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Savannah: Recreation


Visitors are attracted to Savannah for many reasons, the primary one being the opportunity to tour the city's beautiful Historic District, the country's largest historic urban landmark district. The Savannah Visitors Center, located at the former Central of Georgia Railroad Station, itself a national historic landmark, offers helpful brochures, maps, and publications. Walking, driving, and carriage tours of the city are also available. The nearby Roundhouse Complex contains the oldest and most complete railroad repair shop in the U.S.

Tours of the Historic Landmark District include six different neighborhoods and views of garden-like public squares and hundreds of restored eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings with ornate ironwork, gingerbread trim, and picturesque fountains (about seven houses are open as museums). Highlights of the district include the Owens-Thomas House, circa 18161819, which was designed by John Jay and considered to be the finest example of Regency architecture in America; the Davenport House Museum, built between 18151820, a fine example of Federal architecture and period decorative arts; and Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts, which is restored and furnished to depict the 1870s.

Interesting churches in the district are the First African Baptist Church (1861), the oldest African American congregation in the United States; the 1890 Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church; Temple Mickve Israel, the third oldest synagogue in the United States; Lutheran Church of the Ascension (1878-89), which has an exquisite Ascension window; Christ Episcopal Church (1838), which was the first church established in the colony; and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the oldest Roman Catholic congregation in the state.

The Cotton and Naval Stores Exchange (1886) was the center of commerce when Savannah was the world's foremost cotton port. Other interesting civic sites include the U.S. Customs House (1852); the 1905 City Hall; Colonial Park Cemetery, the second oldest burial ground (17501853) for colonists; and Bonaventure Cemetery, resting place of many local residents, made famous by the publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The recently restored City Market features City Market Art Center, shops, restaurants, and taverns. Particularly scenic streets include Factor's Walk, known for iron bridges and cobblestones; Riverfront Plaza/River Street, with restaurants, pubs, and shops housed in old cotton warehouses; Gaston Street, distinguished by its stately old homes; and Oglethorpe Avenue, a fashionable residential street. Beauty abounds at Emmett Park, with its Harbor Light and fountain, and at Forsyth Park, with its beautiful azalea blooms, Confederate monument, and recently restored fountain. The district's museums are detailed in the Arts and Culture section.

The city of Savannah has many other interesting attractions outside the Historic District. The Bethesda Home for Boys on Isle of Hope is the oldest continuously operated home for boys in America. Its Cunningham Museum houses items connected with Bethesda's history dating back to the 1700s. The Massie Heritage Interpretation Center is the only remaining original building of Georgia's oldest chartered school system. The University of Georgia Marine Education Center & Aquarium, ten miles southeast of the city on Skidaway Island, features an aquarium exhibit of marine life found in Georgia's waters. Old Fort Jackson, the oldest remaining brickwork fort in Georgia, and the Savannah History Museum at the Visitors Center offers artifacts and exhibits from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Fort Pulaski National Monument, fifteen miles east of Savannah, Fort McAllister State Historic Park, 22 miles south, and the Tybee Island Museum provide exhibits concerning the Civil War period. Also on Tybee Island, the Tybee Island Lighthouse, guardian of the Savannah River since 1736, offers tours, a museum, and gift shop. The Ships of the Sea Museum presents a large collection of models and maritime memorabilia representing man's 2,000-year quest to conquer the seas. Hands-on exhibits in natural history, astronomy, the sciences, prehistoric animals of the Georgia Coast, and a discovery room dealing with natural and physical sciences are offered at the Savannah Science Museum. Trustees Garden Village was the site of the first public agricultural experimental garden in America. It is now a residential area and home of the famous Pirates' House (1759) frequented by seamen and pirates alike. The Roundhouse Railroad Museum offers a glimpse of the oldest and most complete pre-Civil War railroad repair facility in the country.

The city's newest museums are the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum in Pooler and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. The Mighty Eighth honors the sacrifices made during and after World War II by the largest air strike force in history, which was formed in Savannah in 1942. The Civil Rights Museum tells the story of Savannah's role in the movement.

Arts and Culture

With its splendid squares and parks, elegant architecture, and lush vegetation, Savannah creates a studio and stage artscape for its performing and visual arts. The City Lights Theater Company, permanently housed in the newly renovated Avon Theater, moves to historic Telfair Square each spring to produce "Shakespeare on the Square." The Savannah Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theater site in the country, is home to the Savannah Theatre Company which performs a season of live drama plus a summer musical. The Savannah Concert Association offers a five-concert season at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts. Various entertainments are offered at the Savannah Civic Center throughout the year.

Opened in 1885 as the first public art museum in the southeast, the Telfair Museum of Art in the historic district is Savannah's premier art museum. The handsome William Jay-designed mansion features American painting and art of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the 1818 Octagon Room, dining room, and the restored 1886 rotunda gallery. The Jepson Center for the Arts, the Museum's third building in downtown Savannah, is scheduled to open in fall 2005. It features gallery spaces, expanded educational resources, sculpture gardens, auditorium, storage facilities, cafe and museum store. The King-Tisdell Cottage museum in the historic district is dedicated to preserving aspects of African American culture and heritage and displays documents, furniture, and art objects of the 1890s. The Negro Heritage Trail Tours embark from the site. The Spirit of the South Museum offers a special retrospective exhibit of the song writing career of Savannahian Johnny Mercer.

