Past the lovely gardens, the Italian-style Villa peers proudly down at all those who meander past. The house was built in 1849 for Andrew Low II by New York architect John Norris. At the strapping age of 16, Low had immigrated to Savannah from Scotland, and over the next many years he would make a name for himself in the cotton merchant business. In fact, in 1829 he earned the rather nondescript title: "The Wealthiest Man Alive." (In reality, I don't suspect "nondescript" had ever been applied to Low).
When he commissioned John Norris to build this lovely home, Andrew Low pictured moving in with his wife Sarah Cecil Hunter and their four-year-old son. In a string of unfortunate events, Low lost both his wife and his young son before the house was even completed. In 1848 he married Mary Cowper Stiles, the daughter of the United States Minister to Austria, William Henry Stiles. This marriage provided Low with many connections he may never had otherwise. Bad luck seemed to always find Low, however. During the Civil War he was imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston, for suspicious of consorting with the Confederacy. (Had he been, though? That piece of history remains undiscovered).
The Andrew Low House has also seen many a prominent figure welcomed within its front doors. In 1853 and 1856, Low welcomed the English author William Makepeace Thackery. And in 1870, Low invited General Robert E. Lee to stay the night after Lee had traveled to Savannah to visit his daughter. (Interested in learning where else Lee stayed while in Savannah? Click here!).
The Andrew Low House would later also be the home of the widowed, Juliette Gordon Law, who founded the Girl Scouts. At the time of her passing, she bequeathed the carriage house on the property to the Savannah Girls Scouts, who still use it presently. Today, the Andrew Low House is open for tours and is owned by NSCDA.
The Home of Flannery O'Connor
Not to be missed while visiting Lafayette Square is the childhood home of author Flannery O'Connor. Positioned at 207 East Charlton Street, the building now functions as a museum about the famous twentieth century author. (For those who are unfamiliar with her work, O’Connor penned The Violent Bear it Away and Wise Blood, among other literary pieces.) O’Connor was internationally famous, earning three O. Henry awards; she was also the posthumous winner of the National Book Award.
Today, the museum has been restored to the Depression-era and is well-worth a visit!
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