Friday, October 1, 2010

Savannah Lafayette Square and a wedding

In my last post we were starting our short stay in Savannah, our historical city in the south of Georgia. It is recognized internationally for its beauty – it is a classic city. We continued our stroll through its many elegant garden squares. We parked our car close to Lafayette Square.

Lafayette Square was laid out in 1837. It was named in honor of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de la Fayette (1757-1834), who had visited Savannah in 1825. The Congress of the United States had invited him to America. He came and toured twenty-four states between 1824 and 1825.

“1837 – So named in grateful recognition of the aid given the colonists by Gilbert Motier, Marquis de LaFayette, the friend of Washington”

Lafayette Square is bordered by stately houses as are most of the squares in Savannah. We wished to visit the Andrew Low House as I had read that it had beautiful antique interiors. William Makepeace Thackeray (1781-1815), the English novelist, was a good friend of Andrew Low who invited him to Savannah several times. The desk where Thackeray worked is in one of the bedrooms. This house was built in 1849 by Andrew Low, a Scot by birth, who had come to Savannah in 1830 to join his uncle. Andrew Low became one of the wealthiest men in the British Empire. He remained a British subject; he also had a house in Liverpool. He died in 1886 several months before his only son, Willie, married Juliette Gordon. Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girls Scouts of the USA in March 1912 in the Reception Room of this house.

Andrew Low House facing Lafayette square

As we came closer to the house we could see a small sign on the door. The garden gate was opened so we went in. The sign said “closed during renovations.” Disappointment! I walked around the well maintained garden and took some pictures. The two sitting lions by the front stairs seemed to sympathize with me.

Click on pictures to enlarge them

In a book I had seen the front parlor of the Low’s house and other rooms. At least that gave me an idea of the furnishings – see below.

We went back into the park to sit under the giant oaks. We could see another mansion on our left.

This was the Hamilton-Turner house. It was built in 1873 for a former Savannah mayor at the exorbitant (at that time) price of $100,000. In 1883 the house had electricity, the first house in Savannah. It used to be open to the public for guided tours but it is now a luxury bed and breakfast. Both Andrew Low’s house and Hamilton-Turner B&B are reported to be haunted.

In the center of Lafayette Square is a lovely fountain which was erected to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Georgia colony. It was donated to the city in 1984 by the Colonial Dames of Georgia. The last time I saw this fountain was in November 2005 during the marriage of younger daughter. I remember it fondly as many lovely pictures of the wedding party were taken there – all of them now in a nice album. I took some quick snapshots with my old film camera at the time and will show them below.

This time I took many pictures of the fountain, from many directions and close up. The weather was warm. In November, at the time of the wedding, it was quite cool, although dear daughter said she did not feel cold. Most of the photos were of family members, not the fountain alone.

As I mentioned in my last post – when I was listening to Ray Charles in Paris I did not know that I would live in Georgia and that one of my daughters would be married in the Savannah Cathedral. Daughter and her fiancé were attending the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, which is about the same distance to Atlanta or to Savannah.

After I took all the fountain pictures we walked toward the cathedral but I still stopped looking down for flowers in the square then looking up toward the live oaks.

Just a few steps and we were close to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It is very large. I have a vintage postcard of the cathedral – it looks about the same as now.

Vintage postcard of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah (circa 1902)

Shortly before the end of the 18th century French Catholic émigrés established the Congrégation de Saint Jean-Baptiste, Savannah’s first parish, in a small church on Liberty Square. The congregation grew and in 1876 the present cathedral was inaugurated near Lafayette Square.

The cathedral is of French Gothic style with imposing nave and transepts. Groined arches are supported by columns. The altar is crafted of Italian marble. Stained glass windows were installed in 1904. They were made by the Innsbruck Glassmakers in the Austrian Tyrol.

I enjoy visiting historical religious buildings, not to worship, but for their aesthetic and their architecture – they are good places for reflection, not in a religious sense, but in a meditative way. When in France I like to attend classical concerts given in churches as they have good acoustics and beautiful organs. But I usually am shy about going inside them unless I can see striking stained glass windows. Below is St John the Baptist Cathedral organ.

Here are pictures of the interior of the cathedral which I took on our last visit.

Below is the cathedral as I took it in November 2005 after the rehearsal for the wedding. The lighting is different because it was at night.

I was pleased that there was a rehearsal for daughter’s upcoming wedding because, since we are not Catholic, I hoped that we would not make any mistake during the ceremony. There were 200 guests, only about 20 from our side of the family and the rest from the groom’s side. Their guests came from various US states, Canada, Europe and even from the state of Kerala, India. It was lovely to view all the beautiful silk saris in the decorated cathedral. For the rehearsal dinner we went to the Lady and Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant. I did not know much about her then (as I don’t watch much television.)