Arts and Culture Information: telephone (912)233-ARTS

Festivals and Holidays

Savannah is host to more than 200 festivals and events annually. During the first two weeks in February, the Georgia Heritage Celebration's Colonial Faire and Muster, sponsored by the Historic Savannah Foundation, celebrates the state's colonial history. The Black Heritage Festival, held the second week in February, is a series of events featuring the cultural and artistic contributions of African Americans. The Savannah Irish Festival is held in February at the Civic Center Area in the Historic District. Sheep to Shawl Festival at Oatland Island in early March provides the opportunity to watch the annual shearing of the sheep and the processing and handweaving of the wool. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is Savannah's biggest event, and the second largest St. Pat's celebration in the country. More than one-quarter of a million people participate in this event, which began in the early 1800s. Savannah Music Festival is a 15-day fest featuring concerts in downtown venues and includes international talent in blues, jazz, and classical music. The Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens offers self-guided walking tours of private homes in six historic neighborhoods over four days in late March. An ecumenical Easter Sunrise service is a Tybee Island tradition. April is the month for four Savannah festivals including the International Festival, Sidewalk Art Festival, Blues and BBQ Festival and the Spring Fling Art and Music Festival.

The Savannah Seafood Festival, Savannah Shakespeare Festival, Scottish Games Festival, Tybee Island Beach Bum Parade, and the SCAD Sands Art Festival round out the list of activities in May. The Tybee Island Summer Concert Series during the summer months hosts concerts for beach music lovers. Picnics, music, arts, food, and fireworks at sites around the city help residents and visitors hail the Fourth of July holiday.

City Market and Forsyth Park are the sites for the week-long Savannah Jazz Festival in September. National, regional, and local jazz stars assist in the workshops, jazz seminars, and other events. Oktoberfest is held early in the month of October and features German food, imported beer, arts, and entertainment. Greek music and food aromas fill the air three days in mid-October at the Savannah Greek Festival. The Savannah Film Festival features films and videos from around the world. The Savannah Harbor Boat Parade of Lights in November with its fireworks extravaganza and tree lighting kicks off the Savannah Harbor Holiday Series. Christmas in Savannah offers a Christmas parade, tours of historic homes, Civil War reenactments and other events.

Sports for the Spectator

Historic Grayson Stadium is the site of the home games of the Class A South Atlantic League Savannah Sand Gnats, a farm team of baseball's Washington Nationals. Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University, and Savannah College of Art and Design field teams in such sports as football, basketball, baseball, softball, and volleyball.

Sports for the Participant

Savannah's warm weather allows participation in outdoor activities year round. Savannah offers excellent facilities for jogging, tennis, golf, swimming, boating, and other water sports. The city has more than 100 public recreational neighborhood parks, 13 swimming pools, more than 70 athletic fields (including 4 fully equipped complexes,) more than 75 basketball courts, 50 tennis courts, and 2 public golf courses. For boating, fishing and swimming enthusiasts, Savannah offers marinas throughout the 420 miles of navigable waters and 87,000 acres of tidal marshland, as well as the intercoastal waterway.

Shopping and Dining

Savannah offers numerous choices for enthusiastic shoppers, including two traditional enclosed malls, 41 large shopping centers, boutiques, antique shops, flea markets, and restored warehouse complexes. Oglethorpe Mall in midtown offers 5 major department shops and more than 100 other stores. Savannah Mall on the south side has four major department stores and an indoor carousel. Savannah Festival Factory Outlet Center offers brand name merchandise at substantial savings. Magnolia Bluff Factory Outlet is located about 45 minutes away in Darien. River Street's nineteenth-century warehouses have been converted into shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. "First Saturday" festivals (every month but January) present a grand display of arts and crafts in Rousakis Plaza.

Savannah is a city renowned for its hospitality. While the city offers a wide choice of dining establishments, visitors are particularly delighted by the "down-home southern cookin' " for which the area is famous. The diverse land and water of the region produces catfish and chicken for frying, hush puppies, grits, sweet potatoes for pie, collards and turnip greens, okra, scallions, dried peas, ham and turkey for smoking, meat for barbecuing, peanuts for boiling, white butter beans, white and yellow turnips, cornmeal for bread, tomatoes, oysters, crab for crabcakes, and shrimp. In addition to this sort of delectable fare, the city's many restaurants offer the cuisines of China, Japan, Italy, and Greece, as well as continental dishes.

Visitor Information: The Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 101 East Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31402; telephone (877)-SAVANNAH; email [email protected] Visitors may wish to request a copy of the "Savannah Travel Planner," "Tybee Island Brochure," or the "Calendar of Events."

