Friday, 6 May 2016

Savannah Old Town Squares Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 4.8 km (3 miles), terrain: flat, except for one hill at the riverfront

Georgia started out in the 1730s as a colony guided by high moral standards and new ideas: no slavery, no hard alcohol, a place where debtors could get a new start on life. Founder James Ogelthorpe wanted to create an ideal society in an ideal town, Savannah. And that ideal town would have a whole new layout: there would be 22 squares in the town, allowing everyone frontage on a green park.

Although most of Ogelthorpe's ideas soon got discarded in practical colonial life, his great idea about the squares can still be experienced in Savannah today. See it for yourself by trying this run through the old town. The squares and the typical Savannah architecture make the city truly unique.
Typical Savannah houses, with high steps
The route crosses many of the squares, touch the riverfront, an old cemetery and adds Forsyth Park for a taste of Savannah's biggest area of green-space. We'll first run south through one line of squares and the park, then cross over for a block and run back north through a second line of squares and the cemetery, passing through a total of nine squares.

So, let's head out and explore this beautiful old town...
Chippewa Square with Ogelthorpe monument
We'll start out at the main square, Chippewa Square, downtown. This one has a statue of Georgia Colony's founder, James Oglethorpe, standing in the middle, dressed as an English officer. Looking north, you can see the golden dome of City Hall a few blocks distant, at the riverfront.

NOTE: the northern edge of Chippewa Square is the spot where the bus-stop scene was filmed for Forrest Gump.
City Hall at the river
Turn your back to Oglethorpe and start running south along Bull Street through the heart of the old town. You'll cross Liberty Street, one of several east-west streets that have a green median strip full of spreading live-oak trees.
Madison Square has a few cannons, too
Soon you'll run through the next square, Madison Square, with its statue of Revolutionary War hero William Jasper. You'll begin to notice by now that the square names don't correspond to the monuments found there. This square is named after president James Madison.

At the south end of the square, you'll pass two impressive buildings, the Scottish Rite masons building on the right and the old Savannah Volunteer Guards building on the left, now the home of the famous Savannah College of Art and Design, which has restored buildings all over town.
Nice living along Jones Street
Running south along Bull Street, in two more blocks, you'll cross Jones Street, with many of the nicest old houses in town, with their characteristic long stairways up to the front doors. They were designed that way to keep the street dust and smells out of the houses.

You'll then cross Monterey Square with its stone monument dedicated to General Casimir Pulaski, another hero of the Revolutionary War.
Monterey Square monument to General Pulaski
Continuing southwards along Bull Street, in just two blocks you'll enter Forsyth Park, a beautiful long rectangle of green, with fountains, a big bandstand and exercise lawns. You'll run straight down the middle of the park, past the white fountain and then the Confederate Memorial.
Forsyth Park fountain: it was ordered from a mail order catalog!
When you reach the south end of the park, turn left and run towards the eastern edge of the park along Park Avenue. There is a line of cool cafés and shops across the street, and a street produce market is held there on Saturdays.
Park Avenue with Saturday market
When you get to the southeastern corner of the park, turn left again and start running northwards along Drayton Street, along the eastern edge of Forsyth Park.

When you reach the northern end of the park, at Gaston Street, turn right and run a block eastwards to Abercorn Street, where you turn left and continue northwards towards the next line of squares.

In two blocks, you'll hit Calhoun Square, with no monument but with all its original adjoining houses intact.

In two more blocks, you'll cross beautiful Jones Street again, so why not do a small detour and run down the block to the left and back again, just to see it.
The Lafayette Square fountain with St. John's cathedral
Continuing northwards along Abercorn, you'll then cross Lafayette Square, with its fountain and the Catholic cathedral lining the north side.

Keep running northwards until you come to Perry Lane, where the Colonial Park Cemetery comes up along the right side. Turn right onto Perry and run past the open duelling grounds on the left to get to the cemetery entrance.
In the cemetery
Turn left and run northwards through the cemetery, with its old graves. When General Sherman's troops conquered the city, many of them lived and slept in this cemetery.

Exit the cemetery at the northern end, at Ogelthorpe Avenue, where you turn left to get back to Abercorn Street just a hundred meters away.

Now continue northwards along Abercorn again and run through the next square, Oglethorpe Square, with no monuments (remember: the monument to Oglethorpe stands in Chippewa Square!).

In a few more blocks, you'll come to Reynolds Square, with its statue of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, who preached for some years in Savannah and founded America's first Sunday School.
Factor Walks behind the cotton warehouses
We're getting close to the Savannah River now. In two blocks, you'll cross East Bay Street, where you can take the steps down to the cobblestone lane heading downhill to the riverside. The river is lined by old cotton warehouses, and on the hill-side, there are a row of bridges connecting the warehouses to the bluffs behind them. The bridges are called "factor's walks". The factors were brokers who would look down at the incoming cotton wagons arriving from surrounding plantations. The factors would judge the cotton quality and decide in the prices to be paid.
The riverfront
Riverside warehouses
At the riverside, take a look at the lively restaurant scene here and the river boats, then turn left to run to the next gap between the warehouses, where you turn left to run uphill to the bluff again, around the side of the golden-domed City Hall. You are now back at East Bay Street, at Bull Street.

So now just run south along Bull Street for 15 blocks until you get back to Chippewa Square. You'll go through two more squares along the way, Johnson and Wright. Johnson Square is the largest in town, with an obelisk and a sundial.

Wright Square is the burial site of local Indian chief Tomochichi, who gave the site for Savannah to Olglethorpe and his settlers. The square also has a big monument to William Gordon, who built the Georgia railroads.
Gordon's monument at Wright Square
And the next stop is Chippewa Square, back where we started this beautiful loop through town.

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