Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District
The Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
The Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District is a collection of historic intact residential, commercial, and community landmark buildings located in a neighborhood just south of the Savannah Victorian Historic District and northwest of the Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent Historic District. The area that was to become the district was originally identified on General Oglethorpe's 1733 plan for Savannah as "farm lots." Late 18th and early 19th-century development consisted of several cotton farms including the Drouillard Plantation. The Drouillard-Maupas House (ca. 1799), located at 2422 Abercorn Street, is the only remaining building reflecting the late 18th-century development of the district area. The house is a raised cottage with a central hallway with one room to either side and three small rear rooms. The Drouillard-Maupas House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The Savannah and Albany Railroad line was completed through the eastern section of the district in 1856. Even though the railroad cuts through the district area, it played a small role in the development of the neighborhood.
The development of the district during the mid-to-late 19th century is associated with the African-Americans living in Savannah. The Georgia Infirmary, located on the corner of Lincoln Street and 35th Street, is the oldest known African-American hospital founded by whites in the United States. Originally founded in 1837 by whites from Savannah for the black population of the city, the hospital consisted of two buildings located on the corner of Lincoln and 35th streets, approximately 1.5 miles from the city limits. Following the Civil War, the hospital was reconstructed in 1871. The original section of the hospital is a two-story, brick, rectangular building with Greek Revival elements. A two story, brick, rear ell was added in 1944.
In 1880, the Benedictine Order of Savannah established Sacred Heart Church, a school, and the orphanage on lots located on Habersham Street between 31st and 32nd streets. However, as the area of the district became more populated by whites moving out from the core of Savannah, the church needed to expand. In 1902, a tract of land was purchased for the construction of a new church and high school for boys on a block on Bull Street between 33rd and 34th streets. As a result, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, designed by Hyman Witcover, was built ca. 1902-1905, the Sacred Heart Priory was built in 1904, and the Benedictine Military School was built ca. 1904. The church is built in the High Victorian Gothic style with red pressed brick with white Georgia marble trim, red tile roof, pointed arched Gothic stone door surround, and pointed arched windows.
In 1875, much of the land east of Bull Street and south of Anderson Street was still laid out in farm lots and sparsely developed, and the area west of Bull Street was being more aggressively developed. In 1883, the city of Savannah extended its city limits south from Anderson Street to 42nd Street and Estill Avenue (now Victory Drive). The area was platted in 1884 resulting in the area east and west of Bull Street to be more evenly developed for residential housing. The streets were laid out in a grid pattern and one large park, Thomas Square, was planned for an area extending from Bull to Abercorn streets. However, the square was only laid out along one block between 35th and 36th streets. Four other squares were considered for the neighborhood but were never platted or constructed.
The electrification of the streetcar in 1888 played a significant role in the development of the district. (See: Streetcar Suburbs, 1888 to 1928) The A&B Belt Line provided transportation south of the mid-19th-century developed area of the National Register-listed Savannah Victorian Historic District. As the population of Savannah grew, the electrified rail line provided people the means to move further south of the Savannah River and previously developed areas to build their homes. The introduction of the rail line resulted in the construction of rail-related buildings in the neighborhood. A depot, which is no longer standing, was constructed near the intersection of 32nd and Whitaker streets in 1888. A ca. 1900 depot was constructed near the intersection of 40th and Lincoln streets, which today is a home. Repair shops were constructed near the intersection of 37th and Whitaker streets; however, little remains standing. The rail line tracks were removed from Whitaker Street ca. 1920.
The housing stock of the neighborhood consists of a variety of types and styles built from the late 18th to early 20th century. The houses located within the district are situated close together and near the edge of the pavement of the streets. Unlike the bordering neighborhoods composed of single-family residences, this district is mixed with both single-family and multiple-family residences. The types of residential buildings include Side Hallway, Hall Parlor, Georgian, Queen Anne, Bungalow, Gable Ell, and Shotgun. The styles include Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, Italianate, Neoclassical Revival, Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts, and Craftsman. The types are interspersed along the streets as well as found uniformly.
Similar to the types, the styles are interspersed along the streets as well as found uniformly. One of the more distinctive residences located within the neighborhood is Elizabeth's on 37th/Gibbes-Sprague House, a Georgian plan house built ca. 1900 in the Beaux Arts style. The house was built during the period of greatest residential development of the neighborhood from 1890 to 1920. Architectural features include a flat roof, wide cornice line, urns, second-story recessed porch with pilasters and pedimented portico, and front portico supported by classical columns. Another distinctive house, known as the Gingerbread House/Asendorf House, is a Folk Victorian style house located on the corner of Bull Street and 36th Street. Also constructed during the height of the residential development of the district, this ca. 1900 side hallway-type house features a double portico with elaborate latticework, cornice brackets, extended eaves, and front gable.
