Troup Square in Savannah Georgia

If Troup Square were a high school student, it would win, “The Savannah Square Most Likely to March to Its Own Beat.”

And it’s true.  Laid out in 1851 and named after the Georgia Governor and Senator George Troup (1823-1827), the Square was named in Troup’s honor while he was still alive.  On this respect, the Square isn’t so different than any of the others, for most of Savannah’s squares have been given names after famous politicians or war heroes.  And although the scenery is still relatively the same as all of the others squares in Savannah—live oaks provide shade from the hot sun, pretty homes are dotted all around the green—Troup Square veers from the norm from there.

Attractions in Troup Square

A Square By Any Other Name

Within Savannah’s city limits, Troup Square is more frequently known as “Dog Bone Square.”  If you’re traveling with your pet, or if you are just out for a stroll with your dog, Troup Square should be your ultimate destination.

With space to play, it’s any dog’s dream.  And when your pup gets a mite thirsty?  Look no further than the antique doggy water fountain located on the west side of the square.  Constructed out of cast iron, this fountain wasn’t originally geared toward our four-legged friends.  Instead it was a gift to the city from then Savannah mayor, Herman Myers, in 1897, and was placed inside Forsyth Park.  It was later brought to Troup Square, where the matching iron bowls on either side of the drinking fountain were lowered close to the ground so that dogs quench their thirst, too.  (While in Forsyth Park, those bowls were once four feet in height).

And if that’s not enough to make your beloved canine family member feel right at home, Troup Square has also become one of the chosen locations in Savannah for the annual Blessing of the Animals.

The Armillary Sphere

Naturally no square in Savannah should be complete without a statue or monument of some sort.  Troup Square, however, is unique in that there is no monument or obelisk in commemoration of a Revolutionary or Civil Wars general—instead, Troup Square is adorned with an Armillary Sphere.

In Ancient Greek history, armillary spheres were used to decipher and track celestial orbits across the sky.  Armillary spheres continued to be in use until new technology, like the invention of the telescope in the 17th century, came into play.  By the time Savannah was founded and Troup Square laid out, no one had made use of such antiquated technology in centuries.

So why might there be a model of one located in the center of Troup Square?  In all honesty, no one is quite sure, but it does make quite a statement.  Made of bronze, the Victorian era armillary sphere sits atop six shiny bronze turtles, and is certainly one of the highlights of this particular square.  Additionally, Troup’s Square armillary sphere was designed with zodiac signs and also acts as a sundial.

Before leaving Troup Square, make sure to go and check out this interesting piece of history!  Who knows when you might discover an armillary square elsewhere?  (Besides in a museum, possibly.  Or on the Portugal country flag).

A Little Bit of Holiday Cheer

No matter your religious denomination, everyone has probably heard of the song, “Jingle Bells.”  (Click here to see cute animals singing "Jingle Bells."  You know you want to.)  It’s starts off with some dashing in the snow and there’s also some riding around in an open sleigh, but did you know that the song was actually penned in Savannah?

Located on the west side of Troup Square at 321 Habersham Street is the Unitarian Universalist Church.  Built in 1851, the Church was originally positioned on Oglethorpe Square although it was moved to Troup shortly after in 1860.  While located on Oglethorpe Square, the church had suffered not only financial difficulties, but it had also been used as a military guardhouse.  Twice, the structure nearly crumbled under the wreckage of a fire.  The congregation was desperate for a new minister, and it was Boston-native John Piermont Jr. who filled the missing role of Reverend at the Unitarian Universality Church; his brother, James, was the organist and choir director.  Legend goes that James Piermont wrote the lyrics and tune for “One Horse Open Sleigh” in 1857, during the time that he served at his brother’s church.  Two years later the song was copyrighted and gifted a new name: "Jingle Bells," a classic holiday song even today.

No doubt you’re asking the question: What about Savannah inspired a song about sleighs and snow? The answer will only ever be known to its composer, James, but we can nevertheless thank him for a holiday song that pops up in your head even during the summertime months.  (Or is that just me?)

Historically, the Unitarian Universalist Church also played a large roll in Savannah’s history.  Prior to the Civil War, the Church was shut down by the city because of its outwardly spoken abolitionist beliefs. The move from Oglethorpe to Troup Square transpired because one African-American congregation had already existed on Oglethorpe, and it was a volatile period in Savannah during those tense years leading up to the Civil War.  Shortly after the move, however, the Church fell into more financial debt and its reverend, John Piermont, quit his position to join the insurance business.  Soon after, James, the composer of "Jingle Bells" followed suit.  Reverend John Piermont would be the last reverend of the church before the Civil War; during the years following the War, things did not become easier for the Unitarian Universality Church.  Unitarianism was not looked upon highly, and the congregation was forced to practice in secret.  It was not until 1997 that the Unitarians would reclaim their church.

If you have a moment while visiting Troup Square, stop in at the Unitarian Universalist Church and ask yourselves: Would you like to enjoy a sleigh ride through Savannah’s historic downtown district?  I know I would.

Are you interested in learning more about Savannah's rich history?  We at Discover Historic America would love to take you on one of our daytime historical tours!

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