SAVANNAH Georgia — Savannah’s maritime history and the prominence of green palm trees are sprinkled throughout Savannah and the historic city’s historical tales. The seamen’s cottages (ca. 1897) of Green Palm Inn took a new place in travel and leisure in the tapestry of the “Forest City” 101 years after they were built.
About the photo above. To honor the seamen who built Green Palm Inn as two cottages (ca. 1897) –located within walking distance to the Savannah River wharfs — we were eager to find a maritime photo from that era. Serendipitously, Beacon Photography’s Michael Paul Edde posted on Twitter @BeaconPhoto two vintage Savannah maritime photos. Above, onboard the tall ship Peacemaker docked on the Savannah waterfront, Michael holds his vintage family photo that depicts his great grandfather working on the Savannah River waterfront (circa 1900). Serendipity struck again for our photo! The Peacemaker tall ship was docked in front of the Chart House Restaurant, Georgia’s oldest brick building — precisely where the vintage photo was taken over 100 years before!
Originally built for seamen in 1897, clapboard-sided double Folk Victorian Gingerbread cottage was restored in 1998 as today’s family-owned, small-scale, efficient Savannah Georgia bed and breakfast.
Our bed and breakfast home is just steps away from serene Greene Square, named to honor Nathanael Greene, George Washington’s second in common during the American Revolutionary War. Situated in a village-like setting, the square is one of the 22 celebrated public garden parks in Oglethorpe’s unique Town Plan, now world famous among urban city planners.
Green Palm Inn’s local owners close the inn for one week in August each year to continually update systems and décor. The British-Colonial furnishings, with accents of palm trees in the décor, reflect upon both Savannah’s British roots and its subtropical climate.
The Inn contains “8 fire rooms” [a Colonial American term for rooms with original fireplaces]. Two suites feature cozy bath fireplaces. A private bath gives homelike comforts in each of the four guest rooms and suites with single king or queen poster bed or sleigh bed. Modern amenities include color TV with full cable, ceiling fan, central heat and air, and secure WiFi.
In 2011, the top-rated historic Savannah inn was awarded a Certificate of Excellence Award from TripAdvisor.com. The cozy inn was named Top 10 B&B for the Holidays 2011 by BedandBreakfast.com. The inn received a “special recommendation” in Fodor’s 2002 Edition of The Carolinas and Georgia. More NEWS updates here.
Today the inn’s address is 548 EAST President Street, Savannah, Georgia USA 31401.
Built in Greene Ward, Trust Lot 18, Green Palm Inn’s Folk Victorian cottages were built in 1897 for seamen captains, “Samuel House and N. B. Sison with privet [sic] privys, one on the West half of the lot and one on the East half of the lot.” The building was designated as “546 President Street.”
Located near Savannah River port activities, the East Broad Street and West Broad street wharfs were busy places of commerce. The “546” building faced what was would become the seaman’s house just south on President Street overlooking Greene Square.
By 1890 – following the American Civil War Savannah (or what some southerners called “The War of Northern Aggression”) — the city’s population had reached 57740. Many of the new residents were freed African slaves from southern plantations. Savannah’s 1897 population was 65000. The new construction of 546 East President Street is verified on insurance maps dated 1898. However, those maps show no construction on the south side of President Street in the 500 block.
Historical records also show that tenants lived in the property through much of the mid to late 1900s. By 2000 the property was occupied by Rosenbluth Travel.
More Character-rich Backstories
From Savannah’s founding in 1733, the lands of Green Palm Inn were settlers’ farmland gardens where rice was the primary crop raised for survival during early colonization of the British colony of Georgia. Bethesda Gate was the colonial-era entrance to the city proper along the eastern palisades (fort boundaries) of King Street (now President Street). The fort wall was located approximately in the vicinity of today’s Drayton Street, as recorded on a map entitled “Savanna Town in Georgia.”
“King Street” (named to honor of King George II of England) was renamed “President Street” in May 1801. Following the American Revolution many streets with names like “Duke” (now “York”) and “Prince” were renamed to reflect American liberty from the royal rule of England. The street north of the inn is State Street and was formerly “Prince Street.”
Like its namesake of green palms in Savannah’s historic landscapes, the Inn takes its place in the tapestry of the “Forest City.”
In a volume entitled “Historic and Picturesque Savannah,” dated 1889, an illustration of the “Palmetto” points to the palm tree, noteworthy of its place in Savannah history before the turn of the century.
Indigenous palm trees grow along the Georgia Coast. In the 1800s, when the rail lines opened between southern Florida and Savannah, more palm trees were transported to Savannah and placed in the Savannah landscape.
The décor of Green Palm Inn is British Colonial with accents of a variety of palm trees. Food selections include palmiers, heart of palm, and dates.
While the 1898 Mayor’s report records 375 feet of President Street (from Jefferson to Barnard) were paved, insurance records show in 1898 show that President Street in the 500 block was “not paved.” However, from the east side of Bull Street to the west side of Drayton Street, asphalt paving was authorized in 1897. The Mayor’s report states a street railway ran between Montgomery and West Broad on President Street.
It was the Ordinance of April 7, 1897, that proposed that South Broad Street be renamed Oglethorpe Avenue “in memory of the distinguished founder of the colony of Georgia.” Passenger vehicles for hire in the city were authorized to charge as much as fifty cents (50c) to transport a passenger to and from the wharfs of East Broad Street and West Broad Street.