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Savannah: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Savannah has a five-tiered economy consisting of manufacturing, the port and transportation, tourism, the military, and miscellaneous businesses such as health care. Retail and service businesses are also important factors. Manufacturing is the largest part of the economy, with 251 manufacturing facilities in Chatham County in 2002 with annual payrolls exceeding $713 million. The largest plants include Gulfstream Aerospace, an executive jet aircraft manufacturer; International Paper, the largest producer of paper for paper bags in the United States; Georgia Pacific Savannah River Site, which makes paper products; Great Dane Trailers, which makes large truck trailers; and Derst Baking Company, which makes bread, rolls and cakes. The transportation industry, centered on the Port of Savannah, is a vital element of the economic mix. It is the fifth largest container port in the country, handling more than 1.5 million container units in 2004 and shipping to more than 150 countries around the world.

Tourism is an active and rapidly growing segment of the economy. The city's attractiveness as a visitor destination is enhanced by its charming historic district, accommodations, and accessibility. In 2003 Savannah's nearly six million visitors spent $1.542 billion, supporting nearly 16,000 jobs locally.

The military plays an important role in the economic health of the city as well. The U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) is housed at Fort Stewart, 40 miles from Savannah. Hunter Army Airfield, part of the army complex, is located in Savannah. The Stewart/Hunter complex has more than 22,000 soldiers and approximately 3,500 civilians making it coastal Georgia's largest employer. Combined payrolls totaled $934.48 million in 2003.

Retail and services today generate most new jobs. Savannah, with two enclosed malls and 41 large shopping centers, is the retail center for a six-county area. Retail sales totaled $4.5 billion in 2004.

Items and goods produced: transportation equipment, chemicals, cotton, food products, stone, clay, glass, fabricated metals, printing and publishing, computer equipment and machinery, paper, paper products, aircraft, petroleum products, wood products, tea, sugar, construction materials

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) is the business solicitation organization in the City of Savannah and Chatham County. It assists companies interested in relocating to, or expanding in, the Savannah area at no cost to the client. SEDA was recently named one of the top ten development groups in the country for the second time.

Local programs

Savannah offers incentives and inducements to companies considering investments that will impact the labor market in a positive way. Programs include a variety of job tax credits, including a special job tax credit for new corporate headquarters facilities, a one to three percent tax credit for an investment of $50,000 or more, a research and development tax credit, and up to $500 tax credit per program per employee for retraining. There are tax abatements and exemption programs, including material handling equipment sales tax exemptions, pollution equipment sales tax exemptions, manufacturing machinery sales tax exemption, and tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds for manufacturing facilities. Parts of Savannah fall under the blanket of the Foreign Trade Zone program. Other programs include a childcare credit, electricity rate discounts, county inventory tax exceptions, rapidly expanding business tax credit for Georgia companies growing faster than 20 percent per year, and eligibility for the HOPE Scholarship and HOPE Grant (tuition and fees at Georgia public and state technical colleges). In addition, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce has established a one-stop resource program for small and minority businesses.

State programs

Georgia has business-friendly tax laws; the state does not use the unitary tax method, but instead taxes businesses only on income apportioned to Georgia. In addition, the state four percent sales tax rate has risen only one percentage point since 1951. Georgia's Freeport zones, like Savannah's, exempt for ad valorem taxation on all or part of the value of certain tangible property held in certain inventories. Companies can apply for a permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which can result in their obtaining a federal permit as well, via a single application. Georgia also exempts sales and use tax on certain computer equipment.

Job training programs

Several workforce development and training programs provide students educational and technical skills through apprenticeships, internships and professional development programs. Among them are Project Workforce, administered by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce; Coastal Empire Tech Prep Consortium; Junior Achievement; youth apprenticeship through First District Regional Educational Service Agency; Coastal Workforce Services; and the Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP) through the University System of Georgia. The Quick Start Pre-employment Training program is a three-way partnership of Quick Start, the Georgia Department of Labor, and a Georgia company wishing to obtain a qualified workforce. The program is a coordinated applicant screening and on-going training process for groups of 25 or more workers.

Development Projects

Savannah is unique in having a large tract of waterfront land open for development and located close to the central business and historic districts. Recently completed projects on the tract include the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center and Westin Savannah Harbor Resort, a 403-room luxury facility.

Icon Health & Fitness, a manufacturer of fitness equipment headquartered in Logan, Utah, announced plans in 2004 to build a 600,000 square foot distribution facility in Crossroads Industrial Park in Savannah. The facility will bring 300 new jobs to Savannah when it opens in 2005.

Economic Development Information: Savannah Economic Development Authority, 8001 Chatham Center Drive, Suite 300, Savannah, GA 31405; telephone (912)447-8450 or (800)673-7388; fax (912)447-8455; email [email protected]

Commercial Shipping

Savannah is one of the southeast's leading seaports and cargo hubs. Shipping activity is focused on the Port of Savannah, which is supported by two railroads and two interstate highways as well as Savannah International Airport. Improvements at the port focus on handling more containerized cargo. The port moves 300,000 containers annually through more than 9 million square feet of warehousing. Because of its location on the coast, the port serves as a major distribution point to and from a 26-state region, which services 75 percent of the country. The port has been designated as a Foreign Trade Zone to encourage international commerce.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Georgia is a right-to-work state. Labor costs in Georgia are low and union activity is minimal. The area population is growing and the number of jobs is increasing, especially in the service sector. Though job growth in Georgia was slowing, in 2005 jobs in the Savannah area were expected to grow at a rate of 3.1 percent, the largest percentage gain for any metro area in the state.