The commercial buildings within the district were historically located at the intersections of major streets. The stores serviced the neighborhood and most of the owners lived above the stores in the buildings. The corner store located at the intersection of Lincoln Street and 33rd Street is a mixture of residential and commercial use built ca. 1912. The entrance to the store is located on the main floor of the end of the two-story building facing the intersection. The remaining part of the building is used as residential units. Corner stores also served solely as commercial buildings. The one-story, brick, Folk Victorian style building located at the corner of Price Street and 39th Street served as only a store. The store was built ca. 1915 and architectural features include decorative tiles along the front door and large glass windows, parapet, and corner entrance with double doors. This is the only corner store remaining in the neighborhood that uses decorative tiles around the front entrance. The corner store located at the intersection of Bull Street and 32nd Street is the only remaining store of a "shopping center" located at that intersection. Hermes-Gottlieb's Bakery, built 1897, is a two-story wood-framed building which has had several additions and alterations. The "shopping center" was originally composed of the bakery, a grocery store with a bar attached, a millinery shop, a shoe repair shop, a confectionery and fruit store, and a pressing club. The bakery is the last building remaining of the "shopping center." The district also includes several gas stations located at the corners of major north-south streets. The gas stations are similar to the ca. 1920 gas station located at the corner of Price Street and 38th Street . The gas stations were built during the 1920s and feature a canopy, office, and bays.
The district includes numerous community landmark buildings, including churches and educational buildings. The Little Sisters of the Poor complex is located along 37th Street near its intersection with Abercorn Street. The complex includes several auxiliary buildings. The Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor/George W. Owens House, located at the intersection of Abercorn Street and 37th Street, is a wood-framed, two-story, Georgian plan house built in the Colonial Revival style. Originally built for George W. Owens, the house later served as a convent. Architectural features include a centered gable with two-story pilasters, round windows in the center gable, and overhanging eaves. Located within the Little Sisters of the Poor block located on 37th Street between Abercorn and Lincoln, is the Little Sisters of the Poor/Sisters Court. The building was constructed from 1894 to 1915 and designed by Henry Urban in the Gothic Revival style. The four-story brick building has suffered from neglect and fire but is currently being rehabilitated. Other buildings located within the Little Sisters of the Poor block include the Laundry Building, a one-and-a-half story masonry building constructed in 1912; the Henhouse, a one-story masonry building constructed in 1913; the Carriage House, a one-and-a-half story masonry building constructed in 1916; and the Gate House, constructed in 1915, with associated brick wall and wrought-iron fence. Non-historic resources include the greenhouse, beauty salon, and shrines. The 7th Street Methodist Episcopal Church (now First Metropolitan Baptist Church) is located on the corner of 37th Street and Jefferson Street. The wood framed Gothic Revival style building was constructed in 1897. Stucco was recently added to the exterior of the building. The educational community landmark buildings include 38th Street School, Bull Street-Richard Arnold School, Benedictine Military School, Savannah Public Library, and 37th Street School. The 37th Street School was built in 1912 and designed by Henrik Wallin in the Italianate style. Architectural features of the two-story building include a centered square tower, overhanging eaves, and front projecting hip-roofed wings. The Savannah Public Library, built in 1915, received $75,000 from the Carnegie Foundation for its construction and was designed by Hyman Witcover. Architectural features of the two-story building include a flat roof, full-height entry porch with Ionic capitals, wide frieze band located beneath the cornice, and triple windows with transoms. A rear ell, which was also funded by the Carnegie Foundation, was added to the building in 1935 and built by the Public Works Project.
The landscaping of the district consists of tree-lined streets, bricked sections of roads, Thomas Square, historically landscaped medians, and "door yard" gardens. A section of 36th Street from Abercorn Street to Bull Street is bricked with trees lining the roadway. The median of 37th Street is landscaped with oak trees, and the median of Victory Drive is landscaped with palmetto trees and azalea bushes. Thomas Square is a recreational park with both historic and non-historic features. The vegetation and plan of the park maintain historic integrity but a basketball court has been added near the center of the park. Large historic oak trees are located throughout the entire district.
