Thursday, June 12, 2014

Savannah, Georgia...

As you might suspect, I'm always on the prowl for new places to shoot. I dig shooting just about anything, near or far. I don't think I'm really breaking any news when I say that.

Living in the oldest city in the United States, there's a lot of history here to shoot. And, once outside the confines of the city (if you could really refer to St. Augustine as a "city"), you still find cool things to shoot, be it to the north or the south.

I drive I-95 quite often. As I do, I always take note of the signs directing travelers to places like Fort Caroline or Cumberland Island National Seashore. These are places where I want to go shooting. I need to plan them as a trip, though, and commit to waking up at zero-dark-thirty and getting in the truck and driving. I actually haven't done that since I lived in Portland.

One spot where I've always told myself I would stop is Savannah, Georgia. I'd only visited the city once before; some time in the late 1980's and, sadly, I didn't get past the touristy section along River Street. 

But Savannah has a rich and storied history, and it even has a few ghosts thrown in here and there for good measure. Hey, you can't have a city like this and not expect a few ghosts along the way. I would go shoot there I would always tell myself, and I just never made the time.

Well, on a recent drive from North Carolina to St. Augustine, I finally decided to go. I'd left Charlotte early enough in the day that I could allow myself a few hours to walk around Savannah and shoot to my heart's content. So, at about 2:00pm, I pulled into the historic district, found a pay-lot along River Street, grabbed my camera, and hit the road.

River Street is an adventure to drive on, as it's all cobblestone. And, truth be told, it can be a challenge to walk on, as well. But it's what you expect to see when you come to a place like Savannah. It would be wrong if the road was paved.

A 19th century building now houses restaurants and shops along River Street...

Savannah has the "Three T's" down pat: "Tourists, T-shirts and Tours"...

And, boy, they sure know how to hook the tourists...

I was pretty surprised how crowded it was, given that it was a Monday afternoon. Getting pictures without throngs of people in them proved to be an exercise in patience. All in all it wasn't bad, but I always seem to find the people who'll walk smack into the middle of my shot and then... stop. 

God, I love those people.

It was sunny and warm, and I knew it wasn't going to be long before the heat caught up to me. I bought a bottle of water at one of the souvenir shops and went on my way.

What I find most striking about a place like Savannah is the architecture you find. Structures built in the 18th and 19th centuries serve as businesses, offices and, yes, even residences:


Houses on East Bryan Street...
 
This is Kehoe House, a bed & breakfast located on Habersham Street...

These homes are located across from Washington Square...

An old merchant building at the corner of East Houghton and Habersham Street...

Now, lest you think that every building in Savannah is several hundred years old, well, that's just not the case. This hotel, The Brice, sits on the corner of East Bay and Houston, and is decidedly not old:

The Brice, which is classified as a "boutique" hotel...

I wanted to find the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist, and I simply had no idea where to go. So, after walking up Houston, I doubled back to speak with the gentleman you can barely make out in the photo above. He pulled out a map and started using different color inks for different locales. He then suggested that, due to the heat, that I hire a pedi-cab. Well, two things: First, I don't do pedi-cabs. Why? Well, because they look silly. Second, if I was in the back of a large tricycle hurtling down the road, I wouldn't be able to take photos along the way. 

No, I told my new friend Rodney that would walk, and I thanked him for his time and for the map. Southern hospitality being what it is, though, he insisted that I have some cold water before leaving. As I drank close to the entire container of ice water they had in the lobby, I enjoyed a nice conversation with Rodney, the woman behind the counter, and whatever other staff happened to come through the lobby. Truly, truly nice folks, and the fact that I wasn't staying there didn't faze them in the least. Maybe I will stay there some time.


My new friend, and purveyor of ice water and information, Rodney...

Before reaching the Cathedral, I came upon Colonial Park Cemetery on Oglethorpe Avenue. The cemetery has been restored, and is no longer used for internments. It opened in 1750, and the last burial here was in 1853.


The entrance to Colonial Park Cemetery...

This is the grave of Archibald Bulloch. Bulloch was a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775 and, in 1776 became the first President and Commander In Chief of Georgia. His great-great-grandson was Theodore Roosevelt...

Family crypts can be found throughout the six acres of the cemetery...

The grave of Button Gwinnet. British born, he moved to America in 1762 at the age of 27. Like Bulloch, he was a member of the Continental Congress and, in 1776, signed the Declaration of Independence. If you look at the signatures on the Declaration, Gwinnet's is at the top of the left-most column of signatures...

More graves with markers rendered unreadable by the passage of time...

As I walked through the cemetery and towards a far gate, I noticed a lamp post. The cemetery used to be open at night, so a lamp post certainly wasn't all too unusual.

A simple lamp post in Colonial Park Cemetery...

Closer inspection of the post, however, reveals a security camera. In actuality, they were all over the cemetery...

As I left the cemetery, I could finally see the twin spires of the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist. Now, I'm not a particularly religious guy, but I know photogenic architecture when I see it. Next to old barns, few things capture my photographic attention more than an old church.

Though there were various iterations and locations of the church upon the founding of the first parish in 1700, the current building had its cornerstone laid in 1873. On February 6, 1898 a devastating fire destroyed almost the entire Cathedral, leaving only the outside walls and the two spires intact. The rebuilding began immediately, and the seventh bishop of Savannah, Benjamin Keiley, celebrated the first mass in the rebuilt Cathedral on December 24, 1899.

It's truly a remarkable structure:

The Cathedral of St. John The Baptist in Savannah, Georgia...

Looking back towards the rear of the Cathedral...

The Tabernacle...

A wide view looking towards the rear of the Cathedral...

The font, just inside the Cathedral's inner doors...

Looking forward towards the alter (which is to the left)...

The alter, rendered in black and white...


The pipe organ, located above the Cathedral's inner doors...


I love photographing churches, but few stand out as being on the same level as this one. Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine and the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal are probably the only other ones which have impressed me as this one did.

As I left the Cathedral, I glanced at my watch. As much as I wish I had more time, I knew it was time to start (slowly) making my way back to my truck to continue my trip home. But, see, I had to actually get to my truck and, well, there was a lot to shoot between the Cathedral and the Explorer.

Oddly, I don't think President Lincoln was ever here...

One of Savannah's countless Spanish moss-covered sidewalks...
 
The William Washington Gordon Monument, located in Wright Square. Gordon was the founder and President of Georgia's first railroad, the Central Railroad & Banking Company...


A chandlery shop along River Street...


Savannah City Hall, on East Bay Street...

I guess they figure that, by not using the Mayor's actual name, they never have to change the sign...
 
The Talmadge Memorial Bridge, which spans the Savannah River...

All in all, I spent about three and a half hours wandering around the streets of Savannah. Sadly, I'm sure I only scratched the surface of the city with respect to photographing it, and I know I would definitely like to return some time to rectify that...


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