Wright Square's impressive monument
Established in 1883, the monument to William Washington Gordon is one of the few memorials in Savannah to honor a non-military figure. The monument instead commemorates William Washington Gordon, the founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad. At forty-seven-feet, it’s an eye-catching expansion to Wright Square: four winged Atlantes hoist a globe atop four granite columns, lofty and longstanding. Yet the William Gordon Monument has seen its fair share of controversy. The monument displaced the Timochichi Memorial, ultimately destroying it. Although the Timochichi Memorial was later rebuilt, the William Gordon Monument remains a divisive addition to this historic square.
William was not only the founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad but was also the railroad’s first president. Born in 1796 at Screven County, Georgia, Gordon received a robust education, later undergoing military training at West Point. Gordon then pursued a career in law and politics in Savannah, where he served as a city attorney, alderman, mayor, and legislator.
By the 1830s, Gordon was an influential industrialist. Gordon’s overall success inspired him to embark upon a new enterprise: the railway line. To guarantee its prosperity, Gordon resigned from his legal profession. His new position as the president of the Central of Georgia Railroad demanded his full attention, and he was more than pleased to provide it. Gordon was utterly and unremittingly dedicated to Savannah’s improvement.
Construction of the railway began in 1836. Although he actively participated in the construction of the railway line, Gordon would not live to see its completion. Gordon passed away on March 20, 1842 – the 200-mile track was finished the following year. His devotion to the Central of Georgia Railroad, and therefore Savannah, is canonized in his legacy as well as within his memorial. Gordon was outstandingly fundamental to Georgia’s progression, persistence, and productivity.
Van Brunt and Frank M. Howe designed the monument, intending to commemorate the colony’s commercial prosperity. The monument is made from red granite and comprises four columns with Corinthian capitals. Respectively, the columns represent agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, and art. They uphold four Atlantes who, together, bear the weight of the globe.
Not everyone agreed with the William Gordon Monument, however. The proposed location of the monument depended upon the destruction of a memorial that had been erected much earlier – a tribute to the Yamacraw Chiefton Timochichi.
Yet Timochichi’s contributions were likewise invaluable. Tomochichi had negotiated a treaty with Oglethorpe that provided the land for Savannah’s construction. The founder of Savannah had even overseen Tomochichi’s funeral, ultimately decided to inter Tomochici in Wright Square. And, as custom to the Yamacraw, Tomochichi’s grave had been marked by a pyramid of stones. It was an impressive tribute to the “Mico of the Yamacraws, the companion of Oglethorpe, and the friend and ally of the Colony of Georgia.”
The Central of Georgia Railroad and Banking Company continued to insist that Tomochici’s memorial be moved, however. Undeterred, they would establish the William Gordon Monument at the exact site in 1883 – displacing or destroying Tomochici’s memorial. Although Gordon’s widow protested the demolition, citizens erected the William Gordon Monument. The tribute to Tomochichi was devastated.
Tomochichi received a new monument in 1899. Peculiarly, his body was left undisturbed. Tomochichi remains under the William Gordon Monument to this day. The William Gordon Monument remains controversial.
If you’d like to learn more about the founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad, unwind within this historic square. Plus, this striking forty-seven-foot structure is a must-see. Visitors to Wright Square will also find the Tomochichi Memorial, the Tomochichi Federal Building, and Chatham County Courthouse.