This is a story that has captivated my attention since I was a little girl. It was 1917 in Cottingley, UK when two cousins, Elsie Wright, then 16 and her 10 year old cousin Frances Griffiths created two photographs- one of Frances with fairies and another of Elise with a gnome. These pictures were shown at a lecture on “Fairy Life” in 1919 and from that point sparked a debate among many prominent individuals at the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. Critics felt that the fairies looked too modern with current hairstyles and clothing to be real while others argued that no darkroom manipulation or double exposures had taken place after examining the negatives. Continue reading
There was a point in time when a certain hue was widely accepted as a means of protecting one’s home from the threat of spirits entering. The theory holds that these ghosts, called haints, cannot cross water. Thus, painting the exterior of a structure the color of water will trick these malicious haints into staying out.
So where does this theory come from? Continue reading
On a recent winter morning, I took a trip with some friends to explore the site of an abandoned dairy. I had no idea anything like this even existed in Savannah, being such a humid and urban place it’s hard to imagine cows grazing on a marsh. But apparently they did, and there is proof in the structural remains of what was once a thriving farm industry. In this era of mass consumerism where everything is available at one large store, it is easy to forget that in the not so distant past all grocery needs were from local sources.
As for how large it was and the area the farm served I was unable to find any information but then again, my research has been limited to the internet. What I have been able to find out though is that this was an operating dairy until 1986. Maybe one of these days I will have some time to get to the Georgia Historical Society and see what I can find. For the time being, I wanted to at least share some photos and talk a little about the experience as a whole.
With so many vacant and unused properties throughout downtown Savannah, it is nice to the transformation from vacant to vibrant in what is arguably one of the most captivating buildings in the city. The Warren A. Candler Hospital, or the Old Candler Hospital as it is commonly referred to, was the first hospital in Georgia. There has been a medical facility on this site since 1819, but the hospital had its earliest beginnings in 1804. The following timeline will provide a brief history of the hospital based on available information through my research. Some of these dates may be approximations but here is an overview:
1804: Established as a mariners’ hospital and poor house located at 23 St. Gall on Joachin Street, a private home in Yamacraw.
1808: Incorporated as The Savannah Poor House and Hospital Society.
1819: Hospital built at current site on Gaston Street for $30,000.
1835: The hospital is reincorporated as a private institution.
1863: During the War Between the States the hospital cares for Confederate soldiers.
1864: A stockade for Union prisoners is erected around the Candler Oak tree.
1864-1866: When Sherman arrives in Savannah in December 1864 the facility is taken over as a Union hospital.
1866: $4,000 is appropriated to reopen the institution after the war.
1871-1888: Location of Savannah Medical College.
1872: Renamed as Savannah Hospital with the main objective of treating illness.
1876-1877: Building is renovated to its present Italianate style appearance with the addition of two three-story wings, one on either side of the central block. A cupola was also added to the roof at this time.
1879: Savannah Hospital hires its first female night nurse.
1902: The city’s first nursing school is founded by Mary Ann Roberts and is located in the hospital.
1931: The Georgia Hospital Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church South acquires the property and renames it in honor of Bishop Warren A. Candler.
1936: Pediatric Department opens.
1941-1942: A three-story brick building at the east end of the main hospital building adds 40 more beds to the institution by way of a $100,000 Federal grant to expand the facility.
1955: A 77-bed International style four-story wing is added to the north side of the main building.
1960: Candler merges with the Telfair Hospital for Females (1886), the longest operating women’s hospital in the United States. It became Candler’s obstetrical unit.
1968: A Contemporary style three-story concrete frame building is erected as the Minis-Gilmer Diagnostic and Treatment Center.
1980: Candler Hospital moves to its present midtown location at Reynolds and DeRenne Streets.
2012-present: After a period of vacancy spanning three decades, Savannah Law School purchases the property and begins a multiphase rehabilitation project to open the school at the former hospital.
At its current state, the first two stories of the 1955 building have been completely restored and are functioning as part of the law school, with the third and fourth floors restored but not yet in use. The next phase of the project involves restoration, rehabilitation and selective demolition in the original buiding. Next Friday, I am taking a tour of the site to see the building right before the next part of the project begins. I will post any relevant photos and information. Until then, here are some other photos I took of the exterior on New Year’s Day.