Hospitality, port activities, tourism, convention business, and information technology (IT) were expected to be major sources of job growth in 2005 and beyond.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Savannah metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 149,022

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 8,500

manufacturing: 13,500

trade, transportation and utilities: 30,300

information: 1,900

financial activities: 6,100

professional and business services: 14,400

educational and health services: 19,400

leisure and hospitality: 17,600

other services: 7,100

government: 21,000

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.30

Unemployment rate: 3.2% (November 2004)

Largest employers Number of employees
Memorial Health 4,583
Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education 4,309
Gulfstream Aerospace 4,300
St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital 3,800
Fort Stewart Hunter Army Airfield 3,485
City of Savannah 2,408
International Paper 1,800
Wal-Mart 1,675
Chatham County 1,600
Georgia-Pacific Savannah River Mill 1,461
Kroger 1,300
Savannah College of Art & Design 1,200

Cost of Living

Savannah is a relatively inexpensive town in which to live and do business. Outlook Magazine ranked Savannah as "one of the top 25 places to live and work."

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $254,612

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 97.6

State income tax rate: Ranges from 1.0% to 6.0%

State sales tax rate: 4.0% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 2.0%

Property tax rate: Set and reviewed twice yearly and applied to the assessed value, which is 40 percent of the fair market value. The city's millage rate has seen a gradual reduction since 1996 and was 13.30 mills in 2002.

Economic Information: Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, 101 E Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31402; telephone (912)644-6400; fax (912)644-6497

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Savannah: History

City Designed by British Colonist

On February 12, 1733, James E. Oglethorpe and 114 colonists from Gravesend, England, arrived at Yamacraw Bluff on the Savannah River to found America's thirteenth colony, Georgia. Many of the new settlers were poor. Their purpose was to increase imperial trade and navigation along the coastal waterway and to establish a protective buffer between Spanish Florida and the northern English colonies during the Spanish War. It is said that Oglethorpe had four rules for his new community: no slaves, no Roman Catholics, no strong drink, and no lawyers. The name Savannah is said to have derived either from the Sawana people who inhabited the region or from a Shawnee word for the Savannah River.

Oglethorpe designed the basic layout of Savannah into blocks of five symmetrical 60-by-90-foot lots. Included in his plan were 24 public squares (21 of which are still in existence). They were intended to serve both as public meetings places and as areas where citizens could camp out and fortify themselves against attack from natives, Spaniards (who ruled Florida), and even marauding pirates. Thus Savannah became "America's first planned city." This system of public squares was intended as central areas of fortification, as well as social areas for the colonists.

Immigrants from around the world were attracted to Oglethorpe's city. By the time the American Revolution started, the population of Savannah exceeded 3,000, making it the twentieth largest town in the American colonies.

Savannah During the Revolution

During the Revolutionary War, Savannah was taken by colonial insurgents. The following year, in 1778, the British recaptured the city. In 1779 the American army was unsuccessful in its attempts to retake the city. Finally, in 1782, the British left the city to return to England. Savannah was the chief city and capital of the Georgia colony until after the war ended in 1783.

Cotton Dominates Economy

From the outset, Savannah was an important seaport. In 1755 James Habersham and Francis Harris organized the first import-export businesses of the colony with the selling of cattle products. Before the American Revolution, the products of agriculture and trade with the Indians were sent back to England. At one time, diked rice paddies almost surrounded the city. Savannah prospered, and many of its historic homes were built. When the scourge of yellow fever swept through the city in 1820, the rice culture was abandoned and cotton became the dominant crop. For nearly a century, trading in the Cotton Exchange on Savannah's waterfront set world cotton prices. Cotton farming was greatly expanded following Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, an event that took place near Savannah in 1793. Shortly thereafter, cotton shipments from the area soared to more than two million bales annually.

Marine History Events

Transportation history was made in 1819 when the SS Savannah became the first steamship to cross an ocean, traveling from Savannah to Liverpool, England. Later, in 1834, the shift from sail to steam was furthered when the country's first all-iron vessel, the John Randolph, was built, owned, and operated in Savannah.

The City During the Civil War and Beyond

Savannah, which had a large free African American population before the Civil War, suffered from the Union navy's coastal blockade during the war. The city was captured by General William T. Sherman in 1864 after the citizens surrendered rather than risk total destruction of Savannah (as had already happened in Atlanta). As a result, Sherman sent a famous message to President Abraham Lincoln in which he said: "I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah with 140 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton."

The capture of Savannah brought on rampant vandalism. Throughout the reconstruction period (18651877) and beyond, the city went through hard times. Nevertheless, the first art museum in the Southeast, Telfair Academy of Arts And Sciences, was opened in 1886. Still, it is said that the city's civic pride did not revive until the early 1900s, when the National Park Services restored nearby Fort Pulaski. This revival inspired a group of Savannah citizens to begin restoration efforts. In March 1912, Savannah citizen Juliette Gordon Low formed the first Girl Scout troop in the nation, and later her birthplace was made into the national Girl Scout museum and national program center. World War I and its aftermath put restoration efforts on hold. The years following the war were harsh ones for Savannah. The boll weevil wiped out cotton crops and the city fell into a decline. Many of its beautiful structures fell into disrepair.

