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In Savannah, Ga.


Published: November 19, 2004

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Stephen Morton for The New York Times
The 20-acre live oak-shaded Forsyth Park is Savannah's largest and perhaps most beautiful open space.

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Savannah, Ga.
Map: Savannah, Ga.



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IN 1733, a Yamacraw Indian leader named Tomochichi agreed to the plans of James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia, to create an agricultural settlement on the Savannah River. Oglethorpe set to work, laying out an unusual town based on an elaborate system of 24 public squares. Today the squares, shaded by live oaks and surrounded by stately houses, churches and the columned houses of government, define old Savannah, where shops and cafes occupy mansions and town houses, and tourists and locals stroll at a leisurely pace. Nearby is Bonaventure cemetery, where John Berendt, author of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," sipped martinis as his friend Mary Harty told tales of the departed. While Savannah's builders carelessly flattened a burial mound holding Tomochichi's ancestors, they set aside ample acreage for the city's own dead, and in those graveyards, beneath long gray beards of Spanish moss, restless spirits are said to walk. Most of Oglethorpe's city has passed on to the ghostly realm, too, but his urban-planning legacy remains: a walkable, bikable, town, one of the loveliest haunts in the South.


7 p.m.
1) Brer Scallop

While working as a post-Civil War editor for The Savannah Morning News, Joel Chandler Harris, known for his Uncle Remus stories, lived for a while at the Marshall House, where it is said that he asked for a room far from the odorous, noisy courtyard that housed guests' horses and carriages. Today, that same courtyard's art-lined walls hold the wonderfully intimate 45 Bistro (123 East Broughton Street, 912-234-3111). The chef,

Ryan Behneman, prepares dishes like lasagna of jumbo sea scallops, wilted spinach, mascarpone cheese and a tomato ragu ($20) and filet of salmon gratinéed with sautéed hearts of palm and artichokes ($22).

9 p.m.
2) The Sixth Sense

Ever since the 1994 publication of Mr. Berendt's best-seller (now known in the city as simply the Book), with its spooky portrayals of spiritual communions, Savannah has played host to an increasing number of ghost tours. One guide is Shannon Scott, who has produced segments of Fox's "Scariest Places on Earth" television show and has interviewed hundreds of Savannians who claim experiences with ghosts, poltergeists, demons, witchcraft or voodoo (locally known as "root"). He recounts stories of the unquiet dead in his Sixth Sense Savannah walking tour, beginning at East Jones and Abercorn Streets and ending at his own 1850 town house, which he said is haunted by a long-passed resident named Eliza. "The first night I took people into the house," he said, "a woman on the tour shouted out, `Eliza wants you to talk about her.' I had not told a soul about Eliza." Reservations at (866) 666-3323; $15 for 90 minutes beginning at 9 p.m., $22 for two and a half hours starting at midnight.


8:30 a.m.
3) Pick Your Poison

In the Book, Luther Driggers visited Clary's Cafe (404 Abercorn Street, 912-233-0402) each morning, carrying a bag of a poison said to be strong enough to wipe out the population of Savannah. Today's reality isn't so scary. Clary's, in business since 1903, dishes up omelets, grits, steaming biscuits and plain, pecan strawberry or blueberry malted waffles ($4.95 to $5.95). In back is a quite remarkable back-lighted stained-glass rendition of the Book's cover.

10:30 a.m.
4) Antiques and Squares

Take a leisurely walk through Savannah's squares and shops. At 24e (24 East Broughton Street, 912-233-2274), in a 1921 department store building, handmade furniture from Indonesia and Hungary can be ordered with custom upholstery designed by the owners, Ruel and Delaine Joyner. Nearby, the wonderfully cluttered Pinch of the Past (109 West Broughton Street, 912-232-5563) is full of chandeliers, doorknobs and other hardware from old homes. At Chippewa Square, stop at Michael V. DeCook Antiques (20 West Hull Street, 912-232-7149), in an 1853 town house. Its owners, Mr. DeCook and Mark R. Hill, are as familiar with Savannah's gossipy history as with the high-end antiques they sell, like a 1790 Hepplewhite sofa priced at $10,000. Monterey Square holds a monument to a Polish count who died fighting the British in the Battle of Savannah in 1779 and the nondescript downstairs entrance to Alex Raskin Antiques (441 Bull Street, 912-232-8205), a jaw-dropping collection in a spooky, unrestored pre-Civil War mansion.