Paula Deen, Savannah restauranteur (courtesy of Food Network.)

The food was of the Southern “comfort” type. We had a reserved room and went to the buffet to help ourselves. I think there were the usual fried chicken, creamed potatoes, collard greens, yams, lima beans, macaroni and cheese, rice and some sweet dessert. Here is the picture I took of one of the buffet tables.

This time we went back to the Lady and Sons, not to eat (because you have to go there early in the morning to queue up to be assigned seating times for later in the day) but to have a look. The restaurant was the same but, adjacent to it, was now a gift store called Paula Deen Store. The store was stocked with many gourmet cooking items, pots and pans, a great variety of Paula’s cookbooks and magazines.

In 2005 after the wedding my husband had given me a cookbook from Paula Deen’s called “Paula Deen and Friends. Living it up. Southern Style.” I read her story, which is very compelling. Divorced, she moved from Albany, GA., to Savannah with her two sons and $200. She had a serious case of agoraphobia and the first two months there she stayed home all the time, only cooked. In 1989 with her sons’ help she started a small business. She cooked and they delivered the food to office workers. The business grew so she started “The Lady” - a restaurant in a local hotel. Her Southern Plantation cuisine caught on. In 1996 she was able to open her restaurant “The Lady and Sons” in the Savannah Historic District downtown. She continued to serve her home-cooked southern comfort food with her sons Jamie and Bobbie’s help. You can see some of her recipes here.

Looking at all these cookbooks and gourmets food in the store pantry made us hungry. We decided not to eat Southern food this time but to sample some traditional English pub food at Churchill’s Pub and Restaurant, which is British owned and operated. But we’ll talk about this meal in a future post.

I stood agog in Lafayette Square in Savannah, amid brick paths, trickling fountains and dark trees hung with Spanish moss. Before me rose up a cathedral of linen-fresh whiteness with twin Gothic spires, and around it stood 200-year-old houses of weathered brick, with hurricane shutters that clearly were still used. I did not know that such perfection existed in America.” - Bill Bryson, American author born in 1951


Margaret said...

I LOVE the quote from Bill Bryson - and it is still so apt today. Thank you, once again, for the beautiful photos!

Pondside said...

What an interesting post - some history, some food interest and some beautiful wedding photos! It must have been a lovely wedding.
I visited Savannah more than 30 years ago, but hope to visit again next year. I have wonderful memories of the last visit and look forward to adding to them.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place. You daughter had a beautiful wedding. You look as though you were enjoying yourself at the wedding too. It is interesting how life works out, isn't it? A Parisian hearing a song about Georgia ends up living there. Makes it interesting, that's for sure!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm so glad we're still in Savannah. Our history of this country is so interesting with people like the Marquie de la Fayette visiting American in the early 1800's. Can you imagine!

Antebellum homes are so amazing to me with their ghosts. Several homes I know of that era are haunted, including some which belong to friends of mine.

Paula Deen's story is truly amazing. Look at all of the happiness she found later in life. It speaks well for the strength of southern women.

Vagabonde said...

Margaret Bednar - I like that quote by Bill Bryson too and wish I could write as well on Savannah. Thanks for the visit.

Vagabonde said...

Pondside – you are kind about the photographs. We had my old film camera and I took some pictures by the fountain while they were waiting for the real professional photographer. With my Nikon now I think I would have taken better pictures. I’ll have to do a proper post on the wedding some day and scan the good photos. I hope you will be able to visit Savannah next year.

Vagabonde said...

Alwaysinthebackrow – you are so right – life is interesting. We never know what will happen in the future. I did not know much about Georgia while in France as the towns which are popular are New York and Los Angeles.

Vagabonde said...

My Carolina Kitchen – I am no longer in Savannah but I still have enough material to write another 4 or 5 posts. I’ll switch to another subject before I write them all not to be boring. How exciting to have friends whose house in haunted! There was a big book sale in Atlanta and I purchased a book on Savannah’s haunted spots…. Spooky.

DJan said...

I love that you included the wedding pictures, it was five years ago now, and it looks like it was perfect. You always tell such a good story, with history. I have never heard of Paula Deen before, and now I'll have to read more about her. I'm always struck by how much time and research you put into your posts. No wonder they are so interesting.

Ruth said...

I have to confess I am with Bill Bryson on this too. I am shocked to see such a cathedral in the U.S., especially outside NYC. It's beautifully situated, with the Spanish moss hanging down. What a privilege to have a wedding there! It must have been an extraordinarily beautiful ceremony.

