Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the Southeastern United States with a rich history. Boasting over 1,100 historical buildings, the seat of Chatham County lies along the Savannah River within the Gold Coast region of Georgia. With an economic base in industry, tourism, shipping and the Port of Savannah, Savannah is the economic center of southern Georgia. Profiled here are the important roads serving the metropolitan area including freeways, arterials and numbered routes.
Savannah was discovered by English General James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733. Oglethorpe landed his craft along the Savannah River in February of that year and claimed the land as England’s 13th colony. He named the land Georgia after King George II of England.
Savannah was the first city established in Georgia. Oglethorpe planned it with a grid of wide streets complimented by 24 public squares and parks. The squares and other public land would act as meeting places for residents and merchants.
45 years later Savannah was seized by the British during the American Revolution. The occupancy lasted four years, between 1778 and 1782, withstanding a failed liberation attempt by American and French forces in 1779. After the war’s end, Savannah prospered as an agricultural center with rice and cotton representing the staple crops. Reflecting the economic prominence of area residents as farming increased, beautiful Victorian homes rose across the city. Trade bloomed as well with the invention of the cotton gin, further anchoring Savannah’s port as a commercial hub.
Misfortunes could not avoided in Savannah however. Major fires leveled portions of the city in 1796 and 1820, and Savannah again faced challenges in the years leading up to the Civil War. Trade blockades and other setbacks eventually sent the city economy into a downward spiral. When the Civil War finally broke out, nearby Fort Pulaski was captured in 1862 and by 1864 General William Sherman, and his conquering rampage of destruction, arrived in Savannah. Residents of the city evacuated before his appearance, sparing Savannah the fiery fate that had previously leveled Atlanta. Sherman instead fell in love with the city and spared it any harm. He presented it to President Abraham Lincoln as a gift on December 22, 1864, heralding the end of the Civil War for Savannah.
A slow rebuilding effort and resettling of Savannah ensued in the years following the Civil War. Cotton again emerged as the agricultural staple for the city and the port thrived with exports of rosin and lumber. African American slaves freed by the Civil War also settled in the city, establishing churches, schools and neighborhoods. Things improved through to World War I and the Great Depression with its economic hardship.
After World War II, Savannah reinvented itself as a historical city while shunning many urban renewal concepts. Thanks to the efforts of the Historic Savannah Foundation and other community groups, the modernistic architectural movement prevalent among many American cities at the time never took its full course in Savannah. The foundation aided Savannah’s Historic District in obtaining National Historic Landmark status in 1966.
Nowadays Savannah continues to capitalize on its history in the form of tourism. People visit the city from around the world to see Savannah’s architecture, Victorian-style houses, ornate ironworks, the shady squares, and the many fountains that dot the city.1 Additionally the St. Patricks Day Celebration held each year is one of the largest in the U.S.