By Henrylito D. Tacio
Every time I visit the United States, I usually go to those places which are very familiar to Filipinos. Generally, I like those that are used in the movies. When I was in Minnesota, my sister Elena brought me to the area where Old Grumpy Men and Jingle All The Way where shot.
When I returned a couple of years later, Elena and her husband Daniel Chase took me to the Yellowstone National Park. On our way home, we stopped by in the place where Brad Pitt was doing fly fishing in Robert Redford’s adaptation of A River Runs Through It.
Two years ago, my aunt Aida and her husband Carl moved to Savannah after more than two decades of living in Columbus, Ohio. After attending an international conference in Florida, I decided to pay them a visit. When my aunt Aida learned that I am fond of visiting film locales, she brought me to the house that was used in the Clint Eastwood flick, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Well, Savannah has been used as the site for many films, mainly because of its still fairly-accurate landscapes. Over 85 movies have been shot in the city since 1915. Scenes from The Legend of Bagger Vance, Glory, The General’s Daughter, and Forces of Nature were shot here. Forrest Gump’s famous park bench scenes were also filmed here, in Chippewa Square. Most recent movies filmed in the city were Without Love, Under Tow, and The Gift.
Savannah is a city located in the state of Georgia, just an hour flight from Atlanta.
It was established in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe and was the birthplace of the Georgia colony, the seat of the colonial government.
During the American Revolution the British took Savannah on December 29, 1778, and held it until July, 1782. A land-sea force of French and Americans tried to retake the city in 1779, first by siege and then by direct assault, but failed dismally. Savannah was the state capital from 1782 to 1785. With the growth of trade, and especially after the invention of the cotton gin and the construction of railroads extending to the cotton fields of central Georgia, the city became a rival of Charleston as a commercial center. The first steamship to cross the Atlantic, the Savannah, sailed from there to Liverpool in 1819.
“The most beautiful city in North America,” is how Paris’s famed Le Monde newspaper describes Savannah today. The Toronto Sunday Sun says of this alluring city: “Savannah wears her past like a fine old cape, draped in Southern graciousness, pockets filled with treasures of a rich, proud history.”
Another author describes: “There’s something magical about Savannah. Centuries-old oak trees, typical of tropical climates, line the sidewalks and create a canopy over the streets. The houses or buildings in the historic district neatly adjoin one another; many sit directly on the sidewalk. Some showcase a small potted garden on their front porch, a way to add a splash of color, a touch of individuality and to give the homeowner an excuse to linger on their stoop, water plants and greet those who pass by.”
Every year, Savannah attracts millions of visitors, who enjoy the city’s architecture and historic buildings. Just to name a few: the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the first public museums in the South), the First African Baptist Church (one of the oldest African American Baptist congregations in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third-oldest synagogue in America), and the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the country’s oldest standing antebellum rail facility).
Today, Savannah’s downtown area – known as the Savannah Historic District – is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, designated by the U.S. government in 1966. If you watch the Clint Eastwood directed film, you can get look at the downtown. “Savannah is an absolutely beautiful place full of history and romance,” commented one recent visitor.
Savannah’s historic district has 24 squares. The squares vary in size and personality, from the formal fountain and monuments of the largest, Johnson, to the playgrounds of the smallest, Crawford. Elbert, Ellis, and Liberty Squares are classified as the “lost squares,” destroyed due to development in the 1950s.
Famous among these squares is the site of the Myers Drinking Foundation in Forsyth Park. The fountain is a handsome bronze drinking fountain nine feet five inches in height, including the statue, and six feet three inches high from the base to the base of the statue. The female figure at the top, which is about three feet in height, represents a woman caressing a dove. The sides of the fountain are ornamented with designs in relief. Two faucets, with a basin below each, are placed on opposite sides of the fountain at the height of four feet from the ground.
Just across Monterey Square is the Mercer Williams House, owned at one time by the great grandfather of the award-winning songwriter Johnny Mercer, author of “Moon River,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Jeepers Creepers” and “Autumn Leaves,” among many others. The block-long house was made famous in the film, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Savannah is touted to the “most haunted city” in the United States. In fact, a travel agency is conducting “ghostly trolley and spirits stroll” every night. “Embark on a journey into the dark,” it said.
Don’t be surprised because historical cemeteries are everywhere. No wonder, there is such thing as Department of Cemeteries, which maintains five existing cemeteries: Colonial Park (an early graveyard dating back to the English colony of Georgia), Laurel Grove North and South (with the graves of many Confederate soldiers and African American slaves), Greenwich and Bonaventure.
Each cemetery has a unique character and is historically-significant to the city. In Bonaventure, some of the famous people buried include Conrad Aiken, William Butler, George Jones, Johnny Mercer, William W. Paine, James R. Sneed and John Walz. You can walk through the cemetery and see their burials – at night or during day time.
Located just 20 minutes east of downtown Savannah, Tybee Island – Savannah’s Beach feels world’s away. This quaint beachfront community has been known as “Savannah’s Beach” for decades, attracting beachgoers in search of sea, sand and sanctuary. Time seems to slow down on this barrier island, which features award-winning seafood and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water.
Now, let’s go back to downtown once more. It’s restored central market features antiques, souvenirs, small eateries, as well as two large outdoor plazas. At the Riverfront Plaza, a restored nineteenth-century cotton warehouses and passageways, you can also do shopping and bar hopping. Of course, restaurants abound, too.
Indeed, my visit there was educational and very unique! I can’t wait to visit the city again in the near future. — ###