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Originally named Forsyth Place, by the mid 1850s, one portion of the original lands of the colonial Savannah gardens were transformed into the Forsyth Park . Formerly the parade grounds, today Forsyth Park (Savannah's central park) offers the perfect place for a Savannah stroll, jog, or photography within the 2.5 miles of the Savannah Historic District.
In 1733, the lands around Forsyth Place [now Forsyth Park] comprise much of the designated 5-acre Savannah garden lots of colonial Savannah, Georgia's earliest British and European settlers. During the Civil War, Union soldiers encamped here. SavannahNow.com posts photos of the Century, including Johnny Mercer with Students at the Savannah Arts Festival in Forsyth Park and the 1914 Pushmobile Races. Hawking "Peanuts, parched 'n boiled," peanut vendors formerly drew the fascination of park visitors.
This 30-acre park is bordered on the north by Gaston Street, on the south by Park Avenue and has a one-mile perimeter popular among outdoor enthusiasts. The northern section of the park was donated to the city by William Hodgson, a private citizen, who felt the city needed a large public park. In 1851, the park was expanded and named for John Forsyth, a Georgia Governor. The park’s north end is home to a cast iron fountain that was erected in 1858. The Forsyth Park Fountain was designed to resemble the grand fountain in Paris at the Place de la Concorde. An exact replica of the Forsyth Park Fountain resides in Cuzco, Peru. The park is also adorned by monuments to the Confederate Soldier, the Marine Corps Monument, the Spanish-American Monument and the Fragrant Garden for the Blind. The Forsyth Park Fountain is one of the most visited attractions by visitors to Savannah.
Today the former parade grounds now host outdoor stage concerts, exhibits, soccer tournaments, tennis matches, Savannah's official Christmas tree, and Frisbee games. For those on a bicycle race or tour, riding through Forsyth Park, you will be cycling beneath a canopy of Cizannesque moss-draped oaks on one of Savannah's showplace boulevards. Frequently overlooked are the cabbage palms, planted before 1921, which line Gaston Street and Park Avenue, border streets to Forsyth Park.
"A stroll through the 20-acre Forsyth Park offers a true Savannah-style southern postcard view, with Spanish moss hanging from huge old live oaks. The trees form a tunnel that frames the park's 1858 fountain, patterned after that in the Place de la Concord in Paris and purchased for $2,200 from a catalog,” writes the Washington Times. "The water is dyed green for the country's second-largest St. Patrick's Day celebration (after only New York), which draws about a half-million people.”
The Forsyth Park neighborhood features stately Victorian-era mansion inns including Azalea Inn & Gardens, McMillan Inn, Forsyth Park Inn, The Senator's Gate and Catherine Ward House. The Mansion on Forsyth Park, the historic district's newest luxury boutique hotel, showcases Bohemian decor and a southern cooking school.
Architectural treasures around Forsyth Park include Hodgson Hall, housing the Georgia Historical Society and the former Telfair Hospital for Females, created in 1886 through the estate of Mary Telfair, the longest operating women's hospital in the United States. Some claim Miss Telfair still roams the hallways wearing a brown dress. The Lucy Armstrong mansion, formerly the centerpiece of Armstrong Junior College, is now the law firm of Bouhan, Williams & Levy. Magnolia Hall, constructed in 1878 by New York architect Abraham J. Snedeker, is now a guest house for the Savannah College of Art and Design. Featured in the Baggar Vance movie, the mansion of Stephen Braswell (an executive whose name is synonomous with homemade-tasting Stateboro Georgia jams and preserves) was spotlighted in prominent Inc. magazine. That prominent Lane-Morrison mansion underwent a $4M restoration.
Magnolia Hall was built as a single-family home for cotton magnate Jacob Guerard Heyward (1844–88). Raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, Heyward attended school in Charleston and served in the first artillery battalion of the Confederate Army. Following the Civil War, he married Pauline de Caradeuc, whose personal diary from the years 1863–88 was published as "A Confederate Lady Comes of Age." Heyward later became one of Savannah's most successful cotton factors.
Following Heyward's death in 1888, the spacious house was used as a combination residence and boarding house. Less than a century later, in 1984, the home was transformed into an inn. Several noted literary figures have been associated with the home, including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate Conrad Aiken, who was born in the house in 1889. Novelist John Berendt made the residence his adopted Savannah home in the 1980s while writing the New York Times bestseller "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." SCAD acquired the inn in 2005 for use by visiting artists and other guests of the college.