Savannah WaterfrontA few years ago, urban renewal in Savannah endowed a once fallen-down district of this historic city with the elegance of “Tara” in “Gone With The Wind”. The waterfront district, known as River Street is the place. The centerpiece of this resurrected area, however, is the beautifully designed River Street Inn, which often leaves visitors spellbound…especially when decorated during the Holiday Season.
The River Street Inn has forty-four individual guest rooms on the third, fourth and fifth floors, each one having a different decor. One can stay in rooms that include four poster and canopy beds, hardwood floors with oriental rugs, and polished brass bath fixtures.
Interesting shops are found on the Bay Street side of the fourth floor along “Factor’s Walk”, and just beyond the doors of the first floor along the old cobblestones of River Street. Besides guest rooms, the third floor has meeting rooms and a billiard parlor straight out of the 1800’s.
River Street Inn – SavannahPrior to meals at any of the wonderful restaurants along River Street, one should join the other guests in the lobby of the River Street Inn each evening for wine, cheese, and always interesting conversation.
Many of the original buildings in this section of Savannah were built from old ballast stone during the early 1800’s, and were used for the storage, grading, and export of raw cotton. Due to the rapidly growing cotton industry of the time, however, many facilities became too small to meet the needs of the cotton merchants. Also, since they were hemmed in by the bluff to the south and the river to the north, the only option for expansion was to build upwards. Therefore, some owners added floors to allow additional storage and office space .
So that cotton bales could be easily moved in and out of these higher structures, a unique system of alleys and walks was created on the bluff. Bridges included in this design were built to provide street access to each level of the buildings. These alleys, known as “Factor’s Walk”, after the factors who graded the cotton, are one of the distinctive features of these continuous buildings. The total line of buildings along the waterfront is called “Factor’s Row”, which is an excellent example of 1850’s commercial structures. This unique composition contributes significantly to the landmark qualities of Savannah’s historic downtown area.
Though prices of cotton dropped tremendously during the War Between the States, it had a resurgence after the hostilities. Nevertheless, around the turn of the century, cotton prices had dropped so far that the buildings on River Street had to be used for other endeavors.
Through lack of use and repair, the old “Factor’s Row” continued to go down hill until the early 1980’s when the idea was conceived to restore the old waterfront section as a tourist attraction. Today, this part of Savannah provides a New Orleans-style atmosphere complete with good food, great music, interesting shops, and unique lodging opportunities. One can easily spend a whole weekend browsing through the many boutiques and sampling the excellent cuisine.
After an evening meal, however, one should enjoy the Mardi Gras-type mood by strolling down the hand-laid cobblestones of old River Street under the glow of antique gas lights. Even without entering any of the establishments, the great jazz, ragtime, blues, and gospel music emanating from many of these night spots is always a bonus during any evening excursion along River Street. And, never miss a chance to sit in front of a roaring fire in the lounge on the lower floor of the nearby, historic Old Pink House to hear the enchanting sounds of Gail Thurmond’s voice and piano. It is guaranteed to be the most romantic part of your trip!
In less than five hours from anywhere in the Atlanta area, one can be in the midst of an exciting and enlightening place that, on a smaller scale, is comparable with Key West or New Orleans. Savannah’s restored River Street district offers a festive atmosphere in a perfectly-woven tapestry of past and present!
For more information about lodging options, reservations, directions, or other opportunities in Savannah or the River Street district, call Toll free 1-800-253-4229.