SAVANNAH AS AN URBAN LABORATORY
The city’s greatest significance today exists in its urban and architectural heritage. Savannah possesses one of the most renowned urban plans in the world, characterized by a harmonious interplay of squares, buildings, monuments and trees — a pedestrian-friendly environment that attracts architects and city planners from around the world. Since the 1950s, the city has been a leader in the historic preservation movement. The downtown area, with over 1,500 historic structures, is the largest National Historic Landmark District in the country. Eight other historic districts listed on the National Register contain thousands more historic buildings within the city’s late 19th-century and early 20th-century street car suburbs and one post-World War II car-based suburb. They collectively represent a variety of ethnic and socio-economic groups:
Savannah National Historic Landmark District (downtown)
Savannah Victorian Historic District
Cuyler/Brownsville Historic District
Eastside Historic District
Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District
Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent Historic District
Daffin Park/Parkside Place Historic District
Gordonston Historic District
Fairway Oaks-Greenwood Historic District
To view an interactive map from the Historic Savannah Foundation of eight of the historic districts, click here. The Fairway Oaks-Greenwood Historic District is the first mid-20th-century suburban residential district to be listed in the National Register in Georgia and one of just a few in the nation.
SAVANNAH’S NOTABLE ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE
Notable individual historic buildings representing virtually every style from the 18th through 20th centuries can be found in the Savannah area. Among the city’s landmarks are Regency style houses designed by English architect William Jay, one of the early professionally trained architects to practice in America, the best preserved and most complete 19th-century railway complex in the country — that of the Central of Georgia Railroad — and the first air-conditioned apartment building in the state of Georgia, the international style Drayton Tower (1949-51).
The area surrounding Savannah, called the Lowcountry, includes the coastal regions of Georgia and nearby South Carolina. Here, vernacular traditions define a unique cultural landscape characterized by the coastal activities of rice cultivation, shrimping, oystering, recreation, trade; the impact of the various early German settlers (Lutherans and Salzbergers) and of African-Americans, including the distinctive Gullah and Geechee communities; the manifestations of Creole architecture. The Savannah and the Lowcountry Initiative (SALI), directed by Dr. Daves Rossell in our department, is an educational effort engaged in uncovering, recording, preserving and presenting history through archival research, fieldwork, drawing and writing on the area’s architecture and cultural landscape.