Monday, April 28, 2014

4/28 Trolley Stop # 14 - Factor's walks

Trolley stop # 14 -Factor's Walks and Emmet Park

     One of the things that makes Savannah so unique as compared to other South Carolina and Georgia coastal communities is that is sits on a high bluff.   They call this the "Low Country" - because there usually isn't a hill any higher than a sand dune.  But some quirk of geology shoved up a 40 foot bluff about them miles up the Savannah River, and with the hurricanes that frequent this area this is a very beneficial feature of the land.

     The following photograph is looking down on River Street parallel with today's trolley stop.

     Here you can see the streets that connect to River Street going down the steep hill to the river.

     And the back side of those four story buildings?  Only a little bit of the back side emerges above the hill they are set into.  

     This allowed small bridges to be built over the top of the descending ramps to the cobblestone street below.  (The cobblestones were in the bellies of ships coming from Europe to keep them stable on the high seas.  When the ships returned they were laden with raw goods, so the ships left the stones behind.)  Notice how centuries of use have smoothed the stones.

     This made for some interesting stairways.  Most of them have warning signs that you use the steps at your own risk.  The treads are uneven in height, but they are solid enough.

     Here and there a few are made of cast iron.

     And there are a few that climb the whole forty feet in one shot.

    Atop the hill is the old Cotton Exchange.  Cotton from Georgia once accounted for about half of all the United State's exports by volume.  The cotton came in by wagon, canal and later by railroad car.  In fact, inside the little cupola that was in the first photo with the trolley hangs the old exchange bell, dated 1802.  It was used much like the bell you see rung for the New York Stock Exchange today as well as a fire alarm.

     The English word for "broker" is "factor."  A factor was an individual that would buy the cotton from the farmers and then resell it to clients in New England and Europe.  These factors would stand atop the small bridges over the descending ramps as the cotton was brought in from the plantations and bid on it.   

    The factor also advanced money against the receipts for the sale of the cotton since the money would not come for three months or so.  Many of these men grew fabulously wealthy, as they made their margin on the cotton and then made interest monies on the advances they gave the farmers.  Above, a character for Old Savannah Tours plays the role of one of these men.

     Alongside stop # 14 and running parallel with the river atop the bluff is Emmett Park.  This is where the citizens of Savannah have placed a number of their most meaningful memorials.  This bench is the spot where the founder, Oglethorpe, pitched his tent when the first colonists arrived to found Georgia.  This man continued to sleep in his tent until all of the settlers he brought along had houses built.

     This next one is fascinating.  It is a carved relief monument, and is a recent addition.  It was given to Savannah in 1994 by Austria as an apology to those early Protestants that came to Georgia after being driven from Austria because of their religion.

     But the most carefully and thoughtfully designed monument in Savannah has to be this next one.

     This is the Vietnam War memorial.  A circle of benches surrounds a pool of water.  In the pool of water is a huge slab of marble atop which is carved the geographic shape of Vietnam.  In bronze are a soldiers boots, rifle and helmet in the position that customarily signifies he was carried off in a body bag.

     At the end of the park is the old harbor light.  This light was installed in 1858 and was used as a "range light," which means sailors aligned it with a light further down the river to guide them up the river.  

     As a side note, this trolley stop is by Boar's Head Restaurant, where I have heard numerous locals say the best meat in town can be found.  I personally have not tried it.

     Back at Old Savannah Tours main garage we meet Alejandro Sarmiento.

Alejandro Sarmiento

     Alejandro, pictured above with Victor and Jose, runs the clean-up crew at Old Savannah Tours.  He is a native of Honduras who moved to the USA 7 years ago, and has worked here for 4 years.  He is married with 2 girls, Sophia Kata.  

     These guys come in twice a day.  At 5:30 AM they show up to clean all of the shuttles, trolleys and limos used for evening events.  Usually they are done by about 9 AM.  Then they show back up at 2 PM to start cleaning the trolleys coming in from the day shift.  On busy days, sometimes thirty to forty ferries come in and need to be cleaned, meaning they don't get out until 7 and sometimes 8 o'clock.

     And today's parting shot - do you remember these?  I seem to remember a series that was around fifty years ago and sold in the back of Boy's Life Magazine.  They are still selling I guess.

All have an awesome Tuesday !!

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