savannah ceramic cat

savannah ceramic catPHOTO: Ceramic at the Maritime Museum is one of the type displayed at European brothels during the 18th and 19th centuries; if the eyes were green, the brothel was open, red eyes meant the police were in the area, and the cat turned around meant the brother was closed.

Savannah is a city filled with museums to fit everyone’s  taste.  The Prohibit ion Museum, the only one of its kind in the nation, is fascinating for anyone who lived through the 13 years the nation tried to dictate morals.  For anyone who lives in an area impacted by the era of bootleggers,  revenuers, or speakeasies, their stories are still fascinating to hear and tell.

But in addition to this museum, there are churches, ante bellum architecture, the birthplace of Juliet Low and the Girl Scout movement she started based on Britain’s Girl Guides,  ghosts, and maritime history.   There is art to be admired, great food to taste, antiques to admire, and history to learn. And it’s all right there, short  walks  away from any DOT station, the free bus service that encircles the historic district and runs every ten minutes.  Savannah is a walker’s delight but with DOT even available easily and cheaply for those who want convenience.

As large and well known as the Prohibition museum is, the Webb Military Museum is small, tucked away, and little known. But both this little museum and its owner are fascinating.  It’s called the Webb Military Museum, the friendly owner will tell you up front and easily, because his name is Webb and the museum is filled with military artifacts.   Since he was a kid, he was fascinated by the accoutrements of war, Mr. Webb will explain, and as he grew older, collected more, married, and had a family, his wife suggested he open his own museum purely to have a locat ion to put  it all. Hence, the Webb Military Museum.


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savannah maritime museum

PHOTO:  Exhibits at Maritime Museum include paintings, artifacts and models 

Located on E. York Street, a short walk from St. John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral, the museum is filled with uniforms, medals, papers, photos, headgear and equipment from every war from the Civil War  through Iraq, including Indian  Wars and the Spanish American War.   Located on a single floor, it’s a walk through at  your own pace kind of museum , so it can take anything from an hour to half a morning.   Mr. Webb is right there to explain any particular artifact and how he acquired it. He will also tell you the museum’s purpose is simply to honor the armed forces from all wars. Some of the displays contain named groupings of servicemen highlighting their individual stories of service.  It ‘s worth the $10 admission, and especially nice since ac tive duty military are admitted free, with a special discount also for  veterans and senior citizens.

The Cathedral  is breath taking in its  architecture, opulence and history.     It was French Catholics who  established the first catholic parish in Savannah and  named it for St. John the Baptist. They had emigrated from Haiti after the 18th century uprising there as well as from France where they were fleeing the French Revolution of 1789. The actual building for the parish underwent many different constructions, additions, demolitions  from  fire, hurricane as well as the  need for a larger building until the present church was built in  1900 and  dedicated as a cathedral  12 years later.  The church’s stained glass windows  were designed and created by Innsbruck Glassmakers of Austria,  the 14 stations of the cross on  the walls of the church are wood carvings from Bavaria, the  puplpit was made in  Pennsylvania with carvings from Italy, and the main altar, which weights four and a half ton, as  well as the baptisimal font, were  carved from marble from Carrara, Italy.  An act ive parish with a predominant ly Irish congregation t today…they  do paint the streets of Savannah green on St. Patr ick’s Day…. the church is closed during religious services, but  otherwise welcomes visitors to enjoy its beauty.

savannah scarborough signPHOTO: Scarbrough House sign in one of the squares in Savannah

The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum is located in Scarbrough House, the 1819 home of the owner of the Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is filled on two levels with a colorful exhibition of ship models of all sizes…..there is very large one of the Titanic partially submerged in its very realistic ocean setting….paintings and maritime an tiques, along with great video presentations  to give more in depth explanations and understanding of the exhibits.  The Scarbrough House also boasts of the largest gardens in the historic district.

If there is any disappointment in Savannah, it’s the ghost tour, actually nothing more than a costumed employee  with an accent telling stories, inviting you  to walk around the paintings  during the half hour the tour visits the Telfair Museum, and wait to find out whether you see, hear or are touched by a ghost.  The only tour not  worth the price of admission.  B ut certainly not  enough to take away from the welcoming people and charming attraction of a beautiful and historic city.

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...