Savannah’s Historical Squares: Johnson Square

The largest of all the squares, Johnson Square was named after Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina in 1733. Governor Johnson was a friend and aide to Oglethorpe and the early settlers of Savannah.

Johnson Square was laid out in 1733 and was the centerpiece of the Derby Ward. This ward was named after the Honorable James, Tenth Earl of Derby, who was one of the 21 Trustees of the Georgia territory. The first 40 houses in Savannah were built in this ward.

At the heart of John Squares lies the Greene Monument honoring General Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island. Greene was a hero of the Southern campaign during the American Revolution and in 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette, the aide-de-camp to General Washington during the American Revolution, laid the cornerstone for his monument. Nothing was engraved on the monument when it was built, however, in 1886 bronze plaques were added with Jefferson Davis as a guest of honor at the ceremony.

In 1740, Savannah’s early colonists laid the foundation for Christ Church, the first Anglican (Episcopal) church in Georgia, on the southeast side of Johnson Square. The first church was dedicated in 1750 and burned in the great Savannah fire in 1796. The second started to be built in 1803 until it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804. The construction started again in 1810 and was designed after the Federal architectural style. The present building is standing strong and partially restored after the fire in 1897.

Towards the east side of Johnson Square is a small white marble bench dedicated to the memory of Johnny Mercer. Between 1929 and 1976, Mercer wrote lyrics to more than 1,000 songs, received 19 Academy Award nominations, wrote music for a number of Broadway shows, and confounded Capitol Records. Perhaps best known for the 1961 Academy Award-winning song “Moon River,” Mercer also took Oscars for “Days of Wine and Roses,” “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” and “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe.

Finally, located on the southeast corner of East Bay and Bull Streets, lies the United States Customs House designed by architect John S. Norris in the Greek Revival architectural style. Built between 1848 and 1852, the US Customs House is the first iron, fire-proof building in Savannah.

Book your stay, just blocks, from Savannah’s largest square.