The Olde Pink House

 

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As I planned activities for my trip to Savannah, Georgia, one restaurant kept popping into my awareness…The Olde Pink House in the heart of the historic district. When I checked out the online menu and found a vegan burger, I made a lunch reservation for day three of my trip.

I’m glad I did. This property is so much more than a restaurant.

The Olde Pink House title

Why is The Olde Pink House…Pink?

There’s a reason for the name of this restaurant. The property began life as a house and the color was unintentional.

In 1771, James Habersham Jr began construction on an elaborate mansion on Abercorn Street in Savannah. The exterior of the house was made from red bricks, that were then covered with white plaster. It’s not known whether the bricks were poor quality or whether the plastering job was faulty, but the red from the bricks bled through the plaster, turning the house a distinct shade of pink.

Fearing he would be ridiculed for living in a pink house, Habersham continually painted the exterior white, as did many different owners over the years. Whenever the pink began to show through, a fresh coat of white paint was applied.

However, when the new owner of the house bought it in the 1920s, to open a tea room, she chose to not fight the inevitable. She painted the house pink and pink it has been since.

The Olde Pink House fireplace
One of many fireplaces in The Olde Pink House

The History of The Olde Pink House

James Habersham Jr was one of Savannah’s most important cotton brokers and a founding family of the city. He occupied the house until his death in 1799.

Habersham House, as it was known then, survived the Savannah fire of 1796 that destroyed 229 other properties. In 1812 the home transformed into Planters Bank, the first bank in Georgia.

After the Civil War, the property changed hands several times, becoming an attorney’s office, a bookstore and Alida Harper Fowlkes’ Georgian Tea Room.

Jim Williams, the famous owner of the Mercer House and featured in the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil book, purchased the property in the 1940s and restored it. By 1970, the house underwent another renovation that included upgrading the foundation. Twin fireplaces were uncovered in the basement. These fireplaces were part of the original cooking kitchen and are now a highlight of the basement tavern.

The restaurant opened in the building in 1971 and continues today with the addition of Arches Bar, located on the south side and Planters Tavern in the basement.

The Olde Pink House brick fireplace
One of 13 dining rooms in The Olde Pink House

The Ghosts of The Olde Pink House

It turns out, not only is The Olde Pink House a fine place to eat, it also makes the list of haunted locations in Savannah.

The ghost of James Habersham Jr is said to appear in the restaurant, wearing his Colonial clothes while drinking an ale. He is often seen in the basement tavern, people watching as guests enjoy what used to be his home. Some have even supposedly had a conversation with Habersham, only to have him disappear suddenly.

Employees of the restaurant see Habersham’s ghost. He’s been known to straighten table settings and push chairs into place. He is also blamed for lighting candles on tables throughout the restaurant.

Other The Olde Pink House Ghosts

A friendly Revolutionary War veteran spirit visits the bar and asks visitors to raise a glass for a toast. A sobbing female ghost lingers on the second floor.

Former servants appear wandering throughout the house. Frequently patrons get locked into the women’s restroom. And children who died from Yellow Fever can be heard in the basement, playing tricks on guests or even hitting the bartenders and wait staff.

The wait staff are very happy to share ghost stories about The Olde Pink House and encourage diners to tour the house and tavern after they finish their meals.

Check out more Savannah Ghost Stories.

The Olde Pink House basement seating
Seating in the basement tavern at The Olde Pink House

Tips for Enjoying a Meal at The Olde Pink House

The restaurant is located at 23 Abercorn Street, on Reynolds Square. Reservations are required. Click this LINK to make yours. I recommend making reservations well in advance of your trip to Savannah.

There are 13 dining rooms throughout the restaurant, in various rooms of the original house. You can also dine in Planters Tavern, which is only open in the evenings.

Casual wear is appropriate for dining at The Olde Pink House although you can also dress up if you wish.

