Bay Street Memorials

Savannah's Bay Street memorials include the City Exchange Bell, the Washington Guns, and Oglethorpe's Bench.

City Exchange Bell

The City Exchange Bell hangs in a replica of the cupola as a memorial to the Old City Exchange built in 1799. Imported from Amsterdam, the bell, dated 1802, is believed to be the oldest in Georgia. On either side of the bell are two urns, which were brought to Savannah in 1858 by General Henry R. Jackson, ambassador to Austria.

The bell hung in the cupola of the City Exchange for 100 years until the building was torn down to make way for City Hall. The bell signaled the closing time for shops, served as a fire alarm, and was often used in celebrations and in tributes for fallen heroes.

The replica of the tower was erected in 1957 through the combined efforts of the Savannah Chamber of Commerce, the Pilot Club of Savannah, and the Savannah-Chatham Historic Site and Monument Commission.

Oglethorpe’s Bench

Oglethorpe Landing State Historical Marker

Just west of City Hall, the marble bench on Yamacraw Bluff marks the site of James Edward Oglethorpe’s field tent.

Text from the historical marker:


James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, landed with the original colonists, about 114 in number, at the foot of this bluff on February 1 (February 12, new style), 1733. The site where he pitched his tent is marked by the stone bench located about 100 feet west of this marker.

Savannah was for more than 100 years built according to Oglethorpe's unique city plan. Bull Street, the principal street of the city, is named in honor of colonel William Bull of Charleston, S.C., who assisted Oglethorpe in laying out the city.

The colonists sailed in the ship Anne from Gravesend, England, November 17, 1732; landed at Charles Town, S.C., January 13, 1733; proceeded later to Beaufort, S.C., and thence, in small boats, through the inland waterway to Yamacraw Bluff. The town site had already been selected by Oglethorpe in friendly negotiation with Tomo-chi-chi, Mico of the Yamacraws, and with Mary Musgrove, the English- speaking, half-breed Indian princess who later, as niece of Emperor Brim of the Creek Nation, claimed sovereignty of southeastern Georgia.


Washington Guns

Savannah welcomed the visit of President George Washington in 1791 with a boat parade, military salutes, formal dinners and a ball. At one outdoor dinner, 200 locals toasted their president as the Chatham Artillery fired their guns in response. As a token of his thanks, Washington sent the two bronze cannons, which had been taken at Yorktown. Two historical markers explain the historical significance of the guns.

From the first Washington Guns State Historical Marker:


These bronze cannon were presented to the Chatham Artillery by President Washington after his visit to Savannah in 1791. Of English and French make, respectively, they are excellent examples of the art of ordnance manufacture in the 18th century.

An inscription on the British 6 pounder states that it was "surrendered by the capitulation of York Town Oct. 19, 1781." The English cannon was cast in 1783 during the reign of George II and the royal insignia and motto of the Order of the Garter appear on its barrel.

The French gun was manufactured at Strasburg in 1756. On its elaborately engraved barrel appear the coat of arms of Louis XIV: the sun which was the emblem of that monarch, and a Latin inscription (which Louis XIV first ordered placed on French cannon) meaning "Last Argument of Kings." The dolphins were emblematic of the Dauphin of France. The gun was individually named "La Populaire."

Reminders of America's hard-won struggle for Independence and of the great man who led the Continental forces in the Revolution, the historic "Washington Guns" were placed on public display here through co-operation of the Chatham Artillery and the City of Savannah.


From the second Washington Guns State Historical Marker:


These cannon, which were captured when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in the American Revolution, were a gift to the Chatham Artillery by President George Washington -- a mark of his appreciation for the part the local military company played in the celebration of his visit to Savannah in May, 1791. Washington commended the Chatham Artillery in "warmest terms" and at one of the functions in his honor (which took place on the river bluff east of this spot) proposed a toast "to the present dexterous Corps of Artillery."

The "Washington Guns" have thundered a welcome to many distinguished visitors to Savannah, including James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette, James K. Polk, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur, Jefferson Davis, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

During the War Between the States the historic cannon were buried for safety beneath the Chatham Artillery armory and were not removed until 1872 when the Federal occupation troops had departed.

The "Washington Guns" were taken to Yorktown in 1881 by a contingent of the Chatham Artillery and led the parade at the centennial celebration of Cornwallis' surrender.


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