Savannah was built through the 1700s and 1800s around a series of 24 park squares; 22 of which still existed in the Landmark Historic District. Each one was different. Some were blocks long and wide, others a fraction of that. Some had monuments or fountains, while others were simple lawns and trees. Among the more famous was Monterey Square, alongside which sat Mercer-Williams House, the scene of the murder central to the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Caden lived on Troup Square on the eastern side of the Historic District. It was one of the last squares laid out, having been built in 1851 and while it wasn’t the biggest or most beautiful, it was the most interesting, at least as far as Caden was concerned.
It had a fountain just for dogs, was the site of the church whose pastor wrote “Jingle Bells,” and, most important to Caden, it had the armillary. Installed in the late 1960s when the square was revitalized after years of neglect, the globe-like sculpture was designed as a model of the celestial spheres, the arcs on which various planetary objects and the sun move in relation to Earth. A lance through the middle had a starburst on one end and an arrowhead on the other. It was surrounded by several rings including one that had golden bas-relief sculptures of the zodiac symbols and another with Roman numerals acting as a sundial – you could tell the time of day as the shadow from the lance fell across it. The whole thing sat on a base supported by six turtle figurines.
The exact meaning of all of this was lost to time but Caden believed the armillary was more than just a sculpture; it was a guidepost of sorts – a map of the universe. She would sit and stare at it for hours, envisioning all of the places that she might go, both in her world and in others.
That she got to live on that square in a beautifully restored 19th century home, with her window facing the armillary so she could see it every morning when she woke up and touch it every time she went out for a run, was a blessing she cherished beyond measure.
On that Saturday, she patted a turtle at the base, and settled in for her run starting down Habersham Street, a tree lined thoroughfare with a mix of homes, churches, and commercial buildings.
Caden hung a left on Liberty Street, a wide boulevard lined with stately townhomes, and then a right on Bull, a cute street with pockets of shops and eateries. This led her to Chippewa Square, also known as “Forest Gump Square,” since that movie’s bus stop bench scenes were filmed there. It was a big tourist attraction even though the bench itself sat in the nearby Savannah History Museum.
She continued down Bull passing through Wright Square, reputed to be the final resting place of Tomochichi, the Indian chief who welcomed the first colonists to the area. A right on State Street took her past Oglethorpe Square, built in 1742 in honor of the guy who founded the Georgia Colony. It was bigger than Troup but a little plain in her opinion – no armillary, no fountain, not even a statue. Oddly, the statue honoring James Oglethorpe, could be found in Chippewa Square.
She headed north past Broughton Street, the main drag of the Historic District, and then up through Reynolds and Johnson Squares, the latter of which was the first one built and one of the biggest in town. Finally, she got to Bay Street, which sat on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River. A row of former cotton factories, accessed by wrought iron walkways and cobblestone streets known as Factor’s Walk, had been converted into hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars with more down below on River Street, which had a nice plaza right along the water. It was a big tourist draw and like most locals Caden didn’t spend a lot of time here unless they were doing a major event like the First Friday celebration or the Halloween Carnival, but it was still fun to look at.
Savannah, was a beautiful, magical city and even after a few minutes of running through it, the historic buildings, beautiful trees with their trademark Spanish moss, and friendly vibe had washed away the chill she had felt earlier. This was home.