Photo courtesy of kenlund
Johnson Square is drenched in history. It was the first of the original squares laid out by Savannah’s founders in 1733. The square takes its name from Robert Johnson, who acted as the governor of colonial South Carolina and who was an ally of Georgia’s founder James Edward Oglethorpe. It is said that some of American history’s greatest men gave speeches in this location, including George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Additionally, President Monroe held a reception in this square in 1819.
Sitting on Bull Street and flanked by Congress and Bryan Streets, the square boasts two lovely fountains and a remarkable bronze and marble sundial in honor of William Bull, also a friend of Oglethorpe. An historic map of the city of Savannah is etched in its face.
A striking obelisk dating from 1825 stands in the center of Johnson Square in memory of the Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene, whose remains are actually buried there in the square, along with those of his son. The two were originally laid to rest in Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery, but the burial site was lost during the Civil War when Union soldiers ravaged the graveyard. The remains were eventually found, their identities confirmed and moved to their present location in the square in 1901.
Known to many locals as “Bank Square,” Johnson Square is at the center of the banking district of the downtown area, as it is surrounded on all sides by the impressive buildings of busy major banks. Because of its location, the square is heavily trafficked during the day by bankers and other locals who are either doing business or simply enjoying a break outdoors in the beautiful common area. At night, the square is alive with couples, tour groups and partygoers who frequent the nearby restaurants and pubs. The square is host to food vendors and artists selling their artwork.
On most nice days, you can see local art students sketching or filming class projects here. The area is also often filled by the sounds of the church bells of Christ Church, Georgia’s first church, and street musicians performing for change. You will also find lots of benches to sit and enjoy the live oak trees, take a break from touring the city and enjoy a picnic lunch and a cold beer (only in a plastic cup!), which is especially nice on a hot summer day. If you look northward up Bull St. from this square, you can see a picture-perfect view of the glistening golden dome of Savannah’s City Hall.