Some say it was the proposal to demolish the 1815 Davenport House that galvanized the city. In 1955 city residents created the Historic Savannah Foundation with the purpose of restoring old buildings in the city's original town center. Many sites in and around Savannah received the National Historic Landmark designation in 1966, and the city has been heralded as a masterpiece in urban planning. A multimillion-dollar riverfront revitalization in 1977 peaked the restoration efforts. Today, the historic district encompasses more than 2,300 architecturally and historically significant buildings in its 2.5-square-mile area. Restoration of these buildings continues to the present day. Restoration efforts have also included the existing City Market, including adaptive re-use of historic warehouses. Construction of the $83 million waterfront complex of the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center was completed in May 2000 on Hutchinson Island. The island also boasts a new 409-room Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort, featuring a Greenbrier spa and a world-class, 18-hole Troon golf course. These developments are part of the conversion of the island into an upscale community which is to include high-rise condominiums, town houses and single family homes.

Historical Information: Georgia Historical SocietyLibrary and Archives, 501 Whitaker Street, Savannah, GA 31401; telephone (912)651-2125; Library (912)651-2128; Fax (912)651-2831; email [email protected]

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Savannah: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

The Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools system consists of 49 schools and 9 educational centers educating 36,000 students, and featuring outstanding curricula as well as a number of special programs for students from K-12. The Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools Academy Programs (formerly the Magnet program) offer students the opportunity to pursue specialized courses of study. The system also offers Select Schools, a group of four schools with one or more special features, as well as majority-to-minority transfers. Other special programs include the Business, Legal, and Financial Academy at Savannah High, which provides practical working experience; the Performing Arts Academy at Savannah High, which requires auditions for acceptance; and special elementary school programs that focus on the cultures of the world, interdisciplinary instruction through modern technology, computer expertise, and music. A Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools' construction program, with projects totaling $221 million, resulted in the opening of 13 new schools between 1996 and 2003.

In the state of Georgia, any student who graduates from high school with at least a B average is eligible for free college tuition and a book allowance at any of the state's public colleges, universities or technical colleges. Those who choose a private college in Georgia get a $3,000 grant. The scholarship and grant program is called HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally).

The following is a summary of data regarding Savannah-Chatham County public schools as of the 2003-2004 school year.

Total enrollment: 34,554

Number of facilities

elementary schools: 31

junior high/middle schools: 11

senior high schools: 7

other: 9 educational centers

Student/teacher ratio: 14:1

Teacher salaries

average: $43,000

Funding per pupil: $7,272

Private schools in Savannah include Benedictine Military School, Bible Baptist Day School, Blessed Sacrament School, Calvary Baptist Day School, Hancock Day School, Memorial Day School, Notre Dame Academy, Providence Christian School, Ramah Junior Academy, Rambam Day School, St. Andrew's School, St. James Catholic School, St. Michael's Catholic School, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Vincent's Academy, Savannah Christian Preparatory School, Savannah Country Day School, and Urban Christian Academy.

Public Schools Information: Marketing Services Department, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, 208 Bull Street, Room 204, Savannah, GA 31401; telephone (912)651-5685

Colleges and Universities

Savannah State University, part of the University System of Georgia, enrolls more than 2,700 students and offers bachelor's degrees through its schools of humanities and social sciences, business, and sciences and technology. Master's degrees can be earned in business administration, public administration, and social work. Armstrong Atlantic State University enrolls more than 6,000 students and offers 75 undergraduate and graduate degrees in arts and sciences, health professions, and education. A new 84,000-square-foot building houses the university's Criminal Justice Training Center.

One of the largest art and design schools in the country, Savannah College of Art and Design offers bachelor and master of fine arts programs and graduate courses in architecture. Founded in 1993, the School of Visual Arts/Savannah, part of the School of Visual Arts/New York, awards bachelor's degrees in arts, computer graphics, sculpture, and other arts-related disciplines. South University, whose main campus is on Mall Blvd. in the heart of the Southside offers bachelor's, masters's and doctoral degrees. Savannah Technical College offers job training and skills in more than 50 certificate, professional, diploma, and associate degree programs. The Coastal Georgia Center for Continuing Education provides adult continuing education. Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, 50 miles from Savannah, enrolls 15,075 students.

Brewton-Parker College offers bachelor's degrees as well as evening courses for students employed full-time. The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is located on the Hunter Army Airfield and offers courses in aviation-related fields. Online as well as campus-based courses are offered at Saint Leo University's Savannah center.

Libraries and Research Centers

Savannah's Live Oak Public Libraries serve Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties. It has 19 branches and one bookmobile. The library has more than 500,000 volumes and makes available thousands of periodicals, records, cassettes, compact discs and videocassettes, CD-ROM resources, and special collections on local history. The library also offers access to state-of-the-art computerized indexes, on-line information services, and the Internet. Other libraries in the area include college-related and medical libraries, a municipal research library, the Georgia Historical Society Library and other historical libraries, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography Library, and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers technical library.

