When General James Edward Oglethorpe founded the city of Savannah in 1733, he designed it as a grid of neighborhoods around 24 squares. They were intended to slow the speed of traffic, but they also served the purpose of slowing down the speed of life too.
These public parks and squares are an essential part of life in Savannah. They reflect a lot of the character of the city – its social atmosphere, community focus and celebration of peaceful, historic beauty.
Shaded by elegant oak trees draped in Spanish moss, these squares are timeless, elegant, moody and romantic. Many are named in honor of a significant person or event in Savannah’s history and several contain monuments, markers, statues or plaques.
They are the perfect place to beat the heat with a break under a shady tree. (Plus, thanks to the open container laws in Savannah you can bring a cold drink with you to sip while you soak up the atmosphere.)
Exploring these squares and parks is a must when staying in Savannah vacation rentals. Here are a few of the most charming and beautiful squares to visit.
The largest park in the city of Savannah, Forsyth Park spans a total of 30 acres and it’s known for being a gathering spot for both locals and visitors. The main landmark within the park is the Forsyth Fountain, made of cast iron.
You’ll also find a monument dedicated to confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War, as well as many beautiful hiking paths, a Visitor Center, a snack bar and a cafe. It’s a great spot for an early morning jog, or an afternoon picnic.
Just two blocks northeast of Forsyth Park you’ll find Calhoun Square, named after US Senator John C. Calhoun – who served as Vice President under Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams.
If you believe in ghosts, this square is said to be one of the most active with paranormal phenomena. Many people have reported feeling shadows pass through them, or have experienced a tightness in their chest while walking through. It is said that this spot is a massive unmarked burial ground for slaves, with a thousand bodies resting in unmarked graves beneath the grass – so it’s no wonder there’s an uneasy energy in the air.
This was the first of the squares to be built in Savannah and it still remains the largest in the city. It was named for Robert Johnson, the colonial governor of South Carolina. Revolutionary War hero General Nathaniel Greene is interred in this square and an obelisk serves as a memorial for him.
This square has been the site of many significant events in Savannah history, including Chekilli Head Chief of the Creek Nation reciting the origin myth of the Creeks, a ball for President James Monroe in 1819 and a reading of The Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Designed in 1733, this square was named after Henry Ellis, the second Royal Governor. This was the site where the Old City Market was once held, where local merchants would sell their crops and wares.
These days it’s one of the most vibrant spaces in the city, with shady picnic areas, a water fountain and a large chess set. This square was “lost” for a while. It was demolished to make room for a parking garage in 1954 and it wasn’t until 2005 when the parking garage was destroyed and Ellis Square was restored.
Be sure to check out the nearby Goose Feathers Cafe, one of the best breakfast spots in all of Savannah.
Also known as “Forrest Gump Square,” this is the iconic movie location where Tom Hanks sat on the bus stop bench and told his story. The actual bench itself was a prop placed there for the movie and it is on display at the Savannah History Museum.
The square was designed in 1816 and is named after the Battle of Chippewa, in the War of 1812. Within this landmark square, located on Bull and McDonough Streets, you’ll find a sculpture of the city’s founder – General James Edward Oglethorpe.
This gorgeous square was built in 1873 and is named after the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general under George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. The main focal point of the square is the Semi Quincentenary Fountain built by the Colonial Dames of America to mark the 250th anniversary of Savannah’s founding.
This square is also home to the stunning and ornate Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, with the tallest twin steeples in the entire city. It was designed by architect Francis Baldwin.
Explore the Squares and Parks of Savannah
Lounging in the peaceful shade of a park, watching people go by and learning about the history of this character-filled city is a quintessential Savannah experience. These are just a few of the many squares to explore – there are 22 in total and each one has its own unique story.