At the east end of Bay Street where it meets East Broad, a bluff rises behind a masonry wall—at 40 feet off the river, it’s the highest point in Chatham County. This is Trustees Garden, the nation’s first experimental garden.
Modeled on the Chelsea Botanical Garden in London, it was intended to be the epicenter of Savannah’s silk industry. Alas, the colonists had little knowledge of native soils or climate—they thought the winters would be milder—and the experiment was not as successful as hoped.
Soon Trustees Garden became the site of Fort Wayne, a defensive installation overlooking the river named after General “Mad Anthony” Wayne of Revolutionary War fame, who retired to a plantation near Savannah. The Fort Wayne area—still called the “Old Fort” neighborhood by old-timers—fell from grace and became associated with the “lowest elements” of Savannah society, which in the 19th and early 20th centuries were considered Irish and African Americans.
It also became known for its illegal activity and as the haunt of sea salts such as the ones who frequented what is now the delightfully schlocky Pirates’ House Restaurant (20 E. Broad Street, 912/233-5757, www.thepirateshouse.com ). That building began life in 1753 as a seamen’s inn, and was later chronicled by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island as a rogue’s gallery of pirates and nautical ne’er-do-wells.
Find the Herb House, on East Broad Street, the older-looking clapboard structure next to the Pirates’ House entrance. You’re looking at what’s considered the single oldest building in Georgia and one of the oldest in the United States. Constructed in 1734, it was originally the home of Trustees Garden’s chief gardener.
To the rear of Trustees Garden is the 1881 Hillyer building, now the Charles H. Morris Center, a mixed-use performing arts and meeting space that is heavily used during the springtime Savannah Music Festival .
Just north of Reynolds Square  on the north side of Bay Street  you’ll come to Emmet Park, first a Native American burial ground and then known as “the Strand” or “Irish Green” because of its proximity to the Irish slums of the Old Fort. In 1902 the park was named for Robert Emmet, an Irish patriot of the early 1800s who was executed by the British for treason.
Within it is the eight-foot Celtic Cross, erected in 1983 and carved of Irish limestone. The Celtic Cross is the center of a key ceremony for local Irish Catholics during the week prior to St. Patrick’s Day.
Close by is one of Savannah ’s more recent monuments, the Vietnam War Memorial at East Bay Street and Rossiter Lane. The reflecting pool is in the shape of Vietnam itself, and the names of all 106 Savannahians killed in the conflict are carved into an adjacent marble tablet.
Walk a little farther east and you’ll find my favorite little chapter of Bay Street history, the Beacon Range Light. Tucked into a shady corner, few tourists bother to check out this masterfully crafted 1858 navigation aid, intended to warn approaching ships of the old wrecks sunk in the river as a defense during the Revolutionary War.