Photo courtesy of wendidmiller
When you think of a Savannah square, images of shady ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, quiet benches, and leisurely strolls often come to mind. Ellis Square is quite different. The square you see today looks unlike any other square in the city, with a modern design, open feel and bustling with life and excitement.
First known as Decker Square, Ellis Square is one of the original squares planned by James Edward Oglethorpe during the founding of Savannah. The square is located amid Barnard, Bryan and Congress Streets within walking distance of the historic City Market. For nearly 200 years, the square served a market area until 1954, when, with much dismay, the significant square was demolished and turned into a multi-level parking garage. This event ignited the restoration movement that has restored so much of the Savannah you can see today.
Luckily, the city regained control of the treasured landmark and began rebuilding Ellis Square as a public area in 2006. The parking garage was relocated underground, the square was rebuilt on top, and the finished result was revealed to the public in an official ceremony in 2010. The endeavor was a huge success and received recognition as a sustainable urban renewal project.
The revitalized Ellis Square recalls nothing from its previous life. The modern square features open areas lined with cement seating areas, along with café style tables and chairs sprinkled under trees along its perimeter. A dancing fountain lies in the heart of the square, shooting up to 10-foot jets at various intervals. A glass-walled visitor’s center with restrooms and a bronze statue of beloved Savannahian and songwriter and lyricist Johnny Mercer are located on the west side of the square.
Ellis Square is one of the liveliest squares in Savannah today. As a popular public park, it is a favorite spot where both tourists and locals gather to spend quality time with their families and friends. On hot summer days, you can see children (and sometimes even adults) in their swim clothes and playing in the dancing fountains in the center of the square. Anytime of the year, you can join in on a strategic game of chess on the giant chessboard, enjoy a takeaway meal at one of the many sitting areas that line the square, while listening to live musicians perform at the neighboring City Market, or pose for a unique photo opportunity with the cheerful Johnny Mercer statue.