Marine research is conducted at the University of Georgia and at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. At Herty Foundation Research and Development Center, fibrous materials are studied. Armstrong Research Institute assists industry with problems in engineering, chemistry, mechanics, and other technical areas. The Department of Energy's Savannah River National Laboratory and Savannah River Ecology Laboratory are science and technology centers.

Public Library Information: Chatham-Effingham-Liberty Regional Library, 2002 Bull Street, Savannah, GA 31401; telephone (912)652-3600

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SAVANNAH , city in Georgia, U.S., third oldest Jewish community in North America. A seaport, the city had a total population of 129,808, according to the 2004 U.S. Census estimates, of whom 3,500 were Jews in 2005.

On July 11, 1733, 41 Jews arrived aboard a ship chartered by London's Sephardi synagogue. Despite objections from London's Georgia trustees, the Jews won the legal right to settle and own property. Original settlers included Dr. Samuel Nunes, who rescued the colonists from an epidemic; his son-in-law Abraham de Lyon, who introduced viticulture; Abraham Minis, who became supplier for the militia of the founder of Georgia, James Edward Oglethorpe; and Benjamin Sheftall, interpreter for German Salzburger settlers. Sheftall and his son Levi kept the community's vital records from 1733 to 1809. In 1740, the Jewish population reached 100, but economic failure in Georgia, coupled with Spanish raids from Florida, gradually dispersed the community until only the Minis and Sheftall families remained.

Although ritual appurtenances had been brought from England, it was not until 1735 that Ashkenazim and Sephardim could agree to organize the congregation Mickve Israel, which conducted worship in a small hut. A ritual bath was opened in 1738. Oglethorpe granted the original settlers a cemetery, but when the town grew around it, Mordecai Sheftall, by deed of August 2, 1773, donated to Mickve Israel a portion of his farm plot for "the use of a burial ground and for erecting a synagogue." The cemetery was used until 1850. The remainder of the property was sold, and the proceeds were used in 1902 to build a school and social center, the Mordecai Sheftall Memorial, which was replaced in 1957. Fluctuation in population occasionally forced the abandonment of public worship. In 1790, Mickve Israel obtained a charter from the governor, but 30 years elapsed before Jacob de la Motta (1789–1845) prevailed upon his coreligionists to build a synagogue, which was dedicated in 1820 and consecrated the following year. In 1829, it burned down (though its Torah – brought to Savannah in 1733 – and ark were saved) and was replaced with a brick edifice that remained in use until 1878, when the present Gothic structure was dedicated. Mickve Israel preserved Sephardi traditions until 1903, when it joined the Reform movement. It is the oldest reform congregation in the United States, using an organ for services in 1820, having mixed seating in 1860, as well as having a mixed choir populated by both sexes and even non-Jews. In 2005, 300 families were members of the congregation.

Prussian-Polish immigrants of the 1850s organized what became the Orthodox Congregation B'nai B'rith Jacob. The Eastern European immigration to the United States enlarged its membership. Organized under the leadership of Rabbi Jacob Rosenfeld after he was dismissed as rabbi at Mickve Israel over a dispute dealing with kashrut, the congregation built its first synagogue on the northeast corner of State and Montgomery Streets in 1866 and held services on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. A flourishing membership prompted the community to build a new, larger synagogue with a Hebrew school on the same site in 1909; at its peak, the school boasted an enrollment of 200 students. The congregation built a third structure, in 1962, on Abercorn Street and held its first services there on Passover. In 2005, 425 families belonged to the congregation.

Congregation Agudath Achim, formed as an Orthodox group in 1901, was incorporated in 1903 and became Conservative in 1945 with the dedication of its third synagogue. The original congregation numbered 46 families; in 2005, it had 270 families. In the early 1980s, it formed a joint school with Mickve Israel, which was renamed in 1991 as the Shalom School, and in 2005 enrolled 100 students. Shalom School is a supplemental religious school that meets two weekday afternoons and on Sunday. The congregation celebrated its centennial year in 2003 and as part of that celebration, rededicated a Holocaust Torah from Kamenice, Czechoslovakia.

Established in 2002, the Hillel chapter at Savannah College of Art and Design had approximately 25 members in 2005.

The Savannah B'nai Brith was chartered in 1860. Savannah Jewry also developed many charitable societies: Hebrew Benevolent (1851); Ladies Hebrew Benevolent (1853); Harmonie Club (1865); Orphan Aid (1880), affiliated with the B'nai B'rith Atlanta Orphanage; Hebra Gemiluth Hessed (1888); Young Woman's Aid (1906); Women's Circle (1908); Hadassah (1918). A Young Men's Hebrew Association (1874) lasted several generations. These and other agencies came under the aegis of the Jewish Education Alliance (chartered 1912). Designed as an Americanizing center, the Alliance developed into a center of Jewish activities; it moved to larger premises in the 1950s. In 1990, the Alliance founded the Rambam Day School for students aged 2 through eighth grade; 2005 enrollment was 122 students. The Savannah Jewish Council, founded in 1943 and now known as the Savannah Jewish Federation, conducts the annual United Jewish Appeal campaign as well as social and educational programs.

