The Squares of Savannah
This past weekend, the girls and I joined six of our closest friends and headed to Savannah, Georgia for four days and three nights. Teri found us a house to stay in while we were there and early Thursday morning, we loaded up our van and made the four and a half hour trek north to the south. While Florida resides south of everything else, it is hardly a Southern state due to being made up mostly of retired Northerners and the rest of us born here who refused to move anywhere else.
The house we rented for four days was about a mile from the famous River Street and City Market. The best aspect of the trip was that once we arrived we parked the van and really didn’t hop back in it until we were ready to go home, which we almost didn’t want to do. Everything was really within walking distance that we needed–restaurants, grocers, small shops, and plenty of bars. Furthermore, the scenery and architecture was not something you could enjoy if you were driving around town trying not to turn the wrong way on a one way street. You had to walk under those giant magnolia and oak trees in order to fully appreciate what was around you.
And we weren’t the only ones walking. The sidewalks were full of joggers and walkers, all out enjoying the fresh air and the serenity of the city–or at least this part of the city. I am sure that like any major town, Savannah has its share of bad spots you wish to avoid, but we didn’t see any of it. We stayed centered around the historical aspects of our small area and truly fell in love with the city.
One of the things we enjoyed the most were the many squares that we were able to wander through. Originally there were twenty-four squares, but three were lost, demolished or altered, and out of those three only one, Ellis Square, was restored, making twenty-two squares today. The squares were the center or focal point of what was called a ward, which consisted of a square surrounded by four residential blocks and four civic blocks. Inside were homes and businesses, and the square allowed for a community to come together. Almost all of the squares hold monuments, memorials and historical plaques to a famous person in history that the square was named after. This plan of a square encircled by eight blocks not only brought a sense of community, but also assisted in the growth and expansion of the city, each new section following the same city plan.
General James Oglethorpe created the layout, drawing upon his knowledge of military history, and the squares were originally meant for military exercises. However, now they are gorgeous gardens and parks for people to enjoy and everyone we passed through were filled with tourists and locals equally. Tours were led through, gaining a lesson on Savannah history, and locals laid back enjoying the quiet day, a morning coffee, and a good book. There were even buskers in a few of the squares playing flutes, violins or guitars for the enjoyment of passersby and hoping for some small monetary token of appreciation. The girls and I stood and listened to a young violinist play in one park while an elderly man played children tunes on his flute in another. Couples walked hand-in-hand and individuals savored a quick lunch and the smell of the surrounding magnolias. The appeal of these squares was at times overwhelming and you could get lost very easily in the serene atmosphere they provided.
I could see the girls and me enjoying ventures to these squares on a regular basis and wished we had something similar back home. The slow pace, the scenery, and the quietness, all help bring a peace to your soul and allows you to slow the hands of the clock for just a bit. We need those moments.
We also need the sense of smaller community that the squares bring in our own neck of the woods. Neighborhoods could learn something from Oglethorpe’s plan and bring together their residents in a unifying way that would benefit all involved. Sadly, today, many people do not know who their neighbors are to even be able to go up to them and start a conversation nevertheless ask for assistance in a time of need. We need that. It builds us up and makes us stronger as a people. We need to be able to reach out and to share.
Whether it is Savannah’s squares or a small park in your subdivision or a section of beach, find a common ground, have a neighborhood barbecue or picnic, do something to bring everyone together. We need each other. Don’t wait until it’s too late to build that community of relationships to those right next door.
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