Exhibit: Savannah - An Intelligent Grid

Published on: 7/1/2019


​In 1733, James Oglethorpe, a member of Parliament and a Trustee, founded Georgia's colony. The Trustees were notable philanthropists and created the colony to be where the "worthy poor" of England could live and work to pay their debts. They named the colony in honor of King George II. Georgia was also a "buffer colony," protecting South Carolina from the threatening Spanish in Florida. The Trustee hoped Georgia would be prosperous, like South Carolina, to grow and supply England with silk and other raw materials. Georgia's charter had four prohibitions for the colony; no enslavement, liquor, lawyers, or Catholics. This charter remained until 1752 when the Trustees surrendered the colony, making Georgia a Royal Colony ruled by the Crown.

When Oglethorpe arrived at Savannah's future site, he encountered a Creek Indian Mico (Chief) named Tomochichi. The members of his small tribe were known as the Yamacraw, and speaking through an interpreter named Mary Musgrove, Oglethorpe and Tomochichi were able to form an alliance. Tomochichi agreed to move North on the river to allow the English to build upon the defensible forty-foot-high bluff. Oglethorpe agreed to protect their tribe and build a school for them.


The square is the center of the streets and building lots. The four largest blocks on the north and south sides of the square are called tythings, which means a group of ten. The tythings are ten house lots 60 feet wide and sometimes subdivided into 20 or 30 feet, creating diverse building sizes throughout Savannah's historic district. Four smaller blocks on the east and west sides of the square are called trust lots for public buildings.


The city's only 3D model, created by James Morton, highlights Savannah's 2.2 square mile National Historic Landmark District. Landmarks such as City Hall, the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, and Colonial Park Cemetery are fun to locate. The model offers three unique laser show presentations exploring Savannah's design, Bull Street as "Monument Row," and the fires that almost destroyed the city. Two Royal Seals from the Trustees of the Colony of Georgia are on display. Model-maker, James Morton, donated these artifacts for this exhibit.


Its Your Turn to be an Urban Planner


Joseph Louis Firmin Cerveau's "View of Savannah" (1837) displays Oglethorpe's skills as an urban planner.

James Oglethorpe, inspired by places he had been, created Savannah. Explore the digital photo screens and view city plans from around the world. Then, use the block to build your city. Think about the places you have visited or learned about. It is your turn to be the designer! Would you use straight lines as Oglethore did, or would you arrange your streets and blocks with diagonals and curves?

Think: How does your built environment support the economic and social environment of the community?



Cornell professor John Reps continues his 55-year study of James Edward Oglethorpe's unique vision for Savannah. Savannah's distinctive city plan's specific source is not absolute and has been the subject of continuing speculation. Visit the digital notebook to investigate Savannah's origins.



How does travel enrich life's experiences? Visiting distant communities and observing their built environments makes it possible to examine local architectural history influences.

Few have been as committed to Savannah civic vitality and history as Emma Morel Adler, preservationist, and education activist. In her travels throughout the world, she has discerned architectural connections that link communities and cultures abroad with her beloved Savannah.

Explore her travel photos and written observations from her travel journals.



With the highest ideals and standards, Emma Morel Adler, wife, mother, civic leader, educator, and preservationist, exemplifies the bet of the title Friend of Massie. Her vision, courage, and perseverance led the efforts to preserve and transform Massie School into an educational center to understand, appreciate, and protect Savannah's unique urban plan, built environment, and history.




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