During the 1930s and 1940s, construction slowly declined as the neighborhood became full. Development continued to move south from the Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District with the construction of new subdivisions during the 1950s and 1960s. Overall, the neighborhood has a high level of historic integrity but is losing its historic building stock due to aggressive economic policies that do not take into account the historic resources located within the district.
Unlike the adjacent neighborhoods of Ardsley Park/Chatham Cresent Historic District, Cuyler, Brownville Historic District, and the Savannah Victorian Historic District, the neighborhood that encompasses the Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District is not known by any historic name. The neighborhood was known as Midtown at one time but a nearby neighborhood adopted the name as the city grew southward. Generally, the neighborhood is referred to as Thomas Square due to the presence of the historic Thomas Square park. The development of the neighborhood as a streetcar suburb is due to the streetcar lines that were located throughout the neighborhood. Therefore, the preferred name incorporates the name of the historic park, Thomas Square, and the historic presence of the streetcar lines.
The Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District is located in the southwestern section of the city of Savannah, Chatham County. The neighborhood is laid out in a grid pattern and consists of historic residential buildings, commercial buildings, community landmark buildings, a recreational park/square, landscaped medians, and landscaped yards with tree-lined streets. The district is characterized as a streetcar suburb, which developed during the late 19th into the mid-20th century. The district has a statewide significance in the areas of architecture, community planning and development, commerce, ethnic heritage: African American, transportation, and landscape architecture.
The Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District is significant in the area of architecture for its excellent intact collection of historic residential, commercial, and community landmark buildings. The historic residential buildings were constructed from the late 18th century, the Drouillard-Maupas House, into the mid-1940s. The height of the period of construction of residential buildings in the district was from 1890 to 1920. Unlike its adjoining historic neighborhoods with single-family residences, the Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District contains a mixture of single-family and multiple-family residences. The types and styles represented in the district are identified as significant in Georgia in the Georgia's Living Places: Historic Houses in Their Landscaped Settings context. The types of residential buildings in the district include Side Hallway, Hall Parlor, Georgian, Queen Anne, Bungalow, Gable Ell, and Shotgun. These types are interspersed throughout the district, such as on 35th Street, or situated uniformly, such as the Georgian cottages on 38th Street. The variety of types illustrate the mixture of the working-class, associated with the Shotgun, Georgian, and Hall Parlor types, and the middle-class, associated with the Side Hallway, Queen Anne, and Bungalow types, living in the same neighborhood during its period of development. Statewide, these types were popular in the suburbs of Georgia's cities from the late 19th into the early 20th centuries.
The styles identified within the district include Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, Italianate, Neoclassical Revival, Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts, Prairie School, and Craftsman. As identified in the Georgia's Living Places context these were styles popular in Georgia from the late 19th into early 20th century. Similar to the types, these styles are interspersed throughout the district, such as along 37th Street, or situated uniformly, such as the Craftsman-type houses located along 41st Street. The multiple-family residences are interspersed with the single-family residences, such as along 39th Street, and situated uniformly, such as the English Vernacular style buildings along 40th Street. The variety of styles, popular from the late 19th century into the early 20th century, represented in the district reflect the growth of the city south from the National Register-listed Savannah Victorian Historic District, characterized by Victorian styles popular from 1870 to 1897, into the later developed National Register-listed Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Historic District, characterized by Revival styles popular from 1910 to 1930.
The remaining historic stores are good and intact examples of the types of commercial buildings constructed in suburban neighborhoods during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The commercial stores are one- and two-story buildings constructed of either wood or brick located on the corners of the major intersections of the district. The Hermes-Gottlieb's Bakery is an excellent example of the type of corner commercial building found within the district. The two-story wood framed building built in the Queen Anne style was constructed in 1897 as a bakery/residence by A.J. Hermes. The building has had several additional and alterations. An original second-floor balcony has been removed and the original entrance onto the second floor from the street has been removed. An excellent masonry example of a commercial store is located at the corner of Price Street and 39th Street. This one-story brick store was built ca. 1915 in the Folk Victorian style. Built as a store, the building features large front windows, corner recessed entrance, and decorative tile located around the front entrance and the windows. The ca. 1920 gas station located at the corner of Price Street and 38th Street is an excellent example of the type of automobile-related buildings in the district. The gas stations are located at the intersections of the north-south streets and are similar in design, featuring a canopy with an office and bays located within the center block of the building.
