Tag Archive | Marshall House Hotel

The Grand Tour – Day 7 – Fort Pulaski

We woke up to our last morning at the Marshall House and Savannah, Georgia. We got moving and went downstairs to have another fantastic breakfast with quiche and fruit. Awesome! (Yes, I’m frequently guided by my stomach. So what?) Then we headed out for one last morning wander around town before we had to check out, say goodbye and head on our way. We paid another visit to Colonial Cemetery (I can never get enough of this place!) and we wandered down to get a good photo of the Lucas Theatre.

The Lucas Theatre opened as a movie theatre in December 1921 and at the time, was the largest movie screen in Savannah.  It holds a special place in my heart though, because the first movie shown there, at the Grand Opening, was the silent film Camille, starring Rudolph Valentino!  My namesake!  No, not really, as the movie is about a courtesan, but it is a really good film.  And the 1936 version starring Greta Garbo is awesome too.  Camille is based on the 19th century book La Dame aux camélias by French author Alexandre Dumas’, and the book is also the basis for the more recent film Moulin Rouge (although it diverges quite a bit from the original story).  And in case you are wondering why the film is called Camille, when the main character is named Marguerite, Camille was the American name given to the movie, presumably to give a nod to The Lady of Camellias book title.

The Lucas Theatre, Built 1921, Greek Revival Architectural Style

On our way out of town, we decided to see Fort Pulaski, which is a fort outside of Savannah that was built in beginning in 1829 (it was finally finished in 1847). Although it was begun under the direction of another officer, Robert E. Lee was the second officer in charge of construction, and the one who oversaw the completion of the fort. He was a Second Lieutenant at that time in the U.S. Army.  It was built from bricks, both from a nearby Savannah plantation, and from as far away as Baltimore, Maryland.  Fort Pulaski is named for Kazimierz Pulaski (known in the U.S. as Casimir Pulaski), who was a Polish cavalry soldier who fought for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  He was a genius at military strategy, learning his trade fighting in battles all across Europe.  He trained U.S. troops fighting the British and participated in the sieges of Charleston and Savannah (shout out to my Polish heritage!).

Jon Posing on the Walk Up to Fort Pulaski

The Arched Entrance to Fort Pulaski

The fort was occupied at the beginning of the Civil War by Georgia troops, but Union troops assaulted Fort Pulaski with rifled cannon (a new innovation that scored the inside of the cannon with grooves to allow heavier cannonballs to travel further and with more accuracy).  Union troops spent a period of time constructing sand batteries on distant Tybee Island, where they then placed 36 guns.  The Confederates knew they were there, but were feeling secure inside the fort.  In fact, Robert E. Lee said, “Colonel, they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance.”  The 11 foot thick walls of Fort Pulaski were considered to be impenetrable, but after 30 hours of bombardment, the Union cannons had breached one wall of the fort and were shelling dangerously close to the fort’s powder magazine.

A View of the Inside of Fort Pulaski From the Upper Wall

The Confederates surrendered the fort and it was occupied and repaired by Union troops for the remainder of the war, successfully blockading the Savannah River and shutting down commerce in and out of Savannah.  At one point, over 500 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned at the fort, in response to the Confederates placing 600 Union soldiers in the direct line of Union fire in the city of Charleston.  These Confederate soldiers became known as the Immortal 600 – and 13 of them died of starvation and dysentery while imprisoned there.  They are buried outside the fort.

Grave Marker for the Immortal Six Hundred – 13 Confederate POWs Who Died at Fort Pulaski

The fort is now operated by the National Park Service as a National Monument, so I was able to get another stamp for my National Parks Passport!  It was an awesome place to spend a couple of hours, checking out the history and enjoying the Southern sunshine.  While we were there we got to see a musket firing demonstration (see the smoke in the photo!), and see what it would have been like to live at the fort (I would rather live at Fort Pulaski than Fort Sumter, hands down). I tried to find alligators too, because I saw on the brochure that they live on Cockspur Island around the fort, but I was thwarted again – no alligators were to be seen.  Jon and I did take a walk on some of the nature trails, but we headed back when we started getting eaten by mosquitoes!

A Musket Firing Demo at Fort Pulaski

After Fort Pulaski, we headed over to Tybee Island to see what it was like. Tybee Island is a resort island with lots of beach access and seaside fun for the kids. We cruised through and took a look, but since neither Jon nor I are real beach vacation folks, it probably won’t be next on our vacation agenda.

Then, we got back on the road for another long drive to our next destination – Americus, Georgia!

The Grand Tour – Day 6 – Savannah and Colonial Cemetery

Today was our full day in Savannah! We didn’t really have anything on the itinerary other than a ghost story walking tour in the evening, so we got up and got breakfast at a more leisurely pace. The Marshall House has a fantastic continental breakfast included in the price of the room, with baked breakfast quiches in addition to all the usual fare. And a big bowl of fresh cut fruit! Yum!

