An Historical Treasure
Savannah, Georgia is known for its vibrant city squares and vibrant history. However, one of its most significant historic sites often goes overlooked by visitors: The Trustees’ Garden in the downtown. This garden played a pivotal role in Georgia’s early development as well as that of the American South. Today it stands as an iconic symbol of colonial Georgia.
History of The Trustees’ Garden
Established in 1733, the same year Savannah was founded by James Oglethorpe, the Trustees’ Garden was an essential element of his plan for Georgia. He wanted the colony of Georgia to provide a new start for debtors and other impoverished English citizens. Managed by King George II’s appointed Board of Trustees, this garden served as a source of economic support and agricultural production within the colony. It was the first Crown-sanctioned experimental garden in the New World.
In its early years, the garden served as an experimental farm for various crops such as mulberry trees for silk production, grapes and vegetables. The garden was the home of the first commercially-grown cotton in the new country. Produce from this garden was essential in providing sustenance to Savannah’s early settlers. It also helped establish Georgia as an agricultural powerhouse of the American South.
Design and Layout of The Trustees’ Garden
William Bull, Savannah’s first city planner, designed and laid out this space. He implemented the European garden design principles of a grid pattern. It featured walking paths and raised beds for planting. The design also included a small pond and central fountain. The water provided irrigation for its crops.
The design of the garden was inspired by Enlightenment principles, emphasizing reason, science, and progress. As such, it served as a symbol of Georgia’s commitment to modernity and economic progress. Botanists traveled the world to bring back cuttings and plants to establish the garden. These included grape vines, flax, hemp, potashes, indigo, cochineal, olives, and medicinal herbs. The British sent mulberry trees in hopes of establishing a silk industry. Local gardeners planted a range of vegetation, including pear, apple, peach, orange, fig, and olive trees, as well as pomegranates, spices, and herbs.
Unfortunately, the garden was not a success. Silk, wine, and cotton were expected to be the lynchpin holding the garden together. As Georgia’s climate was thought to be similar to that of the Mediterranean, the Trustees expected the garden to produce similar results. What they didn’t take into account was the difference in soils.
In addition, there was mismanagement, theft of products, neglect, and bad weather resulting in the demise of the garden. The garden was all but abandoned by 1748. The property fell into the hands of several companies who used it for their purposes.
Significance of The Trustees’ Garden
This garden served as a model for other colonial gardens nearby, leaving its mark on modern-day landscapes throughout the American South.
Today, the Trustees’ Garden’s crops symbolize the resilience and inventiveness of early Georgia settlers. Furthermore, this garden serves to remind us of the complicated yet often troubled history of the American South. It also served as an ongoing fight for social and economic justice throughout the region.
Preservation and Restoration of The Trustees’ Garden
Over time, The Trustees’ Garden has faced numerous difficulties, such as neglect, development pressures, and natural disasters. Yet there have also been numerous efforts to preserve and restore its historical legacy. In 2015, The City of Savannah announced plans to restore the Trustees’ Garden as part of their revitalization effort in the area.
The restoration project included several upgrades to the garden’s infrastructure, such as new irrigation systems, plants and trees, and restoration of historic structures. Furthermore, it sought to enhance access for visitors and locals alike with additional walking paths and seating areas.
In 2003, Charles H. Morris, a local renovator, purchased the garden and began restoring it. He envisioned creating multi-use spaces focusing on the arts, culture, and wellness. At the same time, he sought to honor the original intent of the garden.
One such cultural use of the grounds is the annual Savannah Music Festival. This yearly festival is Georgia’s largest classical musical event. Each spring, this 17-day festival features up to 100 productions with 500 of the world’s outstanding artists. Media coverage from the world’s major newspapers and outlets review the festival. More than 80 volunteers help to make the festival a success. The annual budget of $3.8 million is one of Georgia’s largest income-producing events in the state.
The Trustees’ Garden in Savannah, Georgia is an iconic historical landmark that should be honored and preserved for future generations. Its role in the economic and agricultural development of Georgia and the American South cannot be understated. Its design and layout bear testament to the values and ideas held dear by those who built it.
Fact: The Trustees’ Garden was a natural choice for military defense in times of war and peace
©: Other than sharing, the contents of this blog are copyrighted and cannot be used in any other way without permission.