Founded by General James Oglethorpe in 1733, Savannah was the first planned city in America, Georgia's first city, original capital and, then as now, a vital port for trade. Savannah was the home of Georgia's first banking center and Georgia's first railroad which expanded the importation of goods, especially cotton.
Savannah brims with an atmosphere and charm fostered by residents who have cherished and preserved its past. Their love of history is embodied in the beautifully restored homes, churches and public buildings that grace the city's unique, tree-filled squares, and that affection has given rise to a tourism industry that's risen dramatically since the mid-1990s. Savannah has long been a favorite of visitors enthralled by the azaleas and Spanish moss-covered live oaks of the historic squares, the quaint atmosphere of the cobblestoned waterfront, the tranquility of nearby marshlands and beaches and the warmth of the town's residents.
After surviving a consuming fire and a yellow fever epidemic in 1820, Savannah entered a period of great prosperity, which lasted until the Civil War. Union General Sherman was so enamored with the beautiful city of Savannah that he presented it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift in 1864. Thus, Savannah was spared the devastation that other cities in the South suffered.
Today, Oglethorpe's vision of prosperity and beauty lives in the National Historic District - a 2.5-mile area filled with shops, cafes, green squares, and architecture representative of most of our Nation's 18th and 19th century styles.
With its storied and well-preserved past, its natural beauty and its many and varied opportunities for outdoor recreation, Savannah is a drawing card for tourists. More than 6 million people visit the city each year, spending over $2 billion, an outpouring that has continued to stimulate the creation of new hotels, restaurants and shops.
A magnet for talent, Savannah's beauty has long inspired artists and musicians to live in Savannah, Georgia, including Johnny Mercer of Moon River fame, and writers Conrad Aiken and Flannery O'Connor. With more than 60 in the area, Savannah, Georgia, has over 200% more art galleries per capita than New York City! The Historic District itself is living art, and Savannah also has more than its share of forts and historical sites representative of our nation's early history.
Advancing the preservation effort since the late 1970s has been the Savannah College of Art and Design, the largest art school in the Western Hemisphere, which occupies more than 60 buildings and facilities in the downtown area, many of them of historic importance and impeccably renovated by the school.
Savannah's diversity in its economic sectors that began developing before and during World War II has remained a strong suit of the city and is evident today in the wide range of employers benefiting the area - manufacturers, the hospitality industry, the military, institutions of higher education, large-scale providers of health care and elder care, knowledge-based businesses and a strong retail component.
Savannah's economic lifeblood is its global trade, facilitated by the Georgia Ports Authority, a leader in the operation of modern terminals and in meeting the demands of international business. The Georgia Port Authority combines industry innovations with proven flexibility to create new opportunities along the entire global logistics pipeline, delivering whatever the market demands. The Port of Savannah is not just keeping pace in the world of trade, it is setting the pace, specializing in the handling of container, reefer, breakbulk and RoRo cargoes.