After breakfast, we set out for the day. We checked out the riverfront again, this time during the day.  Most of the buildings on the riverfront used to be cotton warehouses, where the cotton was stored while it awaited shipment to the North and to Europe. Slaves loaded the cotton and were chained in the warehouses at night, as legend has it, so of course they are haunted! During the day though, there the riverfront area is a bustling tourist area, with restaurants and gift shops, and it really doesn’t give away too much about its cruel past.

Next we wandered up into an area above the riverfront that has a couple of antique shops, and Jon let me have my fill of browsing. They had some neat old bottles, but nothing that I had to bring home with me. We also went to the City Market, which is full of touristy art galleries and gift shops. Jon loved the portraits of Big Lebowski characters (in bright, psychedelic colors of course) that we found in one art gallery. He made me take a picture after I let him know in no uncertain terms that the Big Lebowski portrait would NEVER be decorating one of the walls in our home!

Big Lebowski Portrait

There was one wine tasting room named Meinhardt’s Winery in the City Market, but a prominent sign was displayed that proclaimed “NO SHARING!”  (the all caps and the exclamation point are their emphasis, not mine).  To be honest, we were a little miffed by that, and decided not to try their wines. Let’s be honest – wineries give a sample of the wine to show people how it tastes and to get people interested enough to buy the wine. You are going to offer the same 1-2 oz. sample, why do you care if one person drinks it all or if 2 people share it? Not to mention, this wasn’t a free tasting – you had to pay for it, so if I had to BUY that 1-2 oz. sample of wine anyway, doesn’t that mean I own it and can share it with whomever I like? I can certainly understand that this was a tourist area and you probably get a lot of people who aren’t going to buy, but really, if you are that worried about it, why would you set up shop in the middle of the tourist market!? Ok, I just had to get that out there… I’m done with my rant now… moving on… The shop had fruit and muscadine wines, and while it would have been interesting to try them, the muscadine cider the day before hadn’t blown my mind.

At this point, I was already starving, so we stopped at Anna’s Italian restaurant for lunch. I ordered a mushroom Swiss burger (Jon thought I was crazy for ordering hot food, because it was really hot that day, but it just sounded good!) Jon had a shrimp salad. Both our meals were good, although nothing spectacular.  Mom and I had been to the same restaurant and had tapas for dinner, and they were really good, so I would still be willing to go back and try the tapas if we are ever back there (which I hope we are).

From City Market, we continued on our way, stopping here and there to look at historic homes, meander around squares, and take in the Colonial Cemetery. Colonial Cemetery was Savannah’s second cemetery, the first one having been filled much earlier than the founders expected (probably due to those pesky Yellow Fever epidemics) and eventually covered over with buildings as Savannah grew (and yes, they did leave the bodies in the ground – just built right on top of them!). Colonial Cemetery was used by union troops as a campsite during the Civil War (only the officers got to stay in the nice historic homes I guess), and during their spare time, they took to re-carving the headstones.

One of Savannah’s Beautiful Squares

Savannah’s Colonial Cemetery

If you pay attention while you wander through, you will find some genealogical impossibilities. We found one where a boy, aged 11, died in 1820, his wife, aged 17, died in 1823, and their son, aged 12, also died in 1820, just a few weeks after his father. See where I’m going with this – the son would have been born before the father!

A Re-Carved Headstone in Savannah’s Colonial Cemetery

The cemetery is full of these tricks (or maybe Savannah just had a lot of time travelers), and if you are the patient type, who reads all the headstones, you can find dozens. I could wander around cemeteries for awhile, but Jon was getting bored, so we continued on our way.

The Grand Tour – Day 5 – Savannah!

At the end of our drive for the day, Savannah was waiting for us!  And so was the Marshall House!  The Marshall House was the lodging I was most excited about during our trip. It is a historic hotel right in the downtown historic district of Savannah, built in 1851.  We got there and parked and had our first true experience with a valet! Jon had never used a valet or bellhop before, and I have only had very limited experience. But you can imagine how excited Jon was to find out they had a wine and cheese social each evening from 5:00 to 6:30 pm.

The Marshall House Hotel – Built in 1851

We got checked in to our room on the fourth floor, room 405, a petite queen. The petite queens are small and value priced. They are advertised as small, so you know what you are getting, and it gave us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in this beautiful hotel that offers luxury amenities like wine and cheese social hours and turndown service without busting out budget. Frankly though, we didn’t think that the room was that small, and it didn’t need to be very large, considering that we were going to spend most of our time outside touristing!