The Olde Pink House offers southern influenced cuisine and features a large selection of fish, beef, pork and chicken entrees. Crispy flounder with apricot shallot sauce is their mainstay meal. Other favorites include fried green tomato BLT and braised pork. Their signature praline basket filled with berries is the perfect way to end the meal. They also offer a vegan burger and salads. See their menu HERE.

The Olde Pink House ballroom
The Olde Pink House ballroom, where I dined.

My Experience at The Olde Pink House

I arrived ahead of my lunch reservation so I could take photos in Reynolds Square and capture the outside of the property. When I entered the foyer, I was seated immediately in the upstairs ballroom.

I enjoyed a vegan burger for lunch along with crispy onion rings and the wonderful praline basket with berries for dessert. My waiter was attentive and full of interesting historical facts about The Olde Pink House. He also shared a number of ghost stories with me and invited me to look around after my meal. Although the basement tavern was not open yet, he gave me permission to walk around there.

It was fun to explore the house, peeking into the various dining rooms. The beautiful house structures are still there, along with time appropriate antiques and art.

There were four other people in the basement tavern when I first enter that area. By the time I explored the old wine cellars, now converted to intimate dining areas, I was alone in the tavern. As I turned to exit a cellar, something smacked me hard on the forehead. I stopped in surprise and raised a hand to my head as I peered around. No one was there. Nothing hung low from the ceiling that I’d run into. My only explanation is that one of those mischievous ghost children in the basement played a trick on me!

The Olde Pink House cellar
I had just exited this cellar when an unseen force smacked me in the forehead.

Will You Dine at The Olde Pink House on Your Trip to Savannah?

I highly recommend this restaurant in Savannah, not just for the food, but for the historical importance of the property and for the fun possibility of encountering a ghost!

It’s a beautiful house to explore and the wait staff are eager to share stories as they deliver your meal and keep your glass filled.

Next time I’m in Savannah, I intend to dine in the tavern, where live music is often performed. And this time, I’ll be watching those shadowy corners for a wee trickster ghost.

Will you dine in The Olde Pink House when you visit Savannah? Or have you enjoyed a meal here?

Intimate dining room
One of the smaller dining rooms.

 

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Charleston or Savannah: Which City to Visit?

 

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Are you planning a trip to the South and wondering whether to visit Charleston or Savannah first?

I’ve visited these two beautiful cities and while they are close enough to each other to plan a trip that includes both, you may prefer to do as I did and spend more time in one…and then the other.

To help you decided which city to scratch off the list first, read about their  similarities and differences.

Charleston or Savannah title

Charleston or Savannah?

Both Charleston and Savannah are considered Jewels of the South. These coastal cities boast rich, complex histories, plenty of charm, amazing food experiences and a variety of tours and activities to enjoy. And, with local airports, they are easy to get to.

Below are similarities between the two cities and how they differ from each other too. Hopefully, by the end of the post, you’ll know whether Charleston or Savannah will be first on your travel list!

Similarities Between Charleston and Savannah

Both cities, part of the original 13 colonies, have long and fascinating histories. And, they both embrace Gullah and Geechee sea island cultures.

Beautiful architecture is found in both, with each city having a very walkable historic downtown area. Charleston and Savannah acknowledge their darker histories, and today share stories of how they owe their existence to the labor of enslaved people.

Lying along rivers that feed into the sea, both cities experience mild weather that can turn quite hot and humid during the summer months. (My tip: visit Charleston or Savannah in early spring or mid to late fall.)

The people in both cities are friendly and welcoming, practicing that famed southern charm and hospitality. And both cities felt very safe to me. I visited as a solo traveler and never felt concern.

You can wander down cobblestone streets, explore museums, visit a city market and take a walk along the waterfront in Charleston and Savannah.

Charleston or Savannah pineapple fountain
Charleston has its iconic Pineapple Fountain.
Charleston or Savannah forsyth fountain
Savannah’s iconic Forsyth Fountain

Differences Between Charleston and Savannah

Charleston is a bigger city than Savannah although their historic downtown area is smaller. You can easily walk that district in a day but you won’t want to rush! I recommend at least two days in Charleston and preferably three. Because Charleston is larger, prices are slightly higher for accommodations there.

