Saturday, February 12, 2011

World City-Zen: Savannah


On this day in 1733 James Oglethorpe arrived in the New World having sailed from England aboard the Anne as one of 114 settlers; upon landing at what is now known as Yamacraw Bluff, (where he and his translator Mary Musgrove were welcomed by Yamacraw leader Tomochichi) Oglethorpe proceeded to establish both the Province of Georgia and its capital city, Savannah - an event still celebrated there as Georgia Day.

Savannah was one of the first planned cities in what would soon become the United States; as such, much of its tourism today derives from visitors eager to see the harmonious design and exquisite architecture of the Savannah Historic District. Long a bastion of tolerance, the city is home to one of the oldest extant Black Baptist congregations in America, First African Baptist Church, as well as the third oldest synagogue in the country, Temple Mickve Israel.

The city saw action in both the American Revolution as well as the Civil War; the Siege of Savannah lasted a month, ending with the British seizure of the city in October 1779, while it was spared the indignities suffered by Atlanta following Sherman's March to the Sea in December 1864 when Union General William Tecumseh Sherman offered the city to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas present.

Of course, no trip to Savannah would be complete without first reading John Berendt's 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which spent an amazing 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list; in 1995 the book became a film, directed by Clint Eastwood, for which Eastwood got unprecedented access to shoot within the historic city itself and whose amazing soundtrack exclusively features modern-day versions of the songs of Johnny Mercer, himself a Savannah native.
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