A pleasant way to spend a day in Savannah is to walk down Bull Street and see the sights. That’s what my husband and I did on our first day of exploring Savannah. (Go here to see the beginning of my series on Charleston and Savannah.)
Artisan Chocolate at Chocolat by Adam Turoni
We began our walk at Chippewa Square near the Foley House Inn. Across from the square we noticed an upscale chocolate shop called Chocolat by Adam Turoni. The interior of the shop–known as the chocolate library–drew us to peer in the windows. While we stood there, debating whether to enter (artisan chocolate equals expensive chocolate!), an older couple emerged from the store. Without prompting, they told us how every time they come to Savannah they go to this chocolate shop to buy peanut butter chocolate bars–“the best they’ve ever had.” That decided us, so in we went.
We did end up buying two peanut butter chocolate bars (ounces unknown, $12 each). They looked like they had been engraved with a gold-leaf design and were beautiful. We ate one later at Forsyth Park and found they were to die for. Glad we indulged!
The Armstrong Kessler Mansion
After the chocolat shop, we walked six blocks down Bull Street toward Forsyth Park. Just before we got there, we couldn’t help but notice the huge Armstrong Kessler Mansion. (In Savannah, they name historic mansions after both their original, and most famous, owners.) The mansion is owned by a luxury hotelier named Richard C. Kessler. It is not open to the public except “for a limited number of exclusive, private events.” So we had to content ourselves with looking through the iron gates and rhapsodizing.
Next we walked into Forsyth Park. The fountain and walk at Forsyth Park are the photos you see when you look at tour guides about Savannah. I recently read a good article about the history of the fountain. According to the article in Go South! Savannah, the original fountain was ordered from an illustrated catalog in 1858. The catalog was called Janes, Beebe & Co’s Illustrated Catalogue of Ornamental Iron Work, and the fountain was known as Model No. 5.
After walking through the park, we doubled back to Monterey Square at Bull Street and West Gordon, and walked to the Mercer Williams House for a 30-minute tour.
The Mercer Williams House
You may not be familiar with the Mercer Williams House, unless you have read or watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Like I said before, Midnight (known as The book among locals) put Savannah on the map. The book is about many characters, but one in particular steals the story–Jim Williams.
Jim Williams bought the mansion in 1969 and lived there till his death in January 1990. The original house was owned by Hugh Mercer, a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and the great-grandfather of the famous songwriter Johnny Mercer. However, Hugh Mercer never ended up living in the house. The house was ransacked during the Civil War and remained a mess until Williams bought and restored it. But this isn’t why the house is famous. It’s famous because of what happened there in 1981. For those who haven’t read the book, I won’t give it away.
Anyway, they give tours of the house, not because of what happened there (though that’s why people come), but because the house is gorgeous, and Jim Williams, who was a dealer of fine antiques, had a wonderful collection. I’m sad to say that our tour guide didn’t know much at all about the antiques on display throughout the house. I heard from another lady, that their tour guide was excellent, so I guess it depends on who you get. I still enjoyed the tour, though we weren’t allowed to take photos of the interior. However, I was consoled with a minor ghost story told by our tour guide.
A Minor Ghost Story
Jim Williams was much attached to his house and antiques. He also was fond of cats and always had one around. Though there are no ghost stories about Williams, our tour guide said that on two separate tours, he had two different children ask him if there was a cat in the house. The tour guide assured them (and us) that there were no cats in the house. But each time, the kids insisted that they had seen a cat disappear either down a hall or up the stairs.
So were they ghost cats? I like to think so! Jim Williams loved the house and his antiques and fought to keep living there. Given his past (read the book), why wouldn’t he remain in the house as a ghost? And if that’s so, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one of his previous cats was flitting about with him! But if William’s spirit is there, I feel sorry for him; he must get frustrated with tour guides who can’t answer a single question about his prized antiques.
To find out more about the house go to the Mercer Williams House Museum website.