And with Savannah’s bigger historic district, it takes more time to explore. I’d recommend three days here as well, to see everything.

Charleston has its South of Broad neighborhood to wander, with narrow streets, gorgeous homes and historic churches and buildings. Savannah features 22 squares set up in a grid across the historic district. You’ll want to stroll down Jones Street as you explore the city. It’s considered the prettiest street in Savannah.

Charleston or Savannah south of broad
Gorgeous homes in Charleston’s South of Broad neighborhood.
Charleston or Savannah squares
Columbia Square in Savannah.

Getting Around Charleston and Savannah

If you get tired from all that walking, you can rely on the transportation systems in both cities. Charleston has a free hop on/hop off shuttle that covers the entire historic district. Savannah has it’s free hop on/hop off trolley system as well. Neither offer information from a guide as you wheel around the city.

I loved Savannah’s paid trolley tour that offers 15 stops throughout the historic district. Charleston offers paid guided tours as well however I don’t believe you can get on and off at different stops.

Charleston or Savannah shuttle
Charleston’s free downtown hop on/hop off shuttle.
Charleston or Savannah trolley
Savannah’s paid guided hop on/hop off trolley tour.

Which City is the Most Haunted?

According to NBC, Charleston ranks number 7 as most haunted city in the US and Savannah is number 1!

Both cities offer amazing ghost tours with stories from their complicated pasts. I enjoyed doing night time ghost tours in each city. Many of Charleston’s buildings, homes and cemeteries have hair raising tales connected to them.

However, Savannah truly can offer a ghost story about most locations in the historic district, including the squares, buildings and houses around the squares, restaurants and cemeteries.

It’s no surprise Charleston and Savannah rank in the top 10 for most haunted city. Battles were fought in both places. Diseases such as yellow fever struck down many during muggy summers. And both cities dealt with pirates!

As one who senses spirit energy, I found Savannah to be the spookier city. Charleston for sure has its haunted spots. However, it seems that everywhere you go in Savannah there is a ghostly vibe. I had paranormal experiences in both cities but they were more frequent and stronger in Savannah.

Charleston or Savannah haunted theatre
Haunted Dock Street Theatre in Charleston.
Charleston or Savannah haunted Andrew Low House
Haunted Andrew Low House in Savannah.

Charleston or Savannah for Culinary Experiences?

In Savannah you’ll find traditional southern dishes. However there are also some trendy restaurants and fairly robust vegan options. Leopald’s Ice Cream, a favorite on Broughton Street since 1919, is a must visit. They even offer dairy free ice cream.

Charleston has 10 James Beard awarded restaurants around the city. They offer traditional southern fare as well however expect to find more sophisticated offerings here. Plant based meals are easy to find in Charleston too although I couldn’t find a place for afternoon tea while I was there.

And while Charleston edges Savannah out on cuisine, Savannah definitely wins on drinks and nightlife. From pub tours to live music venues to being able to legally carry open alcoholic drinks within the confines of the historic district, Savannah makes good on their promise to get a drink into your hands as part of their hospitality.

Charleston or Savannah vegan charleston
Vegan Charleston
Charleston or Savannah vegan savannah
Vegan Savannah

Which City Should You Visit?

My answer is…both!

I visited Charleston first, due to falling in love with the city through Karen White’s Tradd Street series. (Get the first book in the series HERE.) And Charleston will always have a special place in my heart for being the destination of my first big solo trip. I enjoyed the city so much that I returned just six months later for another visit.

And I love Savannah as well. The energy is a bit different there. The city’s historic district feels more sprawled out and I made more use of the hop on/hop off trolleys. I enjoyed the 22 beautiful and unique squares and discovering the stories behind their creation. I will return to this city someday soon to explore more.

