BACKSTORY: Reynolds Square was laid out on Abercorn Street in 1734. It was renamed for John Reynolds, the first colonial governor of Georgia. Interesting since Reynolds was the least popular of the colonial governors. He had arrived in Savannah in 1754, after the Trustees turned the colony over to the Crown. Reynolds Square was the center of colonial government and originally held the House of Assembly, where the first reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in Georgia. Reynolds Square is in the central business district and therefore it suffers from some of the ill-founded urban renewal that took place throughout the historic district.
Reynolds Square, though, was the scene of much interesting early history and contains some of the most historically interesting buildings in the city of Savannah. Going back in time, though, the Filature for silk making was located on the square. It was believed that silk worms could thrive and produce fine silk to replace that which had been imported to England from China via Italy at great expense to the Crown. However, the cocoons couldn’t mature properly, probably due to Georgia’s humid climate. The industry failed and the Filature was then converted to use as a meeting house. It served as a city hall and meeting hall until about 1845, despite fires and rebuildings. Among other historical events, a dance was given in honor of George Washington in 1791. Unfortunately, this building did not survive to modern times.
Two homes of note did succeed the Filature on the site, however. The Pink House/Habersham House, built in the 18th century and the Oliver-Sturgis House, built in the 19th century. The Habersham House, located at 23 Abercorn Street, was built in the Georgian style for James Habersham, Jr., in 1789, shortly after the American Revolution. Today it is known as a fine restaurant (Pink House), but it survives a varied history, first as a home for the Habershams, then the Boltons, until about 1812. Then it was the home of the Planter’s Bank and the First State Bank of Georgia. Various decorative and architectural changes were made to it during this time and in the 1870s the added wing was built. By the 1930s, it was a candidate for demolition, but was saved by Alida Harper, who opened a tea room in it. The building has a center hall floor plan, which later became central to the Greek revival house in the United States.
One of Savannah’s most architecturally important houses can be found on Reynolds Square. Dating from 1813, the Oliver Sturgis House located at 27 Abercorn Street was home to none other than Oliver Sturgis, one of the planners involved in the Atlantic crossing of the Steamship SS Savannah.
The statue in the center of square is a tribute to the Reverend John Wesley, known as the "founder" of Methodism and one of the first rectors of Savannah's Christ Church.
Also found on Reynolds Square are the Lucas Theatre, located at 22 Abercorn Street, and the Leroy Myers Cigar building. The theater was built in 1921 for Colonel Arthur Lucas, a Savannah native. It was originally designed for silent films and vaudeville and was eventually refitted for “talkies”. It functioned in this capacity until 1976 and was in danger of demolition until a public-private partnership was formed to modernize and restore it. It is once again one of the city’s most romantic theater buildings.
The Leroy Myers Cigar building, located at 18 Abercorn Street, was built with a reference to Mediterranean styling. It has arches, overhanging eaves and a tower. It was built by Henrik Wallin in 1911. Today it is used by the Christ Church as administrative offices.
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