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The city’s many rich, green parks — it has 16 in the historic district alone — are blooming legacies of the brilliance of its founder, General James E. Oglethorpe. Savannah quickly took its place as a major city first in the settling of America and later in the wealth and grandeur of the Old South as the leading market and shipping point for tobacco and cotton.
Reconstruction was painful, but 20 years after the Civil War, cotton was king again. By the 20th century, Savannah turned to manufacturing. With more than 200 industries by World War II, the city’s prosperity has been measured by the activity of its port, which included ship-building booms during both world wars.
The evolution of this working rice plantation, from 1807 to 1973, is depicted through tours of the plantation house, museum and trails at Hofwyl-Broadfield Historic Plantation Site. Mansions and federal buildings that once housed military leaders such as Davenport House and Owens-Thomas House have preserved artifacts and colonial furnishings, serving as museums and reminders of the city’s past.
Savannah History Museum traces Savannah’s history from its founding in 1733 to present day. It is housed in the Georgia Railway Passenger Shed, a National Historic Landmark. There, you’ll find the bench that Forrest Gump sat on and an exhibit on the Revolutionary War Battle of Savannah, among other things.
Then there’s Telfair Museum of Art, which is coined as the oldest public art museum in the South. What was once a mansion opened by wealthy art collector Mary Telfair in 1880, has transformed into three buildings with different showcases of art. Today, the museum houses 4,000 works of art from Europe and America ranging from the 18th to the 21th century. The late Lebanese writer and visual artist Kahlil Gibran, known for being the author of The Prophet, has more than 80 of his paintings and drawings on display at this museum — the most of his that have been shown at any one institution.