By Cathy Hempstead
After reading the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (affectionately referred to as simply THE BOOK in Savannah), I was intrigued to learn more about Savannah, Georgia. I arrived in a torrential downpour and immediately immersed myself in the historical downtown area and southern living by checking into the Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn. The wrought iron banister led me up to a terracotta-colored front door and I walked in to a warm welcome at the front desk.
As you walk through the historic downtown area of Savannah, stepping over cobblestone pathways, the humidity envelops you like the ghosts of generals and Southern belles from another time. Strolling through the mossy, earthy smell of postage stamp parks, there’s an aura thick with history of an Old South that tends to not only slow your pace but make you wonder how many spirits are wandering along with you.
Winding your way over brick walks, past iron works and impressive statues in the Squares (small parks), you can start to feel Savannah seeping into your bones. General James Edward Oglethorpe’s statue (Oglethorpe was the founder of Georgia) is in Chippewa Square. However, coming in at under four feet tall is the infamous statue of The Bird Girl, sculpted in 1936 by Sylvia Shaw Judson. Little Wendy, as she was originally named by the Trosdel family who owned her, was first installed in the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah until photographer Jack Leigh took her photo for the cover of THE BOOK, which made her a little too popular. The family donated her to the Telfair Museum, but since 2014 she has resided at the Jepson Center.
E. Shaver, Bookseller, is where you can pick up a copy of THE BOOK. I also bought the Savannah Sketchbook. The outstanding watercolor paintings in this Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) book were all painted by students and faculty members with a brief history of the region, which makes this a delightful souvenir. Attached to the bookstore is The Tea Room. The sample of iced blueberry tea was yummy!
The Mercer Williams House, where THE BOOK took place, is a captivating Southern home. The darling private courtyard leads up to a wide veranda that conjures up images of sultry summer evenings sipping sweet tea. Inside the home are high, cool ceilings, soft salmon-colored walls, oil paintings, elegant fine china, and a brilliant red powder room. The tour is of the lower floor only, which is a little disappointing, but the stories of Jim Williams are well worth the tour. Jim was an antique dealer who also refurbished the pieces he found from all over the world.
Strolling over to the 30-acre Forsyth Park, the trees dripping with moss and bowing down as you pass might make you long for Gone with the Wind. Maybe not the corsets or those ridiculous hoop skirts, but the slower pace and long, languid days that really stretch out the summer. At the heart of the park is the famous Forsyth Fountain that was built in the 1800s and is decorated with mermen, swans, and cranes.
It was incredibly hard to go home after being spoiled at the Inn, absorbing the history of this place, the unbelievable architecture, and walking in the same footsteps as the author of THE BOOK — and, of course, all of the ghosts.
Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn (savannahb&b.com)
The Mercer Williams House Museum (mercerhouse.com)
E. Shaver, Bookseller, 326 Bull Street
Forsyth Park, Drayton Street and W. Gaston Street
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