The community landmark buildings in the district are excellent examples of the type of community landmark buildings constructed in Savannah prior to the extension of its city limits, such as the Georgia Infirmary rebuilt in 1871, to the mid-20th century. The Georgia Infirmary and the African-American orphanage illustrate the need for facilities constructed by whites for the African-Americans living in Savannah. The hospital and orphanage are early, very unusual African-American historic buildings in Georgia. The community landmark buildings constructed after extension of the city limits in 1883, such as the 37th Street School built 1912, the Little Sister of the Poor complex built 1894-1915, Savannah Public Library built in 1915, and other churches and schools built in the early part of the 20th century, convey the growth of the district area and the need for churches, educational facilities, and other community buildings. The Little Sister of the Poor complex is an unusually intact and elaborate example of this kind of facility or institution remaining in Georgia.
The district is significant in the area of community planning and development and transportation as a rare example of a streetcar suburban neighborhood composed of both single- and multiple-family residences located within Savannah. The area was laid out in a mostly uniform standard gridiron pattern for speculative development, continuing the pattern of the Victorian district to the north, quite different from General Oglethorpe's original city plan. Early residents included lawyers, bankers, managers, and insurance brokers. A small section, 31st Street between Habersham and Price streets, was originally settled by a small number of African-Americans. The electrification of the streetcar lines in 1888 provided people the opportunity to move further away from the historic center of Savannah. As a result of the electrification of the streetcar lines, the area of the district developed as a white working- to middle-class neighborhood. One streetcar line ran south down Whitaker Street from the center of Savannah and made a slight diagonal cut east at 41st Street. Even though the streetcar tracks were removed from Whitaker Street in the 1920's, the orientation of some of the historic buildings reflect the original alignment of the streetcar line. The historic residence at the corner of Whitaker Street and 41st Street was built so that the east side of the building was angled to follow the right-of-way line of the streetcar tracks (see National Register Boundary Map resource number 687). Other streetcar lines ran north on Abercorn Street, south on Montgomery to Victory Drive, and north on Habersham Street to 37th Street over to Bull Street. The change from streetcar travel to automobile travel starting in the 1910s is conveyed through the early 20th-century gas stations remaining within the district. The gas station located at the intersection of Price Street and 38th Street is representative of the type of gas stations located within the district with a canopy, office, and bays.
The district is significant in the area of commerce for the development of the corner stores within the district. The corner stores were significant features of the neighborhood before the extensive use of refrigeration. Many of the store owners lived above the stores in the buildings. However, some store buildings served solely as stores. A "shopping center" was located at the corner of Bull Street and 32nd Street. The intersection consisted of the Hermes-Gottlieb Bakery, the Lewishon-Schwartz's Grocery Store with attached bar, Mrs. Dempsey's millinery shop, a shoe repair shop, a confectionery and fruit store, and a pressing club. The bakery is the last remaining building at the intersection. The district is significant in the area of ethnic history: African American for its association to the Georgia Infirmary and the home of Mother Mathilda Beasley. The Georgia Infirmary was founded in 1837 by Rev. Thomas Francis William, a Baptist minister from Savannah, to provide medical care to the African-American residents of the Savannah area. The hospital consisted of two buildings located at the corner of Lincoln Street and 35th Street, and employed white doctors and nurses. The buildings suffered significant damage during the Civil War and remained closed following the war for five years. A new building was constructed on the same location of the original two buildings in 1871. A nursing school was started for African-American students at the hospital in 1904 and remained open until 1937. The Georgia Infirmary is the earliest of four extant African-American hospitals in Georgia identified in the Georgia Historic Survey Inventory. One of those, Charity Hospital (1931), was listed in the National Register in 1985. The Georgia Infirmary is nationally significant within the district since it is the earliest charitable medical center for African-Americans still remaining in the United States.
Father John Raphael established the first home for the Benedictine Order on the Isle of Hope in 1874. The work of the order was to help freed slaves, but the monastery was abandoned due to a yellow fever epidemic. The order moved to Skidaway Island to create an agricultural and industrial school for the education of African-Americans; however, the school was too remote to be effective. In 1880, the order purchased a block on Habersham Street between St. Paul Street (now 31st Street) and St. James Street (now 32nd Street) for the construction of three buildings: Sacred Heart Church, St. Francis Orphanage for African-American children, and a school. The orphanage was run by Mother Mathilda Beasley, who was the first African-American nun in Georgia. Mother Mathilda is credited with starting the first religious order of African-American nuns in Savannah. Mother Mathilda was born in New Orleans in 1834 and moved to Savannah as a young woman and taught African-American children in her home. After the death of her husband in 1869, she moved to York, England ca. 1885 to study with the Poor Clare Order, a branch of the Franciscan Order. She returned to Savannah and established an orphanage for African-American children associated with the Sacred Heart Church in 1886. In 1901, the church gave her a cottage at 1511 Price Street, which is still standing. She died in her home on December 20, 1903.
