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Tag Archives: Savannah GA
Built in 1927 as a retirement home for the Brotherhood of Railroad Conductors, the “main building” today serves as an educational center for the surrounding Oatland Island Wildlife Center. It is quite typical of institutional architecture of its era and subsequently served as a Public Health Service hospital in World War II. Until being surplussed in 1973, it was used as a development laboratory by the Centers for Disease Control. The Chatham County Board of Education has owned it since then and it serves over 20,000 students and visitors each year as a wildlife education facility today. To movie buffs, the building may be familiar to viewers of the John Travolta movie, The General’s Daughter, as it was used as a set location. And Martha Barnes adds this interesting bit of Savannah trivia: People who read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will remember the main building as where Luther Driggers worked and actually developed the chemical used in today’s flea collars, but in the book he was always about to poison Savannah’s water supply.
Carol Suttle, a Savannah native and Oatland’s most enthusiastic ambassador, contacted me several months ago about photographing the old water tower at the entrance to the center; it’s scheduled to be demolished and it’s one of her favorite structures on the island. Touring the island and its natural features with Carol and photographer Mike McCall was a real treat, and I hope to revisit in the future. Located just past downtown Savannah on the Islands Expressway, it’s often overlooked by tourists heading to Tybee Island but is well worth a visit! See the link at the end of this post for specifics about admission and other particulars.
Of particular interest to viewers of Vanishing South Georgia is the Heritage Homesite located on the nature trail at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.
David Delk, Jr., built this cabin in 1837 in the Taylor’s Creek community near Gum Branch in Liberty County. It was moved and reconstructed here by the Youth Conservation Corps in 1979. The layout is of the Scots/Irish or “shotgun” design (not to be confused with the more common and more recent shotgun “house”), a vernacular form common in early Georgia. The mud-and-stick chimney was a utilitarian design which employed the use of locally available materials.
Martha Phillips Youngblood writes that the corn crib pictured below was originally owned by her grandfather, Thomas Hilton Phillips, and was moved here from Treutlen County.
Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus), as well as wolves and bison can be easily seen on the property, as well as this beautiful view of Richardson Creek.
More photos will soon be posted on Vanishing Coastal Georgia.
Now a bed and breakfast inn, the Kehoe House is a center of tourist activity on Columbia Square. Built by an Irish immigrant iron worker who became one of the most prominent businessmen in the city, the house has had a storied history. After the Kehoe heirs sold it in 1930 it served as a boarding house and funeral home before being purchased by football legend Joe Namath in 1980. He originally planned on turning it into a night club but those plans never materialized and he sold it in 1989. Many tourists believe it to be haunted, likely from its days as a funeral home.
Cited as the catalyst for Savannah’s nationally recognized preservation movement, the Isaiah Davenport house was spared from destruction for a funeral home parking lot in 1955 and has been painstakingly renovated over the years to its due place as one of Georgia’s architectural gems. Today, it’s open for tours and hosts numerous events throughout the year. Don’t miss it if you’re in Savannah; it’s on Columbia Square, as well.
Originally the site of John Mullryne’s Bonaventure Plantation, Bonaventure Cemetery has a history linked inextricably to that of Savannah and Georgia. Governor Josiah Tattnall was an early owner, and upon his death, his son, also named Josiah, came to own the land. In 1846, 70 acres of the plantation were sold to Peter Wiltberger for use as a cemetery. He operated it as a for-profit burial ground known as Evergreen Cemetery from 1868 until 1907, when the city of Savannah purchased much of the property and changed the name to Bonaventure Cemetery, in honor of its original incarnation.
It has long inspired locals and tourists alike, and a poignant description comes from Sierra Club founder and iconic American naturalist, John Muir. In his book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, Muir wrote a chapter entitled “Camping in the Tombs” to detail his week-long visit to Bonaventure in 1867:
“Part of the grounds was cultivated and planted with live-oak, about a hundred years ago, by a wealthy gentleman who had his country residence here But much the greater part is undisturbed. Even those spots which are disordered by art, Nature is ever at work to reclaim, and to make them look as if the foot of man had never known them. Only a small plot of ground is occupied with graves and the old mansion is in ruins. The most conspicuous glory of Bonaventure is its noble avenue of live-oaks. They are the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen, about fifty feet high and perhaps three or four feet in diameter, with broad spreading leafy heads. The main branches reach out horizontally until they come together over the driveway, embowering it throughout its entire length, while each branch is adorned like a garden with ferns, flowers, grasses, and dwarf palmettos. But of all the plants of these curious tree-gardens the most striking and characteristic is the so-called Long Moss. It drapes all the branches from top to bottom, hanging in long silvery-gray skeins, reaching a length of not less than eight or ten feet, and when slowly waving in the wind they produce a solemn funereal effect singularly impressive. There are also thousands of smaller trees and clustered bushes, covered almost from sight in the glorious brightness of their own light. The place is half surrounded by the salt marshes and islands of the river, their reeds and sedges making a delightful fringe. Many bald eagles roost among the trees along the side of the marsh. Their screams are heard every morning, joined with the noise of crows and the songs of countless warblers, hidden deep in their dwellings of leafy bowers. Large flocks of butterflies, flies, all kinds of happy insects, seem to be in a perfect fever of joy and sportive gladness. The whole place seems like a center of life. The dead do not reign there alone. Bonaventure to me is one of the most impressive assemblages of animal and plant creatures I ever met. I was fresh from the Western prairies, the garden-like openings of Wisconsin, the beech and maple and oak woods of Indiana and Kentucky, the dark mysterious Savannah cypress forests; but never since I was allowed to walk the woods have I found so impressive a company of trees as the tillandsia-draped oaks of Bonaventure. I gazed awe-stricken as one new-arrived from another world. Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord’s most favored abodes of life and light.”
–Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916.