PHOTO: 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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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.
PHOTO: 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.