Photo courtesy of rcsj
Nestled under lacey oaks and surrounded by the beautiful architecture of structures such as the Federal courthouse and post office, Wright Square ranks as one of the most sought after attractions in historic downtown Savannah. The second of 24 Savannah squares, Wright Square, was first known as Percival Square named after John Percival who played a vital role in founding the colony of Georgia. Percival, also dubbed the Earl of Egmont, enjoyed only a short lived fame and in 1763 the square’s name was changed to Wright Square to honor Sir James Wright. Wright was the last and most recognized of Georgia's royal governors appointed by British rule.
Like many of Savannah’s historic attractions, Wright Square aims to please each of its visitors, regardless of their intention, which may be to immerse themselves in history or to seek the eerie activities of the paranormal. Both aspects are present here, as a myriad of occurrences make up the years since its development. For instance, in the 1700’s, Wright Square was home to the gallows where many of Savannah’s criminals met their fate.
Among these criminals was Alice Riley, the first women to be hung in the square. Riley was accused, along with her husband of drowning the man to whom they were indentured. Her husband was put to death first while Riley was allowed to live for a few additional months in order to give birth, as she was found to be pregnant. Soon after child birth, she too was marched to the gallows. The infant died soon after. Legend has it she is the reason Spanish moss will not grow near the spot of her death, as it is said, the moss will not grow where innocent blood has been spilled.
On the southeast corner of Wright Square stands a large boulder of granite commemorating the Yamacraw Indian Chief, Tomo-chi-chi. This stone monument was mined from Stone Mountain Georgiaand placed there to recognize Tomo-chi-chi’s invaluable assistance to the English settlers when they first arrived in 1733. Tomo-chi-chi was a trusted friend of General James Oglethorpe and when he died, asked to be buried among his English friends. At General Oglethorpe’s request, the Chief was buried in the center of the square and a stack of stones were placed on top of his grave in his memory. The original stack of stones was later removed to make way for William Washington Gordon’s monument, which now resides in the center of the square. Gordon’s monument honors the founder and president of Georgia’s first railroad, the Central Railroad and Banking Company. Gordon is also quite well-known as the grandfather of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts in America.
Also located on the square is the old Chatham County Courthouse. The original portion of the courthouse is constructed entirely of white Georgian marble designed in the Second Renaissance Revival style. The architectural grandeur, with richly carved adornment, is one of the most distinguished and imposing buildings of its era in Savannah. This is perhaps why the exterior has ben featured in the movies, Cape Fear and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Lush green topography crowns this beautifully preserved piece of American history. Plenty of shade from the mature oak trees provides a quick retreat from the southern heat and if chocolate is what you seek, be sure to pop into the Wright Square Café and score some of the finest delectables around.