Have you visited Charleston and Savannah? And if you haven’t, which city would you visit first?

Fun Things to Do in Charleston

Fun Things to Do in Savannah

 

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Explore Savannah’s Squares

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When I researched Savannah, Georgia for my trip, I immediately discovered that the historic downtown was built around 24 squares. Intrigued, I added “explore Savannah’s squares and photograph each one” to my things to do in Savannah list.

More than just parks for recreations, these squares are each uniquely beautiful, full of historical significance and they are important components of the Savannah community.

Explore Savannah's Squares title

Explore Savannah’s Squares

The Squares of Savannah are rightly called the “crown jewels” of the city. This grid of squares across the historic district contributes historical value and beauty to Savannah.

The grid system, established by founder General James Oglethorpe in 1733, was originally designed to serve the needs of a growing city and support military operations. Troops initially used the squares for training grounds and meetings. Public buildings, churches and residential homes surrounded each square, creating natural communities.

Of the original 24 squares, 22 remain today. I enjoyed visiting each square, sitting or walking within them, and taking photos.

Here are the Savannah Squares, listed in alphabetical order.

Chatham Square

Location: Barnard and Wayne Streets

Designed in 1847

Chatham Square is named in honor of William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham. Although the Earl never visited Savannah, he was an early supporter of the colony. The square contains a sundial dedicated to African American politician Louis Burke Toomer. This quiet green space is popular for weddings and photos.

Point of interest: Gordon Row, 15 four storied townhouses, each 20 feet wide.

Explore Savannah's Squares Chatham
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Chatham

Chippewa Square

Location: Bull and McDonough Streets

Designed in 1815

Chippewa Square commemorates the Battle of Chippewa in the War of 1812. In the center of the square stands a bronze statue of the colony’s founder, General Oglethorpe. He faces south to “protect Savannah from the Spanish in Florida”.

Points of interest: First Baptist Church, the Savannah Theatre and the Eastman-Stoddard House. This square is also called the “Forrest Gump Square” because this is where the bus stop scenes from the film were shot.

Explore Savannah's Squares Chippewa
Chippewa Square where scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed.

Columbia Square

Location: Habersham and Presidents Streets

Designed in 1799

This square is named “Columbia” as the female personification of Christopher Columbus. In the center is a water fountain from Wormsloe Plantation, an early Savannah settlement.

Points of interest: The Davenport House and the Kehoe House

Explore Savannah's Squares Columbia
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Columbia

Crawford Square

Location:  E Hull and Houston Streets

Designed in 1841

Crawford Square is named to honor William Harrison Crawford, Minister of France during the reign of Napoleon. Crawford was said to be the only politician with any influence over the French emperor. There is a pretty gazebo in the center of the square, which is the only one that is fenced.

Points of interest: basketball court and nearby antique stores

Explore Savannah's Squares Crawford
The gazebo in the middle of Crawford Square.

Ellis Square

Location: Bryan and Barnard Streets

Designed in 1733

Once lost to urban sprawl, this old square was restored thanks to a partnership between the City of Savannah and area developers. The restored square features underground parking and vast green spaces. It is surrounded by hotels and retail stores.

The square is named in honor of Henry Ellis, the second Royal Governor. It was once the location of the Old City Market where merchants sold crops and wares.

Points of interest: the square features a splash pad for summer fun and the current City Market is nearby

Explore Savannah's Squares Ellis
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Ellis

Franklin Square

Location: Bryan and Barnard Streets

Designed in 1791

Named for Benjamin Franklin, this square originally housed the city’s water tower and was nicknamed “water tower square”. In the middle of the square is the Haitian Monument, honoring the Haitian soldiers who fought for American independence during the Siege of Savannah.

Points of interest: First African Baptist Church and the square forms the west end of the City Market.

Explore Savannah's Squares Franklin
Franklin Square was the first square that I visited.

