Monday, March 18, 2019

the last book I ever read (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, excerpt three)

from John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story:

As far as Miss Harty was concerned, the squares were the jewels of Savannah. No other city in the world had anything like them. There were five on Bull Street, five on Barnard, four on Abercorn, and so on. James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, had been responsible for them, she said. He had decided Savannah was going to be laid out with squares, based on the design on a Roman military encampment, even before he set sail from England—before he even knew exactly where on the map he was going to put Savannah. When he arrived in February 1733, he chose a site for the city on top of a forty-foot bluff on the southern bank of the Savannah River, eighteen miles inland from the Atlantic. He had already sketched out the plans. The streets were to be laid out in a grid pattern, crossing at right angles, and there would be squares at regular intervals. In effect, the city would become a giant parterre garden. Oglethorpe built the first four squares himself. “The thing I like best about the squares,” Miss Harty said, “is that cars can’t cut through the middle; they must go around them. So traffic is obliged to flow at a very leisurely pace. The squares are out little oases of tranquility.”

As she spoke, I recognized in her voice the coastal accent described in Gone with the Wind—“Soft and slurring, liquid of vowels, kind to consonants.”

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