With the Halloween season in full swing, I find myself spending late evening hours watching creepy movies in the dark. One of my absolute favorites is the psychological horror film “Session 9,” a cult favorite filmed in 2000 at the now demolished 500 acre Danvers State Hospital site near Boston. When it still stood, the Danvers site was part of the Massachusetts Film Office’s Fee-Free Location Program, where qualified filmmakers could use state owned sites at no cost.
”Session 9″ may provide one of the best visual records of the hospital buildings and landscape before the massive Gothic Revival Kirkbride building and grounds was no more. Although a listing on the National Register of Historic Places does not prevent the demolition of a historic building-as was stated in the film-the site was eligible for rehabilitation tax credits that may have been available to help fund a reuse project. There is entirely too much controversy surrounding what went down with the demolition and subsequent construction of Avalon Danvers to get into in this blog but a Google search on the topic definitely makes for interesting reading.
An interesting side note: Danvers has been shrouded with eeriness for centuries before the state hospital came to be. The actual site of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 took place in this same location, not in the present-day Salem as it is commonly attributed. At the time, Danvers was known as Salem Village and that is where the first accusations of supernatural-induced hysteria began. The main Kirkbride building of Danvers Hospital was situated on the exact site that was once the home of John Hathorne, one of the judges of the witch trials.
In any case, what remains today of Danvers State Hospital is the centermost part of the main hospital building. Everything else was demolished and new construction has taken over. In my thesis research about this site, I came across writings by many individuals who expressed the view that there is no sense of history to this site after entering through the 19th century remains of the Kirkbride building. Never having been there myself-at least not yet- I can’t say for sure how good or bad of a job Avalon Communities did with this site but I do believe that the destruction of such a building is a loss on so many levels. Not only is it physically gone forever but there is one less piece of understanding who we are via how we got here that is missing. I think that’s a big reason why I love watching “Session 9″ so much. At least there is a way to see Danvers State Hospital in some detail while it was still there.
I spent this sunny Sunday afternoon taking a long walk through Bonaventure Cemetery in Thunderbolt, GA. Although it is 10 minutes down the road from where I live, I don’t visit it nearly enough. Every live oak-shaded path on this vast 160-acre property is filled with epic monuments-large and small- celebrating lives who have moved onward to the next realm. Scattered among the older graves are very recent ones, as it is still an active municipal cemetery in Savannah.
What fascinates me about this place is how serene and naturally beautiful it is. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Wilmington River, the choice of creating a cemetery here reflects an attitude of continued peace and beauty even after death. It got me thinking about how the societal views about death have changed dramatically from the Victorian era to now. The generic grave markers of today are a far cry from the final tributes the Victorians paid their deceased. They are a physical reminder of a time when people handled death in a more creative manner than we are used to seeing today. From picnics at gravesites, momento mori photography, to mourning jewelry and attire, the mid nineteenth and early twentieth century death rituals are quite interesting to look back on.
During the Victorian era it was common to see wreaths with draped with black crepe to alert passersby of the recently departed. People would also shroud mirrors inside the home with a black crepe material. The custom of the wake involved around the clock supervision of the body laid out in the house for three days. This interim period before burial would allow travel time for relatives and friends, and would hopefully be enough time to determine if someone was not actually dead.
As for fashion customs, widows wore all black with a black crepe weeping veil for a solid year and one day. After that period of full mourning, they were gradually allowed to add colors and prints into their wardrobes. Mourning jewelry included brooches, rings and bracelets made with a lock of hair from the dead.
As for the funerary monuments themselves, they are rife with symbolism. Common monuments include angels and crosses (spirituality), obelisks (eternal life), anchors (well grounded hope), urns (Greek Symbol of mourning), wreaths (eternal life), torches (eternity) and weeping women (self explanatory). Floral symbolism represents the frailty of life and lillies, ferns, daisies and ivy are just some of the common depictions seen on monuments in Bonaventure. To read more about it check out this glossary I found while doing some research:
The expectation was that a family would spend as much as they could on a monument, publicly displaying their social status. While these lavish displays are captivating, the money spent on monuments, mourning attire and mourning jewelry eventually just became too impractical for most people and by the World War I era, many of these Victorian customs had vanished.