Greene Square

Location: Houston and Presidents Streets

Designed in 1799

This square honors General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero who fought against the British in Savannah. This square was a central hub for the African American community.

Points of interest: Second African Baptist Church and the Cunningham House, lived in by the founding pastor of the Second African Baptist Church

Explore Savannah's Squares Greene
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Greene

Johnson Square

Location: Bull and St Julian Streets

Designed in 1733

Named for Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina when Georgia was founded, this square is one of the oldest in the city and it is the largest. It originally served as a commercial hub for the community. Now it is frequently inhabited by artists selling their work. The square has two fountains and a 50 foot monument honoring Nathanael Greene. His remains were placed beneath the monument in 1901.

Points of interest: Christ Episcopal Church and City Hall

Explore Savannah's Squares Johnson
I loved walking by busy, beautiful Johnson Square every day.

Lafayette Square

Location: Abercorn and Macon Streets

Designed in 1873

This square honors the Marquis de Lafayette, who aided Americans during the Revolutionary War. There is a fountain in the center dedicated to the Colonial Dames of American.

Points of interest: The Hamilton-Turner House, Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Low Colonial Dames House and the childhood home of author Flannery O’Connor

Explore Savannah's Squares Lafayette
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Lafayette

Madison Square

Location: Bull and Macon Streets

Designed in 1837

Named to honor the fourth president, James Madison, this square features a monument dedicated to Sergeant William Jasper. He fell during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. There is also a granite marker for the southern line of the British defense during the 1779 battle.

Points of interest: St John’s Episcopal Church, the Green-Meldrim House, The Gryphon and the Sorrel-Weed House

Explore Savannah's Squares Madison
The monument in the center of Madison Square.

Monterey Square

Location: Bull and Wayne Streets

Designed in 1847

Monterey Square commemorates the 1846 Battle of Monterey during the Mexican American War. A Savannah unit of the Irish Jasper Greens fought there. The square’s monument honors Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who was mortally wounded during the Siege of Savannah while fighting for the Americans.

Points of interest:  Mickve Israel Temple, Comer Jefferson House and the Mercer-Williams House, made famous by the book and film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

Explore Savannah's Squares Monterey
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Monterey

Oglethorpe Square

Location: Abercorn and Presidents Streets

Designed in 1742

This square is named for the founder of Savannah, James Oglethorpe. In the center of the square is a marker honoring the Moravians who arrived in Savannah in 1735, from the current day Czech Republic.

Point of interest: the Owens-Thomas House

Explore Savannah's Squares Oglethorpe
Oglethorpe Square honors Savannah’s founder.

Orleans Square

Location: Barnard and McDonough Streets

Designed in 1815

This square honors the heroes of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. The fountain in the square was dedicated in 1989 by Savannah’s German Society to recognize the contributions of the city’s early German immigrants.

Point of interest: the Champion-McAlpin House

Explore Savannah's Squares Orleans
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Orleans

Pulaski Square

Location: Barnard and Macon Streets

Designed in 1837

This square is named after Count Casimir Pulaski of Poland, the highest ranking foreign officer to die in the American Revolution. He fell during the Siege of Savannah in 1799.

Point of interest: Francis S Bartow House

Explore Savannah's Squares Pulaski
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Pulaski

Reynolds Square

Location: Abercorn and St Julian Streets

Designed in 1733

Named for Georgia’s first Royal Governor, John Reynolds, this square features a monument dedicated to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and the Anglican minister to the colony in 1736.

Points of interest: Lucas Theatre and The Olde Pink House

Explore Savannah's Squares Reynolds
I enjoyed sitting in this park while waiting for my reservation time at The Olde Pink House.

Taylor Square

Location: Abercorn and Wayne Streets

Designed in 1851

Formally known as Calhoun Square, it was originally named after John C Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman and Vice President under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. It has been renamed Taylor Square in honor of Susie King Taylor. She was born enslaved and she was secretly educated by her freed grandmother in Savannah. Susie became the first black teacher to educate African Americans in Georgia and served as a nurse during the Civil War. She later opened a school in Savannah for African American children and published a memoir about her experiences with the 33rd United States Colored Troops.

