Dated: August 9 2017

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Aug. 04, 2017 | By Chantel Baul


Part of Savannah’s iconic Southern charm is the city’s mystery. Savannah’s secrets are many, and there’s always more to uncover in this hauntingly beautiful historic hub. Although there’s much to learn in every sector of the city, quite a few unknown facts surround Savannah’s famous River Street. Initially established as a harbor for chattel of all kinds, River Street holds secrets from long ago that are definitely worth delving into. While everyone loves a good investigation, we’re just going to make it easy for you by letting you in on the secrets ourselves. Here are a few facts we’re pretty sure you don’t know about this famous cobblestone street.

River St 1

Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

1. The cobblestones that pave River Street come from around the world.

The hand-laid cobblestones that compose Savannah’s iconic River Street are from much farther than a stone’s throw away. The stones were originally used as ballast material on the many ships that sailed into Savannah’s harbor. The ships collected chert, quartz, granite, basalt and other rocks from their initial locations and deposited the stones upon unloading in Savannah. The stones originated in a number of exotic locales to include Madeira Island, Spain, Canada, France and the British Isles. Savannah settlers found the stones to be an affordable and abundant building material and used them throughout the Historic District.


Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

2. River Street is one of the most haunted areas in Savannah.

Since Savannah is ubiquitously recognized as America’s paranormal paradise, you may have known this intuitively. But you’re probably not too keen on why. For one, the land plot upon which General James Oglethorpe built Savannah was a burial ground for Native tribes in the surrounding area. So there’s that. And secondly, River Street was the epicenter of arduous and oftentimes deadly labor. Indentured servants from Europe and slaves from Africa were forced to load and unload cumbersome freight from harboring ships. Many of them were literally crushed under the weight of their work. The multitudes who departed as a result of River Street drudgery are said to frequent the historic roadway to this day.


Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

3. Some of the buildings on River Street were holding pens for incoming slaves

It’s no secret that Savannah has a dark past, and remnants of this dark time in history can still be discovered on River Street. Many slaves who survived the Middle Passage arrived in Savannah and were stored in warehouses that lined River Street. Many of these structures, albeit re-purposed, still stand today. Quite a few Savannah tours guide participants through these antiquated holding cells. Some still have shackle remains and visible holes where slaves were chained to the walls.


Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

4. River Street’s residential population was almost completely eliminated by Yellow Fever.

Savannah had seen Yellow Fever outbreaks before, but none were nearly as pervasive as the outbreak in 1876. The first fatal case developed near the river’s eastern docks. And within just two weeks, the unrelenting disease had taken nearly 1100 more lives. The devastation prompted critical advances in Savannah’s medicine and sanitation.

5. The Olympic Yachting Cauldron was lit with the original Olympic flame from Olympia Greece.

It’s a little-known fact that Savannah hosted Olympic Yachting events in the summer of 1996 – Atlanta was chosen to host the Centennial Olympic Games that year; however, the landlocked city duly selected Savannah for the yachting sports. The famous cauldron that was lit during the Savannah Olympic Opening Ceremonies is memorialized today on River Street. The beautiful bronze structure was lit with the very flame that burned in Olympia Greece! It must have been a valiant effort to keep the flame going over so many stretches of land and sea.


ChantelChantel Baul is a Savannah native with a knack for writing and a passion for food, fun and people. She recently received her BA in English and Professional Communications from Armstrong State University, and when she’s not writing she’s serving in the US Army Reserves as a Human Resources Officer. She loves NPR and is interested in food justice, sustainability, travel and international affairs.


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Jenny Rutherford

Meet Jenny Rutherford Jenny Rutherford Real Estate, LLC. Where did you grow up? I grew up on a farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I've lived in several states, including Virgi....

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