Lost to urban development sans a small strip of grass, Elbert Square was originally constructed in 1801 and named in distinction of Samuel Elbert. In the generations of Savannah’s rich history, four of its original squares have been destroyed due to urban expansion and development: Liberty, Elbert, Franklin, and Ellis Squares. Franklin and Ellis have been reclaimed, but little has been done in the way of reconstruction.
After the Great Fire of 1820, much of the land and property around Elbert Square was sold in order to install water cisterns.
From 1969 to 1985, the American Legion Flame of Freedom monument was erected here before it was moved to Liberty Square.
Samuel Elbert was a prominent local farmer, soldier, Freemason, and politician. He fought and commanded in the Revolutionary War and climbed the ranks to Major General, Colonel, and Brigadier General.
Elected into Congress in 1784, Samuel abstained from serving as he did not believe he was physically able to after being injured in the war. Although, Elbert later served a term as Governor of Georgia. Elbert County, the town of Elberton, Elbert Ward, Elbert Memorial, and Elbert Academy are all named in his honor.
Atlantic Coast Highway development destroyed Liberty, Franklin, and Elbert Squares to allow Savannah to be a part of the intended economic prosperity. But the timing of the 1930s was way off course. With the Great Depression looming overhead, tourism was a hard sell and the promised benefits of the expansion were slight. The black population of the city lost the most, and the sacrificial expansion has been regretted ever since. Even though Elbert Square was reclaimed in 1985, nothing of significance has been done to restore it.
Elbert Square may be taken over by the Civic Center and its parking lot today, with the exception of a sliver of grass, but there are a few significant attractions near its location at Houston and McDonough Streets worth venturing to: The Savannah History Museum and Visitor Center, SCAD Museum of Art, and Georgia State Railroad Museum are all a short distance away. If you’re hungry for a bite, check out the Distillery Ale House, Carlito’s Mexican Bar and Grill, Wasabi’s, or The Grey (located inside an art-deco building that was a former Greyhound bus terminal!)