By now you know the drill. The big monument in Wright Square, Oglethorpe’s second square, has nothing to do with James Wright, royal governor of Georgia before the Revolution, for whom it’s named. Instead the monument honors William Gordon, former mayor and founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad, which upon completion of the Savannah–Macon run was the longest railroad in the world.
Gordon is in fact the only native Savannahian honored in a city square.
But more importantly, Wright Square is the final resting place for the great Yamacraw chief Tomochichi, buried in 1737 in an elaborate state funeral at James Oglethorpe’s insistence. A huge boulder of north Georgia granite honoring the chief was placed in a corner of the square in 1899 under the auspices of William Gordon’s daughter-in-law.
However, Tomochichi is not buried under the boulder, but rather somewhere underneath the Gordon monument. So why not rename it Tomochichi Square? Old ways die hard down here, my friend.
On the west side of the square is the Federal Courthouse and Post Office, built in 1898 out of Georgia marble. The building’s stately facade makes an appearance in several films, including the original Cape Fear and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Across the square stands another Preston design, the Old Chatham County Courthouse, no longer an active judicial facility but still known as “the old courthouse.” Note the yellow brick construction, quite rare for this area.
Next to the old courthouse is the historic Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension (120 Bull St., 912/232-4151, www.elcota.org), built in the 1870s for a congregation that traced its roots to some of the first Austrian Salzburgers to come to Savannah in 1734. While most moved to adjacent Effingham County, many stayed and thrived in town, where they were universally well-regarded for their work ethic and honest dealings.
Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
Around the corner from Wright Square at Oglethorpe and Bull is the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace (10 E. Oglethorpe Ave., 912/233-4501, www. juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org, year-round Mon.–Tues. and Thurs.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Mar.–Oct. Wed. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., $8 adults, $7 children), declared the city’s very first National Historic Landmark in 1965.
The founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA lived here from her birth in 1860 until her marriage, returning home to stay until her mother’s death. The house was completed in 1821 for Mayor James Moore Wayne, future Supreme Court Justice, but the current furnishings, many original, are intended to reflect the home during the 1880s.
Also called the Girl Scout National Center, the Low birthplace is probably Savannah’s most festive historic site because of the heavy traffic of Girl Scout troops from across the United States. They flock here year-round to take part in programs and learn more about their organization’s founder, whose family sold the house to the Girl Scouts in 1953.
You don’t have to be affiliated with the Girl Scouts to tour the home. Tours are given every 15 minutes, and tickets are available at the Oglethorpe Avenue entrance. Be aware the site is closed most holidays, sometimes for extended periods; be sure to check the website for details.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition