Orleans Square in Savannah Georgia
Seated in the center of Orleans Square, it is quite easy to feel transported to a different period. Hanging from the live oaks above, Spanish moss flutters in the breeze; the tranquil sounds of water drops splashing from the fountain before you soothes the troubles of the day.
Nestled behind Savannah’s Civic Center and Savannah College of Art and Design’s Oglethorpe House, Orleans Square is such a frequently visited spot in downtown historic Savannah, that it is actually one of the premier outdoor wedding locations in Savannah, second only after the equally stunning Forsyth Park.
In Honor of General Andrew Jackson
Orleans Square was originally established in 1815, making it one of the oldest squares in Savannah. Later on, its name was given in honor of General Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 (which, if we’re being historically correct, was not just one battle but four). Though the peace treaty, the Treaty of Ghent, had already been signed, it was the Battle of New Orleans which finally pushed the Redcoats off of American soil.
Jackson would later rise to become the President of the United States, but his years as a military man were not relegated to only the Crescent City. During Georgia’s early settlement period, he warred with the Creek Native Americans, and also expelled the Cherokee from the area. During this era, his military prowess was highly regarded. It was not long after that the state was ready to be cleared for development by American and British settlers.
Attractions on Orleans Square
The German Memorial Fountain
In 1989—the same year as the 250th anniversary of Savannah’s founding—the German Memorial Fountain was installed in the center of Orleans Square. The fountain was constructed as a commemoration of the many German immigrants who had come to Savannah during the early colonization period, whose influences on the city still last today.
Two waves of German migrants arrived in Savannah, the numbers reaching over 1,000 people, as they fled religious and economic persecution in the eighteenth century, and for political reasons during the nineteenth century. Once they arrived in Savannah, however, their allegiance was truly to their new country. During the Civil War, the German community rose to the patriotic call—even new Germans arriving in the city were pressured to join the Confederate Army in support.
Today, the Victorian District of Savannah is perhaps one location that the German influence is still largely obvious to the curious eye. Around the fountain in Orleans Square are simply carved stone benches. Take a seat; listen to the water droplets splash into the pool below before ambling to the next sight-to-see in Orleans Square.
The Harper-Fowlkes House
Overlooking the Square is the nineteenth century mansion, the Harper-Fowlkes House. Constructed in 1842, the imposing house at 230 Barnard Street is a beautiful example of Greek Revival style. Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has been restored on three different occasions: first, between 1895 and 1896 by Isabel Wilbur McAlpin, and lastly by Alida Harper Fowlkes during the twentieth century.
When Alida sold the home, she had a few stipulations in her will, however. She mandated that none of the interior antiques or furnishings were to be sold off; and the historic house was not to lose its fine architectural features.
The group on the receiving end of these rules? The Society of Cincinnati, an organization that actually reaches back to the post-Revolutionary War era. George Washington’s officers and comrades-in-arms, both American and their French allies, banded together to create the Society, which was to honor and preserve the history of its founders. Currently the headquarters for the Society of Cincinnati is located in Washington, D.C., but the Harper-Fowlkes House acts as their in-state base.
Tours are offered at the Harper-Fowlkes House, granting the interested visitor a chance to feel transported to a completely different era!
123 W. Oglethorpe Avenue
Standing at the intersection of Barnard and Hull on Orleans Square, it is hard to miss the three story masonry house that easily snares a viewer’s gaze. This house’s original placement was not so close to Orleans Square, or in the vicinity at all! Built in 1820 by Samuel Bryant, the mansion actually first sat where the Corps of Engineers Building stands today. However, roughly two decades ago, the Corps announced their plan to known down the historic home and construct their offices right there.
This plan obviously did not go over well. The Lewis family in Savannah rejected the plan, but offered that for $5,000—and on the Corps’ promise that they would move the building to a new location—they would purchase the structure so that it would not be demolished. It was then moved almost across there street, where it is said groups of people stood outside to watch as the centuries-old house was elevated onto massive steel rollers and transported to its present location. (Apparently the move cost a whopping $250,000, and apparently the Lewis family got the house for quite the steal). Without any bit of damage, the historic home stands proud today on West Oglethorpe, as if it has always been there.
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