The Wrought Iron Balcony of the Marshall House – Reproduced to Look Like the Original Balcony

The hotel has been renovated with up to date features like bathrooms in each room, flat screen TVs and mini-fridges, but it maintains the character of the original hotel, using the original doors, and wood floors.  Walking in the hotel hallways, you can tell that the floors are uneven, but I thought it just added to its charm and character.  The walls are decorated with historical prints and portraits of historical figures, like Robert E. Lee.

Room 405 – Courtesy of the Marshall House Website

The Marshall House (Savannah’s oldest hotel, by the way) served as a Union hospital during the Civil War, after Sherman occupied Savannah just before Christmas Day 1864. The second floor of the hotel served as the operating rooms and the third floor housed the recovery rooms. With all that suffering, it is a guarantee that the place would be haunted, and it is.  The story goes that the body parts from the amputations were thrown out the back windows from the second floor into the alley below.  Then they buried the limbs beneath the floorboards in the basement of the building because the ground outside was frozen during the extremely cold winter of 1864.  During renovations, workers found the bones, and to avoid disturbing the spirits, the owners of the hotel decided to rebury the bones in the basement.

The Stairwell of the Marshall House

People staying at the hotel have reported hearing groans like sick and dying men, and seeing a man with no arm wandering around asking for a surgeon.  Apparently maids have also opened the door to a room and seen a Civil War hospital operating room, with people laid out on tables and bloody bandages littering the floor.  A little girl has been seen and heard running up and down the hallways.  Apparently she was friends with the children whose parents owned the Marshall House, and she died tragically at the age of 7.  She used to haunt her own home, but when it was torn down she came over to the Marshall House, where she had played as a child.  There is also reportedly a woman in the lobby ladies room who will lock the door to one particular stall.

After checking in we washed off the grit and grime from Magnolia Gardens (you haven’t forgotten us sloshing around in all those puddles, have you? My feet were pretty gross!) before we went back downstairs for the wine and cheese social hour.  We are never late for happy hour!  We had some wine and cheese and did some relaxing while we pondered dinner. The wine was an everyday selection of Merlot, White Zinfandel or Chardonnay, and you could have cheddar, pepperjack, and a white cheese (provolone maybe?) with a variety of crackers and grapes.  While none of the food was fancy, the wine was decent – something I would even buy for a regular occasion, if only I could remember what kind it was!

The Lobby Area of the Marshall House

After having a bit of refreshment, we set out to check out Savannah. We ended up at the Pirate’s House restaurant, a seafood restaurant which has been operating continuously as an Inn and restaurant since 1753! Part of the building is the original Gardener’s house for the Savannah colony, and was built in 1734 (it is thought to be the oldest house in the state of Georgia). The original community garden area was turned into a residential area in 1753, and the Gardener’s house was expanded and turned into an inn and restaurant for sailors who were stopping over in Savannah.

Legend has is that there were tunnels beginning at the liquor cellar under the Pirate’s House and extending to the harbor, enabling unscrupulous captains to shanghai drunken sailors and depart with them. They would take an unconscious drunken man through the tunnel and out to a ship, and the ship would set sail before the sailor woke up. By the time he realized where he was, they were well out at sea, and the sailor had no way to get back to port. What a way to get free labor! One shanghai story involves a policeman who stopped by the inn for a drink, and next thing he knew, he was on his way to China. It took him two years to make his way back to Savannah.

Now, you aren’t at risk of being kidnapped, and the food is amazing. They serve all sorts of fresh fish; so Jon and I of course ordered fish! Jon had the flounder stuffed with crab meat, and I had the trout. This was some of the best fish we have ever had! We paired our entrees with a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir, but sadly, neither of us remembers the winery name, and the Pirate’s House doesn’t post their wine list online (I’m  considering emailing them to ask them what the Pinot was). Our server James was fantastic too – he was friendly and courteous and a first rate server. And outside, we got a view of female pirates. Judging by the knee brace that one of them was wearing, I would say they weren’t authentic pirates though.

My Trout Meal with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Vegetables

The Pirate’s House also has another fun history – it is one of Savannah’s many haunted houses – the placemat under your plate gives you the rundown of the residential ghostly experiences. I suppose any Inn that has been around over 250 years is bound to have a few ghosts!  Apparently, in the seat I sat in for dinner, a man brazenly scoffed aloud at the idea that the restaurant could be haunted and the Treasure Island art print hanging over the spot fell off the wall at that moment and hit him in the head!  I tried saying aloud that I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I must not have been very convincing, because nothing happened to me.

The Fireplace in the Captain’s Room at the Pirate’s House

After our fabulous dinner, we wandered down to the riverfront and checked things out. Savannah has an open container law, so you can wander around with your beer, as long as it is in a plastic cup.  Having wine in a plastic cup isn’t quite as appealing though, so we didn’t take ours to go. After walking the length of the riverfront tourist area it was pretty dark, so we headed back to the Marshall House to call it a night.  We needed a good night’s rest so we could get in a full day of sightseeing the next day!