Ellis Square is a historic public square located in Savannah, Georgia, United States. It has a rich history that dates back to the city's early days. Here's an overview of Ellis Square's history:
- Early History: Ellis Square was originally one of the four open squares laid out by General James Oglethorpe when he founded Savannah in 1733. The square was named after Henry Ellis, the second Royal Governor of Georgia.
- Market and Commercial Hub: In the 18th and 19th centuries, Ellis Square became a bustling center of commerce and trade. It housed a vibrant marketplace where farmers, traders, and merchants gathered to sell their goods. The square's proximity to the bustling Savannah River made it a convenient location for trade activities.
- Urban Development: In the early 20th century, the city underwent significant urban development, and Ellis Square was not spared from the changes. In 1954, a City Market, which was essentially a two-story parking garage, was constructed over the square, completely obscuring its original layout and beauty. This alteration caused the square to lose its prominence as a public gathering space.
- Revitalization Efforts: By the late 20th century, there was a growing recognition of the importance of preserving Savannah's historic squares. Efforts began to restore and revitalize Ellis Square. The City Market structure was demolished in 2006, unveiling the square once again.
- Rebirth and Modernization: Ellis Square underwent a significant transformation during the revitalization process. The new design preserved the original character of the square while incorporating modern elements. The project included the creation of an underground parking facility and an open plaza above it, featuring landscaped areas, fountains, and public art installations.
- Reopening and Celebration: Ellis Square was officially reopened to the public on March 11, 2010, after the completion of the revitalization project. The restoration of the square was celebrated with great enthusiasm and marked a milestone in preserving Savannah's architectural and historical heritage.
Today, Ellis Square stands as a vibrant and lively public space in the heart of Savannah's Historic District. It is surrounded by a mix of residential, commercial, and retail buildings, making it a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The square hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, contributing to the city's cultural vibrancy.
- Early Naming: Ellis Square was originally named "Decker Ward" after a Savannah alderman named Godfrey Decker. However, it was later renamed in honor of Henry Ellis, the second Royal Governor of Georgia.
- 18th-century Use: In the 18th century, Ellis Square served as a public marketplace where local farmers and traders sold their goods. The square was a bustling hub of commerce and activity.
- Historic Buildings: Ellis Square was surrounded by significant buildings, including the Old City Exchange, built in 1802, which served as Savannah's first official city hall. Another notable building was the Georgia Historical Society, which stood on the southwest corner of the square.
- City Market Construction: In the mid-20th century, the original layout of Ellis Square was drastically altered when the City Market structure was built in 1954. The construction of the two-story parking garage effectively covered the square, diminishing its visibility and accessibility.
- Preservation and Restoration: Following the City Market's demolition in 2006, efforts to restore and revitalize Ellis Square began. The restoration project aimed to uncover the original layout and recreate a public gathering space.
- Modernization and Design: The revitalization of Ellis Square included a mix of preserving the square's historical character and incorporating modern elements. The design featured an underground parking facility and an open plaza above it, offering landscaped areas, water features, and public art.
- Reopening: After undergoing extensive restoration, Ellis Square was officially reopened to the public on March 11, 2010. The reopening was a significant event for Savannah, marking the restoration of one of its iconic squares.
- Ongoing Significance: Today, Ellis Square continues to be a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Its revitalized form showcases the blend of history and modern amenities, attracting visitors who appreciate its architectural charm and its role as a gathering place.
These historical facts highlight the evolution of Ellis Square from its early days as a marketplace to its modern restoration as a vibrant public space in Savannah.
Markers and structures
Ellis Square features several markers and structures that add to its historical and cultural significance. Here are some notable markers and structures you can find:
- The Betty Bombers B-17 Marker: Located on the northwest corner of Ellis Square, this marker commemorates the "Betty Bombers," a B-17 Flying Fortress crew from Savannah who served in World War II. It pays tribute to their bravery and service.
- Savannah River Landing Marker: Situated on the northeast corner of Ellis Square, this marker provides information about the historical importance of the Savannah River as a vital trade route and gateway to the city.
- The Ellis Square Information Kiosk: Located within the square, the information kiosk provides visitors with details about the history and significance of Ellis Square, as well as information about nearby attractions and events.
- The City Market Shade Structure: Overlooking Ellis Square, the City Market Shade Structure is an elegant metal and fabric structure that provides shade and seating for visitors. It complements the square's revitalized design and offers a place for people to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
- Public Art Installations: Ellis Square is adorned with various public art installations, adding to its aesthetic appeal. These art pieces include sculptures, murals, and interactive installations, contributing to the square's cultural ambiance.
It's important to note that the specific markers and structures within Ellis Square may evolve or change over time, as new additions or renovations are made. Therefore, it's always recommended to visit the square or consult local resources for the most up-to-date information on the markers and structures present.
Ellis Square is surrounded by several constituent buildings that contribute to the overall character and charm of the area. While the specific buildings may vary over time due to development and changes in land use, here are some examples of notable buildings that have been historically associated with Ellis Square:
- Old City Exchange: The Old City Exchange, built in 1802, was located on the southern side of Ellis Square. It served as Savannah's first official city hall and a center for trade and commerce.
- Georgia Historical Society Building: Situated on the southwest corner of Ellis Square, the Georgia Historical Society building was an important landmark. It housed the oldest continuously operating historical society in the South, dedicated to preserving and promoting Georgia's rich history.
- DeSoto Hilton Hotel: Adjacent to Ellis Square, the DeSoto Hilton Hotel has been a prominent fixture in the area. The hotel offers accommodation and amenities for visitors, and its proximity to Ellis Square makes it a convenient place to stay for those exploring the historic district.
- Commercial and Residential Buildings: Ellis Square is surrounded by a mix of commercial and residential buildings that contribute to the vibrant atmosphere of the area. These structures include shops, restaurants, offices, and residential spaces, reflecting the ongoing vitality of the district.
It's important to note that the constituent buildings around Ellis Square may change over time due to redevelopment and urban planning efforts. New buildings may be constructed, and the function and purpose of existing structures can evolve. Therefore, it is advisable to consult local resources or visit the area for the most accurate and up-to-date information on the constituent buildings surrounding Ellis Square.