The district is significant in the area of landscape architecture for its excellent intact examples of "door yard" gardens, which are unique to Savannah, tree-lined streets, remaining sections of brick roads, and landscaped medians of two roads. Many of the streets are landscaped with mature oak trees located along the road's right of way. A section of 36th Street has retained its brick roadway with large mature oak trees canopying the street and houses. The historic landscaping along 37th Street consists of oak trees, and the historic landscaping along Victory Drive consists of palmetto trees and azalea bushes. During the 1880s, Savannah supported an active floriculture business. The gardens associated with this business have been lost due to the subdivision and development of the land in the neighborhood; however, an office associated with the business remains at the intersection at 40th Street and Abercorn Street.
The area of the historic district was originally designated as farm lots on General Oglethorpe's 1733 plan for Savannah. The original development of this area consisted of several late 18th-century farms including the Drouillard-Maupas House. Andre Drouillard was an emigre from the French West Indies who arrived in Savannah ca. 1797. Drouillard acquired several of the original farm lots and established a cotton plantation. His home is located along Abercorn Street just south of the Seaboard Coastline Railroad.
The area was further developed in the mid-19th century with the construction of the Georgia Infirmary, ca. 1837 and rebuilt in 1871. The Georgia Infirmary is the oldest African-American hospital in the United States founded by whites solely for the African Americans living near Savannah. Rev. Thomas Francis William, a Baptist minister, founded the hospital on land that he privately owned about a mile and a half outside the city limits of Savannah.
In 1868, David R. Dillon purchased 100 acres in Holland Tything and Percival wards. This area included what was to eventually be bounded by Bull Street, Victory Drive, 37th Street and appeared to extend westward to Florance Street, the eastern boundary of the Cuyler-Brownville subdivision. Dillon subdivided the tract into streets and three squares and named it Dillontown. Eight streets running east to west were named after Dillon's children and the seven north-south streets were extensions of existing streets. The three squares were named David, Robert, and Dillon. In 1883, Savannah's extension of the city limits absorbed the Dillontown tract. After the death of Mr. Dillon, all the land west of Barnard Street was purchased by the city for $60,000. The purchase culminated in 1886 and the squares were eliminated, being subdivided into lots and the named streets were changed to numbers.
Following the Civil War, the extension of the street car lines opened up new areas for development. In 1875 much of the land east of Bull Street and south of Anderson Street was still laid out in farm lots and sparsely developed, while on paper at least, developments such as Dillontown were platted for the former farm lots west of Bull Street.
One of the first uses of a portion of the undeveloped lands east of Bull Street was for recreational purposes. This use helped acquaint those living in Savannah with the potential of the area. The streetcar lines passed through two suburban recreation spots. One was Kiesling Teynac flower nursery, owned by Gustav Kiesling. The office for this nursery, built before 1888, still stands at intersection 40th Street and Abercorn Street. There was an active floriculture business in Savannah in the 1880s. Articles note that flowers, including roses, were grown for the northern market. Gustav Kiesling is mentioned continuously in the articles from 1881 until the 1890. His garden near Abercorn Street is specifically mentioned in 1888 and is shown on the 1891 Koch view as a park with an L-shaped greenhouse and a windmill.
The other garden site was Concordia Park. This park is indicated on the 1891 Koch view of the city and was the creation of Charles Seiler. It was described in the Savannah Morning News on September 5, 1890 as "that enticing resort on the suburbs of the city, where are beautiful shade trees and plants and flowers from all over the world, and to which pleasure seekers and those fatigued with the heat and dust of the city repair for rest and comfort, and to enjoy the pretty scenary [sic], the picturesque beauty, the pure air, the cool breeze, and - to quaff the foaming Milwaukee." About 1874, Mr. Seiler, a native of Germany, became the sole agent in Savannah for the Schlitz Brewing Company and maintained a beer garden on Broughton Street. In 1879, he bought the Teynac tract and sometime thereafter established the Concordia Park. The park embraced all the space between Bull, Abercorn, 37th, and 38th streets. It was a garden where open air concerts were given and numerous forms of amusement were provided. There was a playground for children, with band concerts at night. There were bowling alleys with certain hours reserved for the women and girls to bowl. There was also a 200-yard rifle range for the use of the military. Mr. Seiler gave up his enterprise about 1895, and it was subsequently subdivided into residential lots forming the southern portions of Thomas, Dasher and Teynac Wards. Mr. Seilers home was built at the corner of 37th and Bull street and shows prominently in the 1891 view of Savannah.
