Washington Square in Savannah Georgia
Washington Square’s namesake isn’t so difficult to figure out. You guessed it: this Square, which is located on East St. Julian and Houston Streets, was named after America’s first president, General George Washington.
The square was laid out in 1790, almost directly after the Revolutionary War came to a close. Before then, though, the plot of land had actually been used as the Trustees’ Garden, or where the colonists could attempt planting various cash crops to see which might take in the Savannah soil. They tried everything from mulberry (for silkworms) to hemp and indigo, but almost all of these experiments refused to take and were ultimately unsuccessful.
For a period of time, Washington Square continued to be referred to as “Eastern Common,” as it sat in the northeastern corner of the historic district, only one short block away from the original city line that Savannah founder James Oglethorpe had laid out in his grin plan.
Fun Fact: Washington Square was actually the site of the massive New Years’ Eve bonfires that occurred annually in Savannah. Unfortunately, the bonfires were discontinued in the 1950s.
Today, Washington Square is primarily a residential area, although there are a few notable historic buildings to look for if you take the time to stop on by!
Attractions in Washington Square
International Seaman’s House
An interesting place to take note of is the International Seamen's House, which is located at 25 Houston Streets. It is an historic Christian mission that aids all seafarers coming in and leaving the port of Savannah.
The “mission,” if you will, actually began during the early 19th century. Known as the “Bethel Movement,” the original organization sought to evangelize seamen traveling through various ports. While the Movement started in London in 1814, it spread to New York by 1821; by 1831, the “Bethel Movement” had reached Savannah and the first church was erected during that year.
Although the current Seamen’s Bethel is just right around the corner from Washington Square, there once a Bethel at 307 East St. Julian Street (ca. 1898) and then another at 205 East Bay Street (ca. 1953-1965). Those particular buildings still stand, overlooking Washington Square, but it is also worth a quick jaunt over the International Seamen’s House on House Street to learn more about this particular aspect of Savannah History.
And for those of you who are interested, also make the time to visit the Laurel Grove Cemetery. There, you will find the seamen’s burial ground; begun in 1860, traveling seamen who unfortunately pass away during their time in Savannah are still buried there.
The Brice Hotel
Formerly known as The Mulberry Inn, the Brice Hotel (and the plot of land that it sits on) has had an active place in Savannah history since the mid-19th century.
When it was first built, it was intended to not only be a livery stable but also a cotton warehouse. For a period of time, it saw some success. However, by the early 1900s the property had exchanged hands, and its new owner? Something that many people today can’t live without.
You guessed it, the building then became Coca-Cola Company’s first bottling plant or operation center. Who knew, right? (Keep in mind, this would have been during the same period when they actually put traces of cocaine in the soda, so it’s not nearly the same beverage we drink today).
In the 1980s, the building was converted into a 145-room luxury hotel by the name of The Mulberry Inn. Today, it is known by The Brice and it is considered one of Savannah’s more haunted hotels.
Interested in learning more about The Brice’s more haunted history? Click here!
The Hampton Lillibridge House
Constructed in 1796, the wooden-gray structure at 507 East St. Julien Street has not always had a seat overlooking Washington Square. Although it is certainly one of the oldest properties on the Square, the Hampton Lillibridge House is most commonly referred to as the Most Haunted House in America.
But is it true?
Antiquities dealer Jim Williams (who was also the owner of Savannah’s Mercer Williams House), had the Hampton Lillibridge House moved from its original site to Washington Square in an effort to better preserve it. Once he moved in, though, he began to account for various paranormal activity, including demonic presences, ghost sightings and even more troublesome occurrences.
Allegedly the ghostly activity within the house grew so terrifying that Williams saw no other alternative than to call a Catholic Bishop to perform an exorcism in the house in 1963. Did it work? Does the Hampton Lillibridge House still hold the title as “America’s Most Haunted House,” and was that title ever appropriately given? Check out this article to learn more about the mysterious hauntings of the 507 East St. Julien Street.
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