Friday, August 2, 2013

Zeigler House Inn -- A Delightful Historic Inn Steeped in Savannah’s Wildwood Forests and Farmlands

SAVANNAH Georgia (August 2, 2013) – At Zeigler House Inn we are enveloped by trees, not only in the Savannah National Historic Landmark District’s beautiful landscapes, but in the legendary Savannah stories of beautiful architecture, timber lands, Georgia lumber exports, and re-forestation.
"Knowledge like timber shouldn't be much used till they are seasoned."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Our block on our historic inn's street.
Jones Street's Live Oak canopy of trees in
historic Savannah, Georgia USA.
The mightiest of the Old South's trees is the evergreen Live Oak tree, often photographed dripping in Spanish moss. With stalwart resolve, the promenade of trees cradle our inn’s very own Jones Street with nature’s magnificent shaded canopy, located in Savannah's National Historic Landmark District.

On the 18th Century lands of modern-day Jones Street, where our historic inn is located, the pine and hardwood forests were so thick that Savannah was colloquially called “Forest City”. Early settlers cleared the land to carve out farm lands. Later city father’s partitioned the lands into city home lots, located on the once timber lines of the southerly expanding City of Savannah.

"Since the beginning of recorded history, Georgia has been distinguished by its forest land bounty. William Bartram, one of the first naturalist-botanists, roamed this region in the mid-1770’s. He found forests of different ages interspersed with expansive savannahs, swamps, and river bottomlands filled with a rich diversity of broad-leaved species. It was not until the 1880’s that large scale commercial logging practices began to alter the appearance of Georgia’s landscape.” Source: Georgia Forestry Commission

View of Savannah from the River, a wood engraving
from a drawing by Harry Fenn, published 1872
in Picturesque America, D. Appleton & Company,
New York, New York.
Solomon Zeigler, the builder of Zeigler House Inn's stately downtown home (circa 1856), was a prominent lumber merchant. He earned a leading role to swell the Port of Savannah’s lumber export business to international prominence. “Prior to the 1860s, commercial logging occurred primarily along navigable streams, where logs could be floated to downstream ports.” – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Lumber schooners arrived and departed from Savannah River docks, destined to international ports. It was Savannah’s harbor master who governed traffic to the private and public wharves traffic, and enforced the City of Savannah’s strict codes regarding inspecting and grading the lumber. With costly penalties, the drifting timber was to be out of the river within 48 hours of arrival near the Savannah docks.

Loading a lumber schooner, Savannah,
Georgia, USA (circa 1900 - 1906)
A mile or two to the west of Zeigler House Inn is Laurel Grove North Cemetery and Laurel Grove South Cemetery, named after native laurel oak trees.  It is where old Sycamore trees with their camouflage bark, white speckled with brown, dot the old Springfield Plantation lands. These are stragglers of “Savannah’s second forest [that] was deliberately planted and was composed primarily of Sycamore, Sugarberry, and Chinaberry. These trees gradually succumbed to disease and age by the late 19th century.” Source: Forsyth Park Arboretum, City of Savannah
Christians will recall that it was the short and rich Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who climbed up into the sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus passing.
Lumber Shed, Central of Georgia Railroad in Savannah,
now in the Georgia Railroad Museum complex
just off Jones Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
From our historic inn, head west on Jones Street and you’ll run into the old Railroad Yard, now the Georgia Railroad Museum. Vintage photos of the lumber sheds are reminders of timber’s role in the growth of Georgia.

It was Georgia’s Yellow Pine that was used to build early railroad beds.

Upriver a few miles 

In the back country vicinity of Rincon, Georgia, near Savannah there are only remnants of old Cyprus and Tupelo forests in the black water swamps. You'll see these when you paddle the Ogeechee River and Ebenezer Creek with Wilderness Southeast. Those were the lands and back country where our very own Mr. Zeigler may have first come to appreciate the smell of freshly sawed cedar and Cyprus. 

In our stately home (circa 1856) original house feature include beautiful heart of pine wood floors of the era, elegant ceiling medallions, 11 slate and wood fireplaces, and a dramatic heart of pine staircase embellished with a mahogany and walnut handrail.

Zeigler House Inn's historic parlor, with original
wood and craftsmanship as constructed by
prominent Savannah lumber merchant,
Solomon Zeigler
In colonial years (circa 1733) trees were cut for the protections of the new city's forts, the modest lumber homes, and public buildings. After receiving land grants, Live Oak trees were planted to showcase grand scale promenades, such as at modern-day places to visit near Savannah -- Wormsloe Plantation, a Georgia State Park, and at Bonaventure Cemetery [meaning ‘lovely place’].

In “Council of Dads” by Bruce Feiler, a Savannah native, Bruce reminds us that the trees were once referred to as the king’s trees, reserved for the Royal Navy, and that John Meir called the specimens “the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen….” Feiler quotes Harper’s Magazine (1860), which refers to Bonaventure’s soaring promenade of evergreens as “the mournful avenue of live oak”.
Tip: The Bonaventure Historical Society conducts free tours on the second Sunday of each month.
The [Live Oak] trees were transplanted on Bonaventure Plantation prior to the American Revolution by Colonel John Mullryne. The trees have been the topic of conversation, legend, news articles, literature, poetry, prose, folklore, paintings, stereo views, post cards, photographs, reports, meetings, brochures and other paraphernalia, frequently throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The trees survived two local wars and five major hurricanes, not to mention lesser hurricanes and tropical storms, too numerous to count. Approximately one-third of the original trees remain. The trees have changed little since the 1870s except due to decline or death of individual trees. – Source: Landmark and Historic Tree Map, Google; Jerry Fleming, City of Savannah, Georgia

A ride to Skidaway Island State Park ($5 parking permit) will give you a glimpse of a native forest along the Georgia Coast. Amid the native Indians, for shelter and food, it was in colonial Georgia’s coastal forests that wildlife survived near Savannah -- elk, buffalo, bobwhite quail, scrub jay birds, the wood duck, yellow-bellied sapsucker, wild turkey, black bear, various species of squirrel, and the white-tailed deer. Source: Wikipedia, Quercus virginiana, also known as the southern live oak.

Fortunately, city fathers have reforested Savannah’s historic city. 

In 1896, the City’s first Park and Tree Commission’s vision was for "the magnificent trio of evergreen--the majestic live oak, the grandi-flora magnolia and the picturesque palmetto--to be the distinct characteristic features of our flora, and should appear in every vantage point." Today the Forsyth Park Arboretum features over 50 species of trees.
Be sure to see the “Candler Live Oak”, Quercus virginiana, at 550 Drayton Street, just opposite Forsyth Park. It is 200 to 300 years of age, height of 50 feet, circumference 16.5 feet. Historical Info: The land around the tree has housed hospitals, including Candler General Hospital. Sherman erected a barricade around the Candler Oak with which he kept wounded Confederate Soldiers during the American Civil War.
Come. Be enthralled and embraced by Savannah's “Forest City” in our lumber merchant’s stately home, now Zeigler House Inn on Jones Street –  Follow us on Twitter @ZeiglerHouseInn and Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2013 Zeigler House Inn / Sandy Traub 

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