In September 1883 the city limits were extended from Anderson Street to 42nd Street and Estill Avenue (now Victory Drive). The streets, lanes, and wards were laid out by ordinance in May of 1884 and annexed in June. The "Official" manuscript map in the city vault shows one large park, Thomas Place, extending from Bull to Abercorn streets. However, four other squares are described in City Council minutes in 1886. None of these latter squares were platted and only a portion of Thomas Square west of Drayton was laid out.
In 1886, the 1884 annexation ordinance was repealed and a new one adopted creating all of the wards bounded by East Broad Street, Anderson Street, Ogeechee Road, and 39th Street. Some of the earlier scattered developments in this area were in the path of the proposed street extensions; therefore it took until the turn of the century for all of the streets to be laid through to Estill Avenue (now Victory Drive).
In 1867, the city passed an ordinance authorizing the laying down and construction of carriage railways in the streets of Savannah. These were horse drawn conveyances, but they offered access to the suburbs of the city and were largely responsible for the development of the Victorian Historic District. Savannah established an electric streetcar line in 1888. The A & B Belt Line helped encourage development in the area of the historic district as shown in the following news article: "The Belt Line did an immense business, everybody in town apparently wanting to see the new part of the city which has been heretofore almost inaccessible except to those who own vehicles." In 1892, the Savannah Morning News recorded that "the position of suburban lots has been greatly strengthened by the absorption of well located lots in the city, and by the extension of new lines of street cars into new sections. The building of new electric lines and the equipment of horse car lines with electricity are doing much toward building up the suburbs, thus connecting them with rapid transit, with the business portions of the city."
Streetcar lines, stops, and junctions were established in the southern part of the city. These nodes became the impetus for neighborhood businesses. A depot was built at 32nd Street and Whitaker Street in 1888. Repairs shops were located at 37th Street and Whitaker Street. By the early 1900's, the depot was closed and a junction was established on 40th Street. The trolley lines were removed in 1920 on Whitaker Street as the automobile became the dominant mode of transportation. The residential development of the area south of Anderson Street and north of Victory Drive between East Broad and Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. took off with phenomenal growth between 1900 and 1920. It was not an area with a single developer or single name such as Lattimore's Ardsley Park or Granger's Chatham Crescent, but rather was popularly referred to as the "extended limits", the "southern suburbs" or the "new section south of Anderson." Although annexed in 1884, it took two decades to iron out rights of way, pave streets, and gain easy access. During this time, developments in electrical power, the automobile, refrigeration, and real estate holding companies all came together to create the impetus for the press of development seen at the beginning of the 20th century.
Mayor Richard Davant is quoted in the Savannah Morning News in 1913 as saying: "In the last ten years there was built on the average one building a day in Savannah. The next ten years will see an average of probably three buildings a day. In that period the city will add to its population by at least fifty thousand, and to properly care for that number there must be at least ten thousand dwellings and business structures. A city of no mean proportions is to be added to the city we know before 1923 has passed into history. We must lay our plans accordingly. Broad and deep must be the new foundations that are laid." At least seven building and loan companies were active in financing and promoting the development of this neighborhood. These companies promoted buying homes on the "easy payment plan." A few companies bought up entire blocks of land and built single houses for sale, finding a ready market. Many of these companies advertised to attract the growing middle class of Savannah to this neighborhood. Some of the real estate developers in the district area included Chatham Real Estate and Improvement Company, the Continental Investment Company, the Georgia Land and Securities Company, Savannah Investment Company, and the Standard Investment Company. These companies were involved in the district during the height of its residential development from 1900 to 1920.
During the 1920s and 1930s the development of the neighborhood was reaching its end. The neighborhood was becoming full and little land was left for development. Following World War II, the neighborhood began to decline as residents left the neighborhood to relocate in newly formed suburbs further away from the city. As those residents left their houses, lower-income residents moved into the Thomas Square neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood is working with the city government to revitalize the area.
Adapted from: Amy Pallante, National Register Specialist, Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Thomas Square Streetcar Historic District, Chatham County, GA, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.