Savannah History: River Street From Old Warehouses to New Attractions


By Gene Brancho | River Street is a popular cobblestone spot in downtown along the Savannah River. Lined with old buildings that were once cotton warehouses since the beginning of Savannah’s vast history. River Street wasn’t always the bustling street that we see today.

Warehouses full of cotton lined River Street back in the day and it was considered nothing more than one large parking lot.

Gradually, things changed.

Bustling with that proverbial Southern hospitality, River Street today is the place to be when exploring Savannah as the popular spot for tourists and locals has been converted to a bevy of amazing shops, boutiques, art galleries, brew pubs and restaurants as well as some very elegant inns and hotels.

Former Savannah Mayor John Rousakis changed it all in the 1970s and started all of the necessary work to turn River Street into something special for the city and for its riverfront. Today’s tourism in Savannah is a direct result of Rousakis’ vision.

Mayor Rousakis put together a plan to recreate River Street and created Rousakis Riverfront Plaza to help it along.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Houckster

Now, one of the most loved and noted aspects of River Street and the Plaza is the original ballast stone, carried into Savannah on trade ships during the 18th century, cobbled into the streets and walls that line the beautiful riverfront.

Although, long ago, Savannah’s physical layout was the subject of John Oglethorpe’s Savannah Plan consisting of a six interconnected wards built around central squares, with trust lots on the east and west sides of the squares for public buildings and churches, and tithing lots for the colonists’ private homes on the north and south sites; River Street didn’t come into play with any of this. It was just a spot along the water where ships would come into port.

Not anymore.

River Street in Savannah is one of the best preserved waterfronts anywhere and you’ll feel a strong mix of culture, history and excitement while walking along the riverfront.

Listening to the boats on the water along with the sounds of the bustling district while the distinct odor fills the air from local restaurants and confectionaries will give you a memory that you’ll want to relive time and again.