Abandoned Sites · GA · Georgia on my mind · Sense of Place · Why I love the South

Tabby Construction: Building the early Lowcountry

Equal parts oyster shell, sand, water and lime, examples of the concrete material known as tabby can still be seen throughout the Lowcountry. In particular this blog will focus on St. Simon’s Island, GA and the surrounding area. From the first time I noticed this unique material, I was fascinated. Functional and vernacular, the abundance of oysters in this area created a striking sight as I traversed a wooded area in Tolomato Island, GA that was home to the ruins of a former sugar plantation and rum distillery known as ‘The Thicket.’

Tabby ruins of slave quarters at 'The Thicket' a sugar plantation/rum distillery, Tolomato Island, GA.
Tabby ruins of slave quarters at ‘The Thicket’ a sugar plantation/rum distillery, Tolomato Island, GA.

Continue reading “Tabby Construction: Building the early Lowcountry”

Community Relations · Family History · Intangible Heritage · Local Business · Sense of Place

The Last Polka at Blob’s Park: Our Final Evening at a Legendary Bavarian Wonderland

The front exterior of Blob's Park in Jessup, MD  photo credit: photoblog.baltimoresun.com
The front exterior of Blob’s Park in Jessup, MD
photo credit: photoblog.baltimoresun.com

I remember being 16 years old and it was Father’s Day weekend. My mom told me our whole family was going to this German place that played polka music and had plenty of German fare. Well not too many teenagers are going to be thrilled about the prospect of polka dancing, and I have never liked any kind of Weißwurst, bratwurst, weinerschnitzel, sauerkraut, etc. As much as I love speaking German, watching German films and visiting the German speaking countries, I was not thrilled about this family trip. What I didn’t know was just how much of a fun adventure this outing would be. Continue reading “The Last Polka at Blob’s Park: Our Final Evening at a Legendary Bavarian Wonderland”

GA · Georgia on my mind · Sense of Place · The marshes of Glynn · Theorizations · Why I love the South

The captivating salt marshes of St. Simons Island, GA: My Happy Place

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“….Somehow my soul seems suddenly free

From the weighing of fate an the sad discussion of sin,

By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.” – Sidney Lanier, 1878

So wrote Sidney Lanier over a century ago about his beloved South, and today this feeling continues along the land still untouched by development. St. Simon’s Island, in Glynn County, GA is a magical place that holds a great deal of relevance to my life. This is one of the most calming places I have ever spent time in. The island has its share of modern development but there is still enough wild land to keep the same picture Lanier had of this region so long ago. Continue reading “The captivating salt marshes of St. Simons Island, GA: My Happy Place”

Historic Paint Colors · Hoodoo Culture · Savannah History · Savannah Saturday · Sense of Place · Why I love the South

Savannah Saturday: Haint Blue

Houses painted haint blue in Savannah's Victorian District.
Houses painted haint blue in Savannah’s Victorian District.

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 “Savannah Saturday: Haint Blue”

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.

Continue reading “The Roberds Dairy: A glimpse into Savannah’s agricultural past”

Abandoned Sites · Community Relations · Savannah History · Sense of Place

Adaptive Rehabilitation in Downtown Savannah: The Warren A. Candler Hospital

View of the south elevation of the 1876 hospital building as of 01 January 2013.
View of the south elevation of the 1819/1877 hospital building as of 01 January 2013.

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.

Candler2 Candler3 Candler4 Candler5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savannah History · Sense of Place · Victorian Outlook · Why I love the South

Final Resting Places of the Victorian Era

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This angel is pointing upward to signify the departed’s journey to eternal life in heaven.

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.

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Looking from the bluff to the Wilmington River.

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.

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Eternal life and eternal hope are represented in this design

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:

http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-tl/pages/Cem_Symbolism.htm

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.

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