- The Clerk of the Market is to be the inspector of meats, fish, provisions, fruits and vegetables.
- Hacks and other vehicles for hire are to use lights when on the streets of Savannah at night. Identifying numbers were painted on their lamps.
- Trucks, drays and wagons are prohibited from using Bull Street. There is a $10 fine and imprisonment not to exceed 10 days.
- Anyone using a velocipede, tricycle, bicycle or similar vehicle may not travel greater than 10MPH.
- The Keeper of the Powder Magazine is to own, at his own expense, 4 pairs of woolen socks to be worn inside the magazine.
The status of the Savannah Theatre (America’s oldest continual theater in operation, once known as the Atheneum) is reported in 1897: “The house had electric illumination and there were 6 members of the house orchestra. Savannah’s 1897 population was 65,000. The theatre was remodeled in 1895.” Rail travel was popular in 1897 and brought entertainers to town.
The Savannah College of Art and Design’s “Virtual Historic Savannah Project” reports: “Prior to 1897 all the buildings in Savannah had a different address. The addresses on the east-west streets did not follow the East-West address format. For these streets the addresses began on East Broad and increased in number as they went westwards. It was in November 1896, that the East-west system was introduced.” In 1897, P.W. Meldrim was Mayor. He was Superior Court Judge of the Savannah District and former state representative. He purchased the land later to be named “Meldrim, Georgia” in Effingham County for $340. In 1892, Judge Peter Meldrim purchased the Green-Meldrim House and lived in the home a number of decades. In 1943, his heirs sold the house to the St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is located next door. In 2009, thanks in part to the $400,000 Save America’s Treasures grant, the Green-Meldrim House was restored. The home’s amazing past includes a brief residency by General Sherman during the time Union Troops occupied Savannah during the Civil War (1864-1865). As an English subject, Mr. Green required that Sherman pay rent during the time he occupied the elegant Gothic-style house. On the evening of January 12, 1865, Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton meet at the Green House with 20 African-American leaders, most of them newly freed from slavery.
The conference came amid charges that Union forces had mistreated African-Americans who followed Sherman’s army during its march from Atlanta to Savannah. A short time later, Sherman issues his “40 acres and a mule” order, which freed southern slaves. The order is thought to have been signed in the upstairs in this house.
Judge Meldrim was ex officio President Board of Commissioners Colored Industrial College, which may explain President McKinley’s visit in December 18, 1898. [Mrs. P. W. Meldrim was regent of the Colonial Dames, of Georgia. Mrs. W. W. Gordon was President.) William Howard Russell, a Civil War correspondent for the London Times, described it in 1861 as among the best of a number of Savannah houses that had a “New York Fifth Avenue character.
A building that slightly resembles a castle, The Savannah Powder Magazine (on Ogeechee Road) was built in 1898 and used until 1963 for storing explosive powder, artillery ammunition, and eventually dynamite. It was built when P.W. Meldrim was mayor. The building was designed by Savannah architects, Alfred Eichberg and Hyman Witcover, who are credited separately with Savannah buildings including: City Hall, SCAD’s Eichberg Hall, Telfair Hospital, and the Scottish Rite Temple. With a gothic design, The Savannah Powder Magazine is the only municipal powder magazine known in Georgia. No other similar historic structures exist anywhere in the state outside of military installations, such as Fort Pulaski or Fort Jackson.
Chairman of Council was Samuel P. Hamilton, who owned the Brush Electric Light Company. His company charged the city a reduced rate of $72 per light per annum (from a former $90 per light per annum) for public city lighting. It was Hamilton who built Hamilton Mansion on Lafayette Square (now Hamilton-Turner Inn). William L. Grayson (for whom Grayson Stadium was named) was Fire Commission Chairman. W. W. Gordon Jr., — a lawyer of Savannah, graduate of Yale, and major in the Georgia militia — was Secretary of Park and Tree. He was brother to Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts.
On December 18, 1898, President William McKinley gave a speech at the Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical College in Savannah, a college for African-Americans learning new skills (now Savannah State University). He encouraged education and not to forget the home. “The home is the foundation of good individual life and of good government. Cultivate good homes, make them pure and sweet, elevate them, and other good things will follow…. I leave with you one word: Keep on….”
Savannah Firsts (1886-1993)
- 1886 FIRST building in the United States built over a public street. (Cotton Exchange on Factors Walk)
- 1886 Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences: The FIRST art museum in the Southeast. Formerly it was built as the “town villa” for the Telfair family during Savannah’s social season. When the museum opened in May 1886, Jefferson Davis was among the dignitaries who attended.
- Circa 1900 FIRST Public Health Agency established in Savannah, GA.
- 1911 FIRST Motorized Fire Department in the United States.
- March 12, 1912 FIRST Girl Scouts of America founded in Savannah, GA, by Juliette Gordon Low.
- Registered March 12, 1912 MARGARET DAISY GORDON (Niece of Juliette Low) was the first registered Girl Guide in the United States (in Savannah, GA). (The name “Girl Guides” was changed to “Girl Scouts” in 1913.)
- 1993 FIRST City to introduce a Computerized Reservation System available to 290,000 travel agency computer terminals throughout the world