This is the only square that still has all of its original historic buildings.

Points of interest: Massie School and Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church

Explore Savannah's Square Taylor
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Taylor

Telfair Square

Location: Barnard and Presidents Streets

Designed in 1733

Originally named St James, this square was renamed in 1883 to honor Edward Telfair, a three time governor of Georgia and patron to the arts.

Points of interest: Trinity United Methodist Church, Telfair Museum of Art and Jepson Center for the Arts

Explore Savannah's Squares Telfair
Benches in Telfair Square

Troup Square

Location: Habersham and McDonough Streets

Designed in 1851

This square is named in honor of George Michael Troup, a senator and governor of Georgia. In the center stands the Armillary Sphere, an astronomical device that shows the relationship among the celestial circles.

Points of interest: the Unitarian Universalist Church and the McDonough Row Houses

Explore Savannah's Squares Troup
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Troup

Warren Square

Location: Habersham and St Julian Streets

Designed in 1733

Warren Square honors General Joseph Warren who was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War.

Point of interest: the Spencer-Woodbridge House

Explore Savannah's Squares Warren
Pretty Warren Square.

Washington Square

Location: Houston and St Julian Streets

Designed in 1790

As you might guess, this square honors our first president, George Washington. Some of Savannah’s oldest houses reside on this square. The land was once the site of the Trustees’ Garden.

Points of interest: International Seamen’s House, The Brice, A Kimpton Hotel

Explore Savannah's Squares - Washington

Whitefield Square

Location: Habersham and Wayne Streets

Designed in 1851

Whitefield Square, also pronounced and spelled “Whitfield Square”, was the last of Savannah’s squares. It honors Reverend George Whitefield, founder of the Bethesda Orphanage, the oldest orphanage in the US. A gazebo sits in the center of the square.

Points of interest: the First Congregational Church and Victorian architecture houses

Explore Savannah's Squares Whitefield
Whitefield Square is one of my favorites.

Wright Square

Location: Bull and Presidents Streets

Designed in 1733

This square is named for Sir James Wright, Georgia’s third and last colonial governor. The monument in the square honors William Washington Gordon, an early mayor of Savannah who established the Central of Georgia Railroad. A large boulder marks the grave of Tomochichi, the Yamacraw Chief who welcomed General Oglethorpe and the first colonists to the area.

The square is also the site of Savannah’s most infamous hanging, of Alice Riley who supposedly murdered her husband. Her ghost is said to haunt Wright Square.

Points of interest: Lutheran Church of the Ascension and Old Chatham County Courthouse

Explore Savannah Squares Wright
Explore Savannah’s Squares – Wright

The Two Lost Squares

Liberty Square, located at Houston and McDonough Streets, was designed in 1801. It was named to honor the Savannah patriots “Liberty Boys”.  They set the stage for Georgia’s involvement in the American Revolution. The square was paved over during the construction of the new Chatham County Courthouse.

Elbert Square, located at Houston and McDonough Streets, was designed in 1801. It honored Samuel Elbert, a Revolutionary War hero and Georgia governor. A small grassy section of this square remains. (See photo at end of post.) The remainder disappeared under the Savannah Civic Center and its parking lot in 1974.

How many squares have you seen?

I loved my daily strolls, finding the beautiful and interesting Savannah Squares. One could dedicate half a day to finding all of them at once. However, I planned my four days in Savannah around the squares, visiting them and points of interest in the area and eating at restaurants nearby.

The Illustrated Map of Savannah that I used has all of the squares clearly marked and I used that map frequently to keep track of where I was. (Read my post on my other blog: Walk with a Map.) Set up on a grid, the squares are not hard to find. Once you discover one, you can map out the rest.

How many of the squares have you seen?

Elbert Square
What remains of Elbert Square

 

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