The Savannah Jewish Archives are housed in the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, Georgia. Established in 1994, they are administered by the Savannah Jewish Federation and are one of two Jewish archives in the state. The second is located in Atlanta.

Jews have always played an active role in all facets of Savannah life, with many holding public office. Most notable was Herman Myers (1847–1909), who served as mayor from 1895 to 1897 and from 1899 to 1907, and Kenneth Sadler, city council member (2003– ). Other notable community members include Kenneth Rubin, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in the Vietnam War in 1967, and William Wexler, international president of B'nai Brith from 1965 to 1971.


M.H. Stern, in: ajhsp, 53 (1963/64), 169–99; 54 (1964/65), 243–77; Congregation Mickve Israel, Contact Commemorative Issue (March 1955); B. Postal and L. Koppman, Jewish Tourist's Guide to the U.S. (1954), 123–7, 131–2. add. bibliography: Savannah Jewish Archives held at the Georgia Historical Society, Savannah, Georgia (with acknowledgment to Kaye Kole for her invaluable research there).

[Malcolm H. Stern /

David Weinstock (2nd ed.)]

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Savannah, city (1990 pop. 137,560), seat of Chatham co., SE Ga., a port of entry on the Savannah River near its mouth; inc. 1789. A rail, fishing, and industrial center, it is a leading southern port for the import and export of a wide variety of manufactured goods; the port's container terminal is in neighboring Garden City. Shipping is a major industry, but tourism is becoming increasingly important. Savannah is the seat of Savannah State Univ. and Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. (both part of the University System of Georgia) as well as the Savannah College of Art and Design. The Telfair Museum of Art is also there. Army and coast guard units occupy the Hunter Army Airfield. The well-planned city has wide, shaded streets and many parks; magnolias, pines, and ancient oaks are indigenous there. Several beach and island resorts as well as a wildlife refuge are nearby.

Points of Interest

Savannah's historic district was designated a national historic landmark in 1966; many of its 18th- and 19th-century homes have been restored. Despite devastating fires in 1796 and 1820, many old buildings have survived, including the Pirates' House (1754), an old seaman's inn mentioned in Stevenson's Treasure Island; the Herb House (1734), the oldest existing building in Georgia; and the Pink House (1789), site of Georgia's first bank. The mansion birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (built 1819–21) is owned and operated by the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. as a memorial to their founder. The monument and grave of Nathanael Greene are in Johnson Square. The many churches include the Lutheran Church of Ascension (dating from 1741); the Independent Presbyterian Church (1890s), a replica of an earlier church destroyed by fire and the scene of Woodrow Wilson's marriage to Ellen Axson; and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (1876), one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the South.


Savannah is Georgia's oldest city; it was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733 and served as the colonial seat of government. During the American Revolution the British took Savannah on Dec. 29, 1778, and held it until July, 1782. A land-sea force of French and Americans tried to retake the city in 1779, first by siege and then by direct assault (on Oct. 9), but failed dismally. Savannah was the state capital from 1782 to 1785. With the growth of trade, and especially after the invention of the cotton gin and the construction of railroads extending to the cotton fields of central Georgia, the city became a rival of Charleston as a commercial center. The first steamship to cross the Atlantic, the Savannah, sailed from there to Liverpool in 1819. In the Civil War, Fort Pulaski, on an island near the mouth of the Savannah River, was captured by Federals in 1862, but the city did not fall until Dec. 21, 1864, when Sherman entered.

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SAVANNAH is a city in Georgia located on Yamacraw Bluff, eighteen miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, above the Savannah River for which it is named. Since the mid-1700s, Savannah has been an important port of call for ships from all over the world.

In January 1733, an expedition of English settlers led by James Edward Oglethorpe sailed to the mouth of the Savannah River, hiking along the river until they found a good site for a new town, and in February 1733, the first immigrants settled in Savannah. The safe port Savannah offered enabled it to quickly increase its importance. In 1776, pressured by American patriots, the English governor James Wright fled Savannah, only to return in 1778, when British troops seized the city. In August 1779, French and American troops tried to retake Savannah, and were badly beaten. But in May 1782, the Savannah royalists negotiated a peaceful surrender to General Anthony Wayne.

Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Savannah became one of America's jewels, dazzling visitors with its architecture, arts, and international commerce. Late in the Civil War, the city's leaders surrendered to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, who spared Savannah the terrible destruction his troops had wreaked in their notorious march to the sea.

After the Civil War, Savannah's port suffered because many shippers had found alternative ports of call during the conflict. In a dark and difficult period, the city established a system of segregating the black and white races. In 1944, fifty African American students refused to surrender their seats to white passengers, sparking a protest movement in the city. With the civil rights movement of the 1950s came an openness that sparked a revival in the arts. In 1966, Savannah created a 2.2-square-mile historic district; in 1977, it turned its waterfront into a vibrant retail area. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, nearly seven million people a year were visiting Savannah, again regarded as one of America's shining jewels.


Harden, William. A History of Savannah and South Georgia. Atlanta: Cherokee, 1969.

Martin, Harold H. Georgia: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.

