Exploring the Architecture and Design of Savannah

A lot of you know that Boxy Colonial has a sister blog, Boxy Colonial on the Road, where most of my family and RV travel related posts go. But travel has become a really big part of our lives lately and sometimes I have travel related content that’s also design related content, so you’ll see those posts here from time to time as well.

Like, for example, when we go to a really beautiful old city with amazing architecture and beautiful historic houses everywhere like Savannah.

Our last trip to Savannah was very kid-centered, but this time around I wanted to make sure we spent some time exploring the more grown up side of things on this trip (and, fortunately, my older kids are generally pretty appreciative or at least tolerant about things like priceless works of art and beautifully decorated historic homes and whatnot). So here’s my frazzled parents’ guide to seeing soaking up some history and culture on a family trip to Savannah.

Old Savannah Tours: I’ll talk more about our experience with this on the other blog, but here I’d just like to recommend some kind of tour where you don’t have to do the driving as a great way to get an overview of the downtown area and see some of the beautiful houses and other buildings, as well as the public squares that Savannah is famous for. You can hop and off the trolley along the way to spend time exploring on foot as well.

We started our trolley tour at the Visitor’s Center and enjoyed the view and the driver’s narration for the first few stops:

Then we hopped off at Forsyth Park to explore the park and the area around it and grab some lunch:

Forsyth Park is a big city park in the Victorian District; our trolley tour took us through the Historic District, the Victorian District, the Colonial District, and probably some other districts I don’t remember, and each has a unique feel.

From here, we decided to walk for awhile instead of reboarding the trolley right away. Our trolley driver had told us that Jones Street was named the beautiful street in the south or something like that by some magazine or other, so I took some pictures there. I wanted to knock on doors and have everyone move their cars so my pictures would be prettier, but it didn’t seem practical:

Eventually we ended up at Lafayette Square. When Savannah was founded in the early 1700s, it was laid out around four central public squares, with public buildings and private residences surrounding them. As the city grew, so did the number of squares, and today there are a total of 22. They were originally used for not very romantic things like militia drills, but today they’re beautifully landscaped little public parks dotting the downtown area.

We spent a lot of time hanging around Lafayette Square because 1. we LOVE America’s favorite fighting Frenchman! and 2. there were several things we wanted to see right in the area. The impressive and lovely Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist was one:

This two blogs thing is complicated. I went back and forth about which one to include the cathedral in, but I’m going with here because it’s so beautiful and because it’s not the most small kid friendly place in Savannah. Abe did fine, but we were in and out pretty quickly. Older kids, though, will probably be very impressed; mine were. The neo-gothic cathedral dates from the late 1800s; it’s an active church with regular mass times, so check the schedule before you plan your visit. We were lucky to be there while it was still all decked out for Christmas, including a very elaborate and enchanting Nativity scene. I imagine the holiday week is also why it was quite crowded while we were there. So it was hard to get photos without people in them. But I tried.

Cathedral with palm trees:

That ceiling, right?!


There’s no admission fee for a (self-guided) tour of the Cathedral, but they do suggest a small donation.

And then on another side of the square is the Andrew Low House, which I toured with the older kids while Dave hung out in the square with Abe. There are several different homes one can tour in Savannah, and I was a little overwhelmed trying to decide which one I should pick. I think we ended up here largely because it was geographically convenient, and, I reasoned, there will be more trips to Savannah in my future for seeing other houses, so no sense overthinking it. So I have no other houses to compare it to, but we all enjoyed the tour. Here’s Abe, back when we were waiting for our tour to start and were still thinking, delusionally, that we might bring him along:

I know, he looks like a very calm preschooler who’s ready to patiently listen to long stories about a wealthy Savannah cotton merchant, but he’s tricking you.

Andrew Low was a big deal in Savannah back in the 1800’s, and he has an interesting and often very sad story which you’ll hear if you go on the house tour, but today I’m just going to show you pictures of his house (with its very Boxy Colonial-esque layout!). He was Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low’s father-in-law, and she was the last private owner of the house.

Incidentally, taking photos in here made me nervous; I knew it was the only historic home tour I’d have time for on this trip, so I wanted to do it justice so I’d have some good photos to share here. But my interior photos usually involve a tripod, tons of time to work with, and very slow shutters. I feel like my camera rose to the occasion fairly well, though, and I got some nice shots. I did my best, at any rate!

Look! Five over four and a door!

Here again we really lucked out in being here while the Christmas decorations were still out. Isn’t this little tree charming?

This is the formal parlor, which would have been used for receiving guests:

Coolest thing in this room? This piano with the strings going vertically:

I always love a library; isn’t the light in here gorgeous?

The table in the formal dining room was still set for Christmas as well:

And the upstairs bedrooms. I always like when there’s a kid room set up with period toys, even if there are a lot of slightly creepy dolls:

But our very favorite part of the house, I have to say, was after the official tour was over, when we went out to see the garden in front of the house and met these sad lions. Sad lions! I would like some sad lion statues for the front of my house now. Ari’s name means lion, so we never pass up a chance to take pictures of him with lions:

And August’s name means great, and there’s really nothing that’s much greater than sad lions.

And that concludes our tour of the design and architecture side of Savannah. I’ll have a lot more about our visit (and particularly the more kid friendly parts) up on Boxy Colonial on the Road over the next week or two.

Thanks to Visit Savannah for providing passes so we could check out some of these attractions. I was not otherwise compensated and, as always, all opinions are my own.








Exploring the Architecture and Design of Savannah — 11 Comments

  1. it’s so beautiful! savannah is on my list for one of the times when we are at seabrook where i have my inlaws there so chris and i can go for a night away. it looks like such a beautiful and romantic city.

  2. Your camera did very well indoors. I must find time to go to historic houses more! I keep wanting to go back to some of the ones I saw as a child and not getting there.
    I have never been to Savannah, and I want to go. My father had a great affection for it, because when he graduated from officer training school (Coast Guard) during WWII, he left Connecticut in November for his assignment to Savannah, and when he got off the train it was warm and camellias were blooming! (No one in my family is exactly a fan of winter.)
    Abe looks like a calm preschooler who has No Intention of going on a house tour.

  3. Gorgeous. I’ve only been there once, almost 25 years ago, but it was really nice. My favorite picture is of Gus consoling the sad lion. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say; you just have to be there and hold someone’s paw.

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