I was tickled one visit to Paris when I saw Lafayette's statue (near the Tuileries, I think?), a gift to Paris/France from some American school children. I love how he is atop his horse, with his sword raised in the air. I have always enjoyed these back-and-forth camaraderies between America and France, like with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson too.

I'm glad to hear a bit more about Paula Deen, who has not been a favorite of mine. But hearing her story, I have more respect for her.

As for what you said in your comment at my place today, I do not know French (I think it must be a rumor from Ginnie? :), but I loved getting your beautiful French comment today. I was able to use an online translator, and I think I got a good enough sense of your meaning to understand. It was a fun exercise, too, to re-translate your French back to English, and interact with it that way. I also like to see the beautiful French words and compare them with the English. The other thing I like is that you are speaking in your own native tongue, which must be exquisite, because you are very elegant in English.

Vicki Lane said...

Bryson sums it up perfectly! And I loved seeing the wedding pictures. Thank you for the tour.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

J'adore Savannah! Your photos truly show the city to advantage with the Spanish moss in the live oaks, the fountain, and the cathedral. The city is rich in history and architecture.

The wedding photos of your daughter are a wonderful addition to this post. It must have been a very special time.

As always your photos and your stories are captivating and I look forward to your future posts on Savannah.


Friko said...

I think Savannah would be one of the few cities in the States that I would be interested to explore.
There is such elegance, such Southern grace, so unlike the brash and hurried life we here think of as typically American.

Lonicera said...

You're so interested in the history around you and you make it interesting for everybody else. It really does look like a beautiful place worth visiting, and how nice too to discover a mutual admiration for the wondrous Bill Bryson. He's very popular in England - he first came here in the early 70's as I did, and his assessment of everything he saw is so like mine. I also appreciate and envy his wit.
(Thank you so much for the lovely comment on my blog - I've left a reply)

Margaret said...

Just thought I would drop a note to you as I see you are originally from Paris. My daughter and I are starting a watercolor journal class via internet ... an imaginary trip to Paris. We went out and bought some books to help us add a bit of "realism" to our so-called trip. Chelsea ( is taking French in school and wants me to travel to Paris with her someday. :)

Kay Dennison said...


My former mother-in-law grew up in Savannah and we visited several times. It's a magnificent city!!!!!

Shammickite said...

Well, I said that I would like to return to Savannah a second time, and you have just taken me there! Thank you, Vagabonde!
A beautiful and elegant city.

Darlene said...

I have always wanted to visit one of the gracious Southern cities and now I just did, thanks to your informative post with lovely photos.

Your daughter's wedding must have been a highlight in your life and your dress was gorgeous. How wonderful to have the grooms family come all the way from India to attend and how spectacular for the women to wear their beautiful sari's. It must have been a beautiful day.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Chère Vagabonde ! j'ai aimé découvrir ce post ! MERCI A TOI et GROS BISOUS ! :o) ***

Ginnie said...

I have been to Savannah before, Vagabonde, but not in a way to really say I did it. That's why I NEED to go back. One day when we are visiting again in Atlanta, we will go. Not this time while in October...all our days are already full. (sigh) But I totally agree...who would expect to see a church like that in Savannah! I see them here in The Netherlands (like just this last Saturday) and I'm still in awe of them. Astrid and I have decided we will make sure we get a concert in one of the big ones here at Christmas time. The acoustics really are incredible. I'll let you know when that happens!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Thank you for allowing me to see these wonderful images and also I feel like I attended the wedding.
Would love to visit this Southern city.

Mage said...

Some of my died-in-the-wool yankee family members moved south and loved the beauty of that part of the country. You portray it well.

Thanks for your note and comments on caffeine and teas. I will certainly try your tricks. :)

tipper said...

What a wonderful post-so much interesting information and great pictures too! I have never been to Savannah-but I'm planning a trip for next spring. Your post made me even more anxious for my trip!

Vagabonde said...

Djan – you have never heard of Paula Deen? I guess you are far from the south – I don’t watch her TV show but I know she is a good cook. You may like some of her veggie dishes. Thanks for the comment.

Vagabonde said...

Ruth and Darlene – Yes it was a beautiful wedding. The groom’s family brought their priest, who is also from India, and the reception afterward had Bollywood dancing on the stage. Am pleased you enjoy the post.

Vagabonde said...

Vicki Lane, Genie, Kay Dennison, Ginnie, Thank you for your nice comments. Your visits mean a lot to me.

Vagabonde said...

Friko – Yes Savannah is a slow pace city. Another two you could add would be Charleston in South Carolina and New Orleans in Louisiana. All of them have that special Southern charm.

Vagabonde said...

Lonicera – Yes I am interested in history, but a lot of it is because I am curious. I always like to find “the rest of the story..” on many subjects or many sights I see. I hope this is not too boring.

