Monterey Square was laid out in 1847 and was named to commemorate the capture of the city of Monterrey, Mexico in 1846, by General Zachary Taylor’s American forces. As with many of Savannah’s squares, the monument in its center memorializes a famous person not of the same name. In this case, the monument is built to honor Compte Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who came to Savannah seeking a better life and sacrificed his life in the Siege of Savannah in 1779.
Monterey Square is, arguably, the most well known of the squares today, as it contains the home of Jim Williams of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” fame. Yes, the events chronicled in the book did occur and virtually all the names were the real names of the real people in the book. Start with his home which is on the west side of the Monterey Square, commonly known as the Mercer-Williams House, at 429 Bull Street. It was begun around 1860 but was not completed until after the Civil War. Hugh Mercer began construction on the house, but the building was put on hold when he enlisted in the Civil War. He returned to Savannah for a few years following the war, but never finished the home. In fact, it was not completed until 1871, when it was sold to a different owner. Mercer was the uncle of the composer Johnny Mercer. Neither of the Mercers ever occupied the home.
To his credit, Jim Williams is held in some esteem within the preservation movement in Savannah, because he was one of the few who dared move into the blighted city of the 1950’s, start buying and restoring the fine old homes there. If it hadn’t been for Jim and those like him, the Savannah of today would likely have been a very different city, devoid of the beauty that we see and enjoy here.
To the immediate right and next door to the Mercer-Williams home is the home of another star of the preservation movement, Lee and Emma Adler, who also figured in the Jim Williams story.
From Monterey Square back to Savannah Squares