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Savanah Town Plan (old city)


Savanah, Georgia's original town plan had a unique layout of town squares superimposed on the gride lines of a grid system.

The squares allowed a lot of people and businesses to front on park-like settings. Any comments on how this worked, and why other cities did not pick up on this?


I just visited the old part of Savannah last month, and it really is a beautiful city, and the square is a is very novel and produced a great city. I also just finished reading a book that said that Savannah was not as much of an influence on other city designs because many of the city designers back in the 17 and 1800's just didn't bother to come as far south as Savannah, being so far away from where everything else was.

Only the old part of the city has the regularly spaced civic squares, though. I think this may have to do with too much cost for the squares as the density reduced down to single family detached houses as you went into the newer sections of the city.


The historic district in Savannah is a wonderful piece of urban design. The emphasis on public space is very appropriate in a climate that is suited for outdoor living much of the year. Perhaps one reason the idea was not copied more is that it might not be so wonderful in less hospitable climates.
A quirk of the plan is that it is the wrong density for its original purpose. The concept was that only significant buildings would front on the squares: churches, civic buildings, etc. Homes would make up the fabric of the in-between spaces. Unfortunately, there was too much square, and not enough "in-between", so the city began allowing private residences to front on the squares. The urban design is strong enought that the compromise is not too bad.
The grid with squares is not very auto-friendly, since you have to drive around each square rather than just go in a straight line. Great for pedestrians and for traffic calming--lousy in terms of getting from point A to point B. Modern city planning is often dependent on support from the business community, which tends to value speed and access over aesthetic qualities.
Another reason that the Savannah model may not have been more copied, is that Georgia was founded as a penal colony. The perception of backwardness and perhaps even lawlessness may have added to the physical distance mentioned by Perryair.