Vagabonde said...

Margaret Bednar – how interesting to take a watercolor course and have Paris as the subject. I hope you will show some of your work on your blog.

Vagabonde said...

Shammickite – I took you to Savannah a second time and my next post will be a third time! I have a lot more on Savannah but I’ll have to take a break so as not to bore y’all.

Vagabonde said...

Nancy – Merci aussi à toi chère Nancy, je suis contente que ce post t’as plû.

Vagabonde said...

Maggie and Tipper – Thank you for visiting my blog. I always like to see new blogging friends. Please come back as often as you wish.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Your posts are always so rich---filled with wonderful interesting information and BEAUTIFUL Pictures, too...I feel like I just had a tour of this extraordinary city....! Your daughters Wedding must have been stunning...That Church is heartbreakingly beautiful!!! And that is quite a Fountain, my dear...!

I hope next time you come to Los Angeles we will meet...And there are places I would love to show you.

Tammie Lee said...

looks like everything was perfect and special, a time that made special memories. You truly showed how special the area is and everything that was shared.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Hello Chère Vagabonde :o) ! La forme en ce mardi matin ? je dépose chez toi une brassée de bisous et je te souhaite une agréable petite journée ! :o) @+ ***

Angela said...

Lately I have been too busy to visit all my favourite posts, but here I am back! What lovely pictures, and I marvel at your wish to detect all the hidden things. Those oak trees sure look different from our German oaks! But we have such churches, too, I love them, for the same reasons you do. Savannah sounds like a real inviting place! Thanks for your blog!

Dutchbaby said...

I have not been to Savannah yet, but now I feel have a little bit.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the wedding photos of your beautiful and smart daughter (medical college!). You also looked very elegant in the emerald green outfit that complemented your hair so beautifully.

The church is so beautiful. Light and airy with gorgeous stained glass art. It would be a grand place to meditate.

I'm with you when it comes to Paula Deen's recipes. It's a bit too rich for me, but I find her very endearing and entertaining to watch.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Chère Vagabonde :o) ! je te souhaite un bon mercredi ! GROSSES BISES !!!!! :o) ***

lorilaire said...

très beau reportage, la photo de la fontaine sur fond de cathédrale est magnifique !
Bizz Lori

Anonymous said...

I love the two lions, they look so sad and depressed! Hope you were able to cheer them up.

This place in general looks so classic... almost lost in time, stuck in another era. In a good way though.

Jeanie said...

Well, what a splendid visit to a beautiful city. I enjoyed the wedding photos by the fountains -- what a setting for photos to last a lifetime. And then the church -- like you, I prefer churches for their beauty, acoustics for music, stained glass and meditative qualities as opposed to ritual worship, but I can see how this would fit on all accounts.

As for Paula Deen, apart from giving me a shiver about all that butter, I simply adore the woman and every year make a pumpkin trifle I learned from her show. I admire her challenges and ability to not just meet them but to overcome them. I would make a stop there on my itinerary, too!

Marguerite said...

Fabulous post, mon cher, Vagabonde! Savannah is beautiful and I've always wanted to go there and now feel like I already have. And I thoroughly enjoyed seeing your daughter's wedding photos and loved the photo of you, too! Wow, that cathedral is exquisite and I'm sure that the ceremony was awesome! I greatly admire Paula Deen and she is an inspiration to women everywhere. Thanks for the wonderful tour! Cheers!

Vagabonde said...

Lady from the Hills – I’d love to see places in Los Angeles with you – you have such a great knowledge of the area. Thanks for the comment.

One Woman’s Journey – welcome to my blog. Thank you for leaving a message. I hope you will come back as often as you wish.

Tammie Lee – Savannah is a special place. I am pleased your enjoyed looking at my post.

Angela – I’d like to take a look at your German oaks. But it is true that the Savannah live oaks are superb.

Dutchbaby – Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I am glad that you enjoyed the post.

Merci Lorilaire et Nancy pour vos gentils commentaires. Cela me fait plaisir de vous lire.

Zhu – a writer of books for young people approached me to use my picture with the two lions. I agreed that she could use it, so the lions will go for a promenade in a book.

Jeanie – thank you for the visit. I’ll have to look at my Paula Deen’s cookbook now that the weather is cooler and I can do more cooking.

Marguerite - It is always a pleasure to read you on my blog Marguerite. I am pleased you liked the post.

Nance said...

Savannah, Charleston...the true aristocrats of the South. And I never get tired of live oaks with Spanish moss.

Lovely post.

dot said...

I think Paula Deen has done good for herself and family but I was very disappointed in the food when I ate at her restaurant.

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