The city of Savannah was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe with the intention of providing colonists with space for militia training exercises. The first four squares that were created by Oglethorpe are known as Johnson Square, Wright Square, Ellis Square, and Telfair Square. Now, these squares are public spaces for locals and tourists to enjoy within Savannah’s Historic District.
Lovely oak trees, historic houses, museums, monuments, and businesses can be found in the original squares, reflecting the history and identity of each. The squares also help provide an unforgettable experience as well as promoting walkability in Savannah by calming traffic – with squares being located at intersections of two streets. Walkways through these squares also connect to several destinations in neighborhoods and downtown, making the pedestrian and bicyclist experience pleasant and safe.
Learn more about Savannah’s Original Four Squares:
The first square to be laid out in Savannah was Johnson Square, which was planned by General Oglethrope himself in 1733. Johnson Square was named after Robert Johnson, South Carolina’s colonial governor who made a significant impact in colonial times. Johnson Square was a meeting place for Savannah’s initial residents, mostly used for church, community activities, and meetings.
Johnson Square is only one block away from Bay Street, making this square one of the most popular in Savanah, being surrounded by historical buildings and popular pubs and restaurants. The square also hosts food vendors, local artists, and live music. Other attractions include The Nathaniel Greene Monument, The William Bull Sundial, The First Christ Church, and The Fountains in Johnson Square.
Formally named Percival Square, Wright Square was the second square to be created in Savannah’s Historic District in 1733. Two tributes can be found in Wright Square, the Monument to William Washington Gordon and Tomochichi Memorial. Wright Square got the nickname “Hanging Square” after the execution of Alice Riley, which happened right on site.
There is plenty of shade from the oak trees surrounding the square, making it a nice spot to seek shade on a summer day. You can also find Wright Square Café, which is a popular café for chocolates. Attractions include The Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Tomochichi Federal Building, Juliette Gordon Low’s Birthplace, The Tomochichi Monument, The William Gordon Monument, and Chatham Country Courthouse.
Ellis Square was laid out in the 1733 in the Decker Ward, which was a market area for the Savannah community in the 1950’s. Ellis Square was also the spot for Slave Auctions in Savannah before General Sherman’s invasion.
Now, Ellis Square is a popular spot with City Market, The Ellis Square Fountains, and the Johnny Mercer Statue. Ellis Square is considered to be the liveliest square with its open areas and seating under oak trees. With a dancing foundation in the middle of Ellis, it is a popular attraction for families to cool off on a hot summer day while enjoying live music from the City Market.
This square was created in 1733 and was originally named St. James Square. In 1833, it was decided to rename the square to Telfair Square in recognition of Edward Telfair, the three-time Governor of Georgia, as well as a strong advocate of Savannah arts.
Telfair Square is home to two of the United States finest art museums, the Jepson Center and Telfair Museums. Trinity United Methodist Church is one of Savannah’s oldest churches and is also located in Telfair Square. Another attraction includes Telfair Academy.
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