To tell the heroic tale of the Mighty Eighth Air Force requires more than a simple history book or channel can handle. At the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, displays of tangible, lovingly preserved relics preserve the harrowing and inspiring stories of the Eighth Air Force's greatest achievements, paying respect to those who risked, and often lost, their lives. The exhibits narrate how the Mighty Eighth earned its nickname as the all-time largest air armada for its role in World War II, and a combat gallery of scale models and authentic flying machines, including a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that's now being painstakingly restored, allows visitors to nab up-close views of the planes that made it all happen. Other exhibits detail how the men and women of the Eighth helped repel the Nazi menace, while the memorial gardens and Chapel of the Fallen Eagles salute all of those in the armed forces from WWII through today.
Dirk Hardison finds the beauty of Savannah to be in its details—the cherry trees that line Huntingdon Street and the antebellum Victorian architecture of the Mercer House. These are elements he knows inside and out—in his two decades as a Savannah resident, he has worked on preservation projects of the First Bryan Baptist Church and the 1921 Lucas Theatre. He also served as the architectural design consultant for the Historic Savannah Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the maintenance and restoration of buildings in all nine historic districts.
Dirk knows that Savannah’s details are easily blurred from onboard a moving vehicle or traffic-dodging police horse, so he founded Savannah Rambles, where he orchestrates walking tours of his beloved city. Though the rambles are built around architecture, the city’s structural elements also serve as stepping-stones into explorations of Savannah’s history and culture. Aside from the signature Savannah Architectural Ramble—a two-hour tour that can be open, private, or extended to the five-hour grand version—the nighttime Dark Ramble meets at Tomochichi’s gravesite and slinks through the oldest streets and burial sites as Dirk recounts eerie Savannah lore.
In 1820, an upwardly mobile carpenter named Isaiah Davenport designed a 6,800-square-foot Federal-style home to live in with his wife, children, and slaves. After his death, Davenport’s wife turned the stately brick house into a boarding house, though it later devolved into a run-down tenement—until the Historic Savannah Foundation saved the landmark when it was threatened with demolition in 1955. The organization’s award-winning preservation, their very first effort, jumpstarted an organized preservation movement that spread across the entire port city.
Today, the Davenport House Museum’s rooms are filled with antique furniture from the 1820s, acquired after careful research relying on estate inventories and detailed artist renderings of long-ago games of musical chairs. These period-accurate tables and chairs join ceramics, textiles, and books to form the museum’s collection of about 500 historical items. Behind the home, where a carriage house, garden, and privy once stood, a garden designed by renowned landscape artist Penelope Hobhouse flourishes. After walking among its flowers, visitors can drop by the museum shop to pick up jams and jellies, books about Savannah, and reproductions of early 19th-century items.
Local author Robert Edgerly is a virtual storybook as he spins old tales of Savannah on his walking tours. He waxes both historical and folklorical on subjects from the evolution of the city's 19th-century ironwork and architecture to the verifiable histories of its many ghosts. He carefully constructs his stories without non-historical padding. Each tale is the product of his extensive research, even tracking down eyewitnesses to local supernatural happenings to lend credence and color to his stories.
Mounted atop a fleet of two-wheeled city seers, Savannah Bike Tours' groups glide past scenery on two-hour guided tours. Cruising at an easy pace through Savannah's quiet side streets, broad boulevards, and picturesque historic district, city-licensed guides answer questions and expound upon architecture, botany, local history, and glory tales of the bicycle's predecessor—the gravy train with biscuit wheels. As the tour rolls by points of interest, such as the emerald landscape of Forsyth Park, stops are made to accommodate the numerous photo opportunities that present themselves. Helmets and bicycles are included in the cost of the tour, though tourers can choose to bring their own pedal-powered two-wheeler and hollowed-out coconut shell.