The Waving Girl
Begin your walking tour of River Street on the east end, at the statue of Florence Martus, a.k.a. The Waving Girl, set in the emerald green expanse of little Morrell Park. Beginning at the age of 19, Martus—who actually lived several miles downriver on Elba Island—took to greeting every passing ship with a wave of a handkerchief by day and a lantern at night, without fail for the next 40 years.
Ship captains returned the greeting with a salute of their own on the ship’s whistle, and word spread all over the world of the beguiling woman who waited on the balcony of that lonely house.
Was she looking for a sign of a long lost love who went to sea and never returned? Was she trying to get a handsome sea captain to sweep her off her feet and take her off that little island? No one knows for sure, but the truth is probably more prosaic.
Martus was a life-long spinster who lived with her brother the lighthouse keeper, and was by most accounts an eccentric, if delightful, person—which of course makes her an ideal Savannah character.
After her brother died, Martus moved into a house on the Wilmington River, whiling away the hours by—you guessed it—waving at passing cars.
Martus became such an enduring symbol of the personality and spirit of Savannah that a U.S. Liberty ship was named for her in 1943. She died a few months after the ship’s christening at the age of 75.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition