Saturday, August 6, 2016

On the Waterfront – Savannah, Georgia

Originally posted April 5, 2015

Pier-side view of the Savannah River Bridge
After a leisurely stroll around Savannah’s lovely Forsyth Park, (See “Thanksgiving: Downtown Savannah”) I returned to my car, consulted my tour guide map and casually drove through old Savannah toward the old waterfront along the Savannah River. In it’s beginnings, the Waterfront was the hub and center for all sea-going cargo and trade, in and out, of Savannah and from there throughout the colonies. Some of the building still remain from those days, but the city has done much to promote it’s atmosphere as a casual dining and “party central” after dark. As I was there on a holiday, I didn’t expect to see that much going on, but there were other tourists there besides me.

Chart House - now a restaurant, but historically the oldest masonry building in Georgia.
This is the Chart House – now a restaurant, but it was built prior to 1790 and is the “oldest masonry building in the state of Georgia”. It has served as a warehouse for cotton and sugar. The construction is unique as it is built using “ballast stones”. Ballast stones were used in the lower part of an empty ship for balance since the masts and sails were tall which made the ships top-heavy. When the ships took on cargo, they discarded their ballast stones as needed to re-balance their ships. Waste not, want not – people in this New World took advantage of this raw material and created buildings and paved streets with these stones.

Another view of the ballast stone paved roadway along this busy trade center.
Here is another view of the ballast stone paved streets as well as some of the restaurants and bars along the road. It’s a one-way street. I can only imagine what the area might have looked like when the ships came-in; crowded with dock workers, merchants inspecting their purchased wares, curious onlookers and lonely sailors too long at sea now at liberty and looking for some kind of trouble to get into. I’m sure that in their day, there was plenty of trouble to be had, but the district tonight was nothing but sublime in the cool breezes of the early evening.

When I started my self-guided walking tour of the area, I actually started at the other end of the street. There to find a statue of “The Waving Girl”. Perhaps you’ve heard of this girl in some literature of the old south. Perhaps some writer borrowed the story and changed the circumstances somewhat, but here is the true scoop.

Statue of Florence Martus - the Waving Girl
Young Florence Martus began creating her legend by running down to the waterfront each time a ship would enter or leave port. As she waved, the ships would signal back to her. Born August 7, 1868, Martus lived with her brother in a lighthouse near the entrance of the Savannah harbor. The Waving Girl fell in love with a sailor who promised to return for her, but never did. Florence spent years waving to passing ships hoping her love would return. During her years at the lighthouse, she greeted nearly 50,000 vessels. She continued this practice for 44 years and thus became a seafaring legend. There are stories that the statue comes alive at night as she waves her cloth of stone. Of course, we have to have the obligatory ghost stories. I luv it.

About this time, I noticed one of the tour boats was heading this way from upstream. I took a bunch of photos as it approached trying to get that perfect shot – kind of the precursor to the Mark Twain days on the old Mississip feeling, but different. As the ship got closer, I heard the music loudly played over their P.A. systems as they played 1970s disco music. I soon lost all imaginings as I discovered it was not a stern-wheeler, but diesel powered. Throw in the 70s music and all I got (in my mind) was several snapshots of a multi-decked tourist boat. No illusions of ruffle-shirted gamblers or painted-ladies in hoop-skirts and big hats.

Multi-deck Riverboat - all aboard the "Disco" party-barge. (yeah, Disco music)
A little farther down, it docked with another boat and I got a shot of them both tied to the dock. The wind was brisk and my eyes watered as I took the shot. I hoped the camera didn’t get teary-eyed when it took the shot.

Two Riverboats docked along the new section of the Wharf.

Tourists love it, but I’ve been on them before. Gave it a miss this time. (See my Orleans trip.)

The real treat (for me) came as I approached this tall ship. I’ve always wondered where all those ropes went and why they needed so many. It takes a lot of tedious study to understand that every rope goes somewhere and is needed exactly where it is. There isn’t much left over, either.

The good ship "Peacemaker" docked in Savannah giving below deck tours.
For a mere few dollars you could climb aboard and scout around inside this lovely replica ship and get a feeling for living aboard this type of ship. They were raising money to make her seaworthy. As the evening light began to fade and the sunshine sank below the buildings, I struggled to get decent shot in mixed natural lighting. I focused on the American Flag against the blue sky completely unfurled in the wind. I thought of those days in the history of a new nation and how wonderful that scene would have been to the new Americans.

Losing the photographic light and having miles to drive back in time and back to camp, I decided to leave. One rule I usually try to abide is to never leave the same way I came in. I makes sense to me to be able to see it all that way. The sign said, “Historic Steps – use at your own risk”. I wouldn’t have it any other way. How many thousands upon thousands of people must have taken these steps from the docks area to streets above over the years and through the centuries? I was but one more, anonymous and unremarkable citizen, but this small experience seemed special to me.

Historic Steps. A sign said, "Use at your own risk." I did. I was fine.
As I walked up these steps built-in the late 1700s to the modern-day streets and automobiles above, it was like step-by-step up in time. I did turn around to get a shot of “the past”, but from that viewpoint the past was now the present.

Addendum: I'm not reposting these in their original order. More to come.


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