1:30 p.m.
5) Devil Worship

At Walls Bar-B-Que (515 East York Lane, 912-232-9754), a three-table hole-in-the-wall renowned as an authentic gem of African-American cooking, an out-of-this world choice is the devil crab — something akin to a very meaty crab cake — for $3.25. A lunch plate of the crab, or chicken, fish or pork, runs from $5 to $7.75, with sides like rice, cole slaw, collard greens or okra and tomatoes, a delicious local specialty. If no seats are available, order your meal to go and picnic in nearby Crawford Square.

2:30 p.m.
6) Girl Scout Palace

Juliette Gordon Low became the patron saint of generations of Girl Scouts when she founded their organization in 1912, but the Andrew Low House (329 Abercorn Street, 912-233-6854), where she lived with her husband, William Mackay Low, is as much a shrine to Savannah's past as to Mrs. Low herself. You can tour rooms with 13-foot ceilings, monstrous mahogany doors and Egyptian marble fireplaces.

3:30 p.m.
7) Park It

The 20-acre live oak-shaded Forsyth Park, Savannah's largest and perhaps most beautiful open space, is frequented by all manner of Savannians. At its south end is the Sentient Bean (13 East Park Avenue, 912-232-4447), a delightful coffee shop and cafe, and a haven for indie film, live music and literary readings. Grab a "fair trade" latte and a pain au chocolat, and watch the remains of the day float by. If you're a fan of the Book, keep an eye out for the ghost of Jim Williams, its antihero, at 447 Bull Street, his former residence, the Armstrong House.

7 p.m.
8) Under the Indoor Stars

Opened in 1924, the rambling Johnny Harris (1651 East Victory Drive, 912-354-7810) is the oldest continually operated restaurant in Savannah. One dining room is ballroom size. You'll sit in a mahogany booth under a domed ceiling of stars, surrounded by a 360-degree mural of bucolic scenes by an artist who painted it in exchange for food. On Friday and Saturday nights, Buddy Owens plays guitar. The fried chicken dinner ($9.95) is the stuff of legend.


9:30 a.m.
9) On the Antebellum Railroad

Battlefield Park Heritage Center (300 Martin Luther King Boulevard, 912-651-6840), on the site of a Revolutionary War battle, is home to a fascinating railroad museum, including a roundhouse that dates to 1845. It holds what are considered the nation's best surviving examples of pre-Civil War railroad structures. Don't miss the chance to thoroughly disorient yourself by standing in the base of a towering defunct smokestack and looking up to the sky.

11:30 a.m.
10) Full of Ginger

Ten booths run by local artists are near tables at the Soho South Cafe (12 West Liberty Street, 912-233-1633) in what was once an auto repair garage, but you're here for dishes like eggs Savannah, an English muffin topped with a jumbo crab cake, poached egg, asparagus and bearnaise ($12.95, with roasted potatoes and cheese grits). Homemade ginger beer tastes even better than it sounds.

The Basics

Savannah is served by the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and by Amtrak. Thanks to its flat terrain and its wide one-way streets and parks, it is a terrific place to explore by bicycle. Bicycle Link (22 West Broughton Street, 912-233-9401) rents single-speed cruisers with baskets, locks and helmets for $20 a day.

The Marshall House (123 East Broughton Street, 912-644-7896) was built in 1851 and restored in 1999. Its 68 rooms are $99 to $239.

The Bed and Breakfast Inn, a gracious Federal row house just off Chatham Square (117 West Gordon Street, 888-238-0518) has 15 rooms and three cottages for $89 to $169.

The 17Hundred90 Inn (307 East President Street, 800-487-1790), a regular stop on most of Savannah's ghost tours, has 13 rooms for $149 to $169 a night.

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