Abandoned Sites · Savannah History · Sense of Place

The Roberds Dairy: A glimpse into Savannah’s agricultural past

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.

Down a winding bumpy road we ended up in this field on the marsh. This property backs up to Bonaventure Cemetery.
Down a winding bumpy road we ended up in a field on the marsh. This property backs up to Bonaventure Cemetery.

"He went that-a way!" Bare trees  on the marsh pointing towards Bonaventure.
“He went that-a way!” Dead trees on the marsh (ironically) pointing towards Bonaventure.

I imagine that the surrounding neighborhood was once open land for the farm. Here are some interesting photos of the buildings. Of the two large structures, one looks like it is from the late 19th or early 20th century where the other one definitely is from around the mid-20th century.

The 20th c. building that appears to have once functioned as the main operations of the business.
The 20th c. concrete/cinderblock building that appears to have once functioned as the main operations of the business in the foreground; peeking up from the background is the standing seam metal roof of the older brick foundation/wood frame building.
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wellll……..
DAIRY03
A closer look inside reveals what remains of some old equipment. It also appears there was some fire damage on at least one occasion.
Rear exterior view of the 20th century building.
Rear exterior view of the 20th century building.
Old milk crates!
Old milk crates!
Here is a view of the older building. Perhaps this was used to house the dairy cows but I am not well versed in the operations of a dairy farm to say with certainty.
Here is a view of the older building. Perhaps this was used to house the cows but I am not well versed in the operations of a dairy farm to say with certainty.
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A side view of the older brick foundation structure, Note how the brick is disintegrating!
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This brick is disintegrating from water damage and salt deposits.
Old control panel!
Old control panel!
Glass tube fuses.
Glass tube fuses.
Rusting milk tank. I wonder if anything is left in there...
Rusting milk tank. I wonder if anything is left in there…

So there you have it, some photos from a fun and interesting adventure. It seems that walking around the grounds is ok and there were plenty of folks walking their dogs and sitting near the property on the morning we were there, but it is probably not advisable to climb inside the actual buildings and I am not advocating such activity. I do hope to go back there soon in the spring and get some photos when things start blooming. And I plan to do more research to see what else I can find out about this really cool kind of hidden site, so stay tuned for more on one of my new favorite places!

12 thoughts on “The Roberds Dairy: A glimpse into Savannah’s agricultural past

  1. This place is a popular spot for dog walkers and the owners are seeking ways to conserve the land. The salt water is intruding into what was the old pasture area, which is why those live oaks have died. One of the trees out there was featured in forest gump. The trails should not be driven on and posts have been put up to discourage people from driving down the “bumpy road”. Someday there will be a Friends of Savannah Dairy set up to ensure it’s protected.

    1. Hi Justin! Thank you so much for your input. I will make sure not to drive down those roads if I make another trip, did not know those issues but it makes perfect sense. Also I have worked with Friends groups before and love what can happen as a result, so please let me know if I can help y’all get that started and/or spread the word.

  2. I miss this place like Van Gogh missed his ear. I’ve been desperately homesick for Savannah for years and literally dream of the day I get to go back home and take my dog for a memorial walk on the old dairy farm. Such wonderful memories.

    1. You should definitely come back one day. I love hearing from people with stories of this place and it’s amazing how many people want to preserve it and keep it the sacred space that it is.

    2. I have since moved away from Savannah for a job and my heart hurts for it every day! I hope you get to live this dream, the Roberds Dairy is truly an amazing place!

  3. I remember so well the horse drawn delivery wagon bringing milk in those wide neck bottle with the wire and tape closures on top. There was always a lively discussion about who was going to have the cream that had risen to the top!

  4. I used to live on Texas Ave, across the street from the dairy.. I will have to dig up my picture that I drew of the dairy from my vantage point across the street. You know the dairy was in a scene (baseball scene) from the movie “Now and Then.” That scene was set in the 70s, which is when I lived there and the dairy was open. I remember you could buy milk out of machines that were all around the city..that way you wouldn’t have to go to the grocery store if all you wanted was milk. I also remember the Roberds family gave us ice from the big ice machine behind the bldg to keep our food cool, when we lost power after Hurricane David.

    1. Thank you for sharing these memories Bridget! 🙂 I love hearing these kind of perspectives about places when they were still in operation, this may be the only way we can know the full story of a place and its role in the community. If you find that picture definitely let me know if you post it online somewhere!

  5. Hi, I love your blog! I visit the dairy farm almost daily as I live literally down the street from it. I discovered the dairy farm about five years ago and fell in love with the land immediately!
    I’ve been talking a great deal with Betty who is frequently at the df maintaining the land with pick axes, push mower and weed whacker about the group Friends of the Dairy.

    We are looking to set up a meeting at the old processing plant soon and discuss what we can all bring to the table in helping to build and establish a 501c3 in order to protect the land and purchase equipment to help with the maintenance of the land as well as setting up hay rides and other activities.

    I told Betty that I would contribute my time in helping to get the Friends of the Dairy established.
    Please let me know if you are interested.
    Again, thank you for the lovely blog post on the dairy farm.
    peace,
    dan

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for reading and sharing! I really think a Friends group is what the Roberds Dairy needs, and there seems to be a strong belief that this magical place should be preserved. At the moment I am living in Maryland for a job but if I can be involved long-distance, I am all in!I would love to hear and share ideas about this. Please keep me posted on any updates, and I plan to visit Savannah around the holidays so if anything goes on around then I can participate. 🙂 My email is caitlin.lirio@gmail.com

  6. I live in Inverness,Ca.I went to look at deck job.I found a half pint glass
    milk bottle in great shape.

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