Savannah Historic District
The Savannah Historic District is a large urban U.S. historic district that roughly corresponds to the city limits of Savannah, Georgia, prior to the American Civil War. The area was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1966, and is one of the largest districts of its kind in the United States. The district was made in recognition of the unique layout of the city, begun by James Oglethorpe at the city’s founding and propagated for over a century of its growth.
The plan of the historic portions of Savannah is based on the concept of a ward, as defined by James Oglethorpe. Each ward had a central square, around which were arrayed four trust lots and four tythings. Each trust lot was to be used for a civic purpose, such as a school, government building, church, museum, or other public venue, while the tythings were each subdivided into ten lots for residential use. The wards were oriented in a rectlinear grid with north-south and east-west alignment. In a typical ward, the trust lots were set east and west of the square, and the residential lots of the typthings were extended north and south of the trust lots and the square, each typthing divided into two rows of five lots, separated by alleys. In the early years of the Province of Georgia, the ward organization was in part military, with each ward’s inhabitants organized into militia units, and the central squares acting as a gathering point for refugees from outside the city walls.
Each year, the Savannah Historic District attracts millions of visitors, who enjoy its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architecture and green spaces. The district includes the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America), the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South’s first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (the oldest African American Baptist congregation in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third-oldest synagogue in America), the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America), the old Colonial Cemetery, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and Old Harbor Light. Other buildings in the district include the Isaiah Davenport House, the Green-Meldrim House, the Owens-Thomas House, the William Scarbrough House, and the United States Customhouse.