Savannah. Homepage at

Vedder, O. F. History of Savannah, Ga.: From Its Settlement to the Close of the Eighteenth Century. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason, 1890.

Wills, Charles A. A Historical Album of Georgia. Brookfield, Conn.: Mildbrook, 1996.

Kirk H.Beetz

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Savannah: Communications

Newspapers and Magazines

Savannah's major daily newspaper is the Savannah Morning News. Local weeklies include The Herald, Connect Savannah, Creative Loafing,Savannah Business Report and Journal, and Savannah PennySaver. The Savannah Jewish News is published monthly. Magazines published in Savannah are SCUBA Diving, Savannah Magazine, and Cash Magazine.

Television and Radio

Represented in the Savannah area are all four major television networks. Savannah's 18 (12 AM and 6 FM) radio stations cover a wide variety of formats including talk and public radio, classical, jazz, rock, religious, and adult contemporary.

Media Information: Savannah Morning News PO Box 1088, Savannah, GA 31402; telephone (912)236-9511

Savannah Online

Chatham County home page. Available www.chatham

City of Savannah government home page. Available

Georgia Historical Society. Available

Live Oak Public Libraries. Available

Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Available

Savannah Chamber of Commerce. Available

Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools. Available

Savannah City Guide. Available

Savannah Economic Development Authority. Available

Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. Available

Savannah Morning News. Available

Savannah Online. Available

Selected Bibliography

Beney, Peter, The Majesty of Savannah (New York: Pelican, 1992)

Berendt, John, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (New York: Vintage Books, 1999)

Harris, William Charles Jr., Delirium of the Brave: A Novel of Savannah (St. Martin's, 1999)

Jakes, John Savannah or A Gift for Mr. Lincoln (Dutton Books, 2004)

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Savannah: Population Profile

Metropolitan Area Residents

1980: 231,000

1990: 258,060

2000: 293,000

Percent change, 19902000: 13.5%

U.S. rank in 1990: 137th

U.S. rank in 2000: 133rd

City Residents

1980: 141,654

1990: 137,560

2000: 131,510

2003 estimate: 127,573

Percent change, 19902000: 4.4%

U.S. rank in 1980: 158th

U.S. rank in 1990: 129th (State rank: 3rd)

U.S. rank in 2000: 182nd

Density: 1,759.5 people per square mile (2000)

Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)

White: 51,108

Black or African American: 75,072

American Indian and Alaska Native: 303

Asian: 1,997

Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander: 92

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 2,938

Other: 1,224

Percent of residents born in state: 66.5% (2000)

Age characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 9,186

Population 5 to 9 years old: 5,163

Population 10 to 14 years old: 9,423

Population 15 to 19 years old: 10,139

Population 20 to 24 years old: 12,653

Population 25 to 34 years old: 19,419

Population 35 to 44 years old: 18,027

Population 45 to 54 years old: 15,260

Population 55 to 59 years old: 5,656

Population 60 to 64 years old: 4,717

Population 65 to 74 years old: 8,503

Population 75 to 84 years old: 6,582

Population 85 years and older: 2,382

Median age: 32.3 years

Births (2003)

Total number: 4,222

Deaths (2003)

Total number: 4,205 (of which, 77 were infants under the age of 1 year)

Money income (1999)

Per capita income: $16,921

Median household income: $29,038

Total households: 51,378

Number of households with income of . . .

less than $10,000: 8,842

$10,000 to $14,999: 4,794

$15,000 to $24,999: 8,815

$25,000 to $34,999: 6,956

$35,000 to $49,999: 8,359

$50,000 to $74,999: 7,241

$75,000 to $99,999: 3,399

$100,000 to $149,999: 1,678

$150,000 to $199,999: 448

$200,000 or more: 846

Percent of families below poverty level: 17.7% (54.6% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 11,595

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Savannah: Introduction
Savannah: Geography and Climate
Savannah: History
Savannah: Population Profile
Savannah: Municipal Government
Savannah: Economy
Savannah: Education and Research
Savannah: Health Care
Savannah: Recreation
Savannah: Convention Facilities
Savannah: Transportation
Savannah: Communications

The City in Brief

Founded: 1733 (chartered 1789)

Head Official: Otis S. Johnson (D) (since 2003)

City Population

1980: 141,654

1990: 137,560

2000: 131,510

2003 estimate: 127,573

Percent change, 19902000: 4.4%

U.S. rank in 1980: 158th

U.S. rank in 1990: 129th

U.S. rank in 2000: 182nd (State rank: 6th)

Metropolitan Area Population

1980: 231,000

1990: 257,899

2000: 293,000

Percent change, 19902000: 13.5%

U.S. rank in 1990: 137th

U.S. rank in 2000: 133rd

Area: 75 square miles (2000)

Elevation: approximately 46 feet above sea level

Average Annual Temperature: 66.4° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 49 inches

Major Economic Sectors: services, wholesale and retail trade, government, manufacturing, tourism, military, healthcare and port operations

Unemployment rate: 3.4% (December 2004)

Per Capita Income: $16,921 (1999)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 11,595

Major Colleges and Universities: Savannah State University, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah Technical Institute, Savannah College of Art and Design

Daily Newspaper: Savannah Morning News

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