NYT Travel section checks out what’s doing in Savannah – in 1986

I wish I could say I found the article linked below because I was searching for some background for a City Talk column in the Savannah Morning News or for a detailed blog post here. But I ran across this travel piece about Savannah — in 1986 — when I was trying to confirm an old phone number for someone. I did a quick search of the number and — bang — I was reading What’s Doing In: Savannah by Frogmore, S.C.-based Cecily Deegan McMillan, published on December 28, 1986.

I didn’t even move to Savannah till 1995 — post-Midnight. This article is pre-Midnight but makes a prominent mention of Jim Williams (even though it obviously omits anything about the 1981 shooting of Danny Hansford):

One of the oldest and best-known of the antiques shops is run by Jim Williams (430 Whitaker Street; 912-236-6350), a dealer and renovator who has restored several homes in Savannah and the Carolina low country. He restored the main house at ”Tombee,” a plantation that has become well known with the recent publication of the antebellum diaries of its owner, Thomas B. Chaplin.

At his shop, he has a superb collection of country furniture of Georgia -sideboards, plantation tables, cabinets. The cherry, yellow pine and poplar wood of these pieces (priced from $2,500) gives the room a warm glow.

Antiques dealers Francis McNairy and Nostalgia Station (the amazing building on Stiles) also get nice mentions, and so does artist Bob Christian. Architect William Jay gets a particularly prominent spotlight early on in the piece, which mentions the Owens-Thomas House, William Scarbrough House (now the Ships of the Sea), and the Telfair Academy. The Green-Meldrim House and King-Tisdell Cottage also appear:

The Green-Meldrim House on Madison Square (912-233-3845) looks, with its crenelated roof line, like the sort of place where General Sherman might have stayed – and he did. He spent the winter of 1864-65 there when he ended his march to the sea. Hours are 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $2.

The slavery that Sherman marched to wipe out is documented in the King-Tisdell Cottage at 514 East Huntingdon Street in bills of sale and newspaper advertisements for slaves. A tiny gingerbread gem, the cottage is operated by the Savannah-Yamacraw chapter of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. Hours are noon to 4 P.M. Monday through Saturday. Admission is $1.50; 75 cents for children.

For all the changes in Savannah, it’s nice to read so many passages that could still be written today, almost 30 years later (although few of today’s travel writers would use such pleasantly understated prose):

You couldn’t hurry through Savannah if you wanted to. The city’s 20 squares of parks, landscaped with palmetto trees, azaleas and native flowers and shaded by giant live oaks, are spaced throughout the heart of the city, and the single-lane streets that encircle the squares carry traffic one way only. The mansions clustered around the squares evoke a period of antebellum self-confidence and extravagance. In winter, the squares are uncrowded and it is easy to survey the city’s surpassingly lovely landscape.

If you’re wondering what restaurants the NYT included in this 1986 profile, here you go: Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House, The Crystal Beer Parlor, Elizabeth on 37th, 45 South (now 45 Bistro at The Marshall House), and The Windows at the riverfront Hyatt (where double rooms cost between $93 to $122 per night, with a special weekend rate of $65). Kind of amazing that the writer picked ones that would still be open, and apparently booming, so many years later.