This beautiful weather makes it seem impossibly cruel to keep our furry family members indoors—and fortunately, we don’t have to. Fido fan Eric Zimmerman and his pooches, Ollie B. and Abbie, travel the world to promote their Savannah-made Oliver Bentley’s gourmet dog biscuits, but they give Savannah four paws up for canine hospitality. We asked Eric to grab a leash and lead the way through dog-friendly Savannah. Photography by Katie McGee If you’re like many of us with a dog in the family, you know about those sad eyes: the ones that follow us when we leave home without them. There’s really only one cure for sad eyes, and that’s to bring your pup with you every chance you get. Fortunately, Savannah makes it easier than you might think to have a happy dog day. Start by exploring the Historic District’s green spaces. At first glance, our 22 picturesque squares may seem too pristine and proper for your barking buddy, but look again. Take notice of the wonderfully handy doggie waste receptacles the city has installed just for you and your pup. Buried in the ground at the entrances to most downtown squares, you’ll spot a curious, green metal lid with a white stencil of a dog on it. It looks like a small submarine hatch, but it’s actually a subterranean trash can. Open it by pressing on the pedal with your foot, and—presto—you can deposit what Fido left behind and continue on your downtown journey. There are even doggie water fountains—two in Forsyth Park (one north and one south of the Forsyth Fountain), one in Troup Square and one in Ellis Square—built at nose level, just perfect for your pup to grab a quick drink. And you’ll find a fenced-in dog park near the corner of East Broad and Jones streets.
In Savannah, membership certainly has its privileges. In each issue, we’re sending Brianne Halverson and Dan Gilbert undercover to discover the inner workings of some of the city’s most popular clubs. Photography by Teresa Earnest You’ve definitely seen a group of “Ancient” Hibernians all decked out in green and white during Savannah’s famous St. Patrick’s Day parade. With the 191st parade just around the corner, we talked to Brian Crowley, the order’s not-so-ancient president. Meet the Ancient Order of Hibernians: Savannah’s chapter of the international fraternal organization of Irish Catholics Hideout: We meet monthly downtown at O’Connell’s Pub and quarterly at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. When we were founded in 1836, I would have kept our meeting location very secret. This was during a time when the Irish were treated like second-class citizens and Catholic priests were being persecuted. Now we want people to know about our meetings—we welcome all newcomers. House Rules: In the beginning, there was so much secrecy around the organization that we are unable to trace all the rituals or rules. Still, we have a lot of historic bylaws, including wearing sashes and sitting in specific formations during meetings. All members are sworn to secrecy about specific details. Oh, and there’s a gavel I get to use.
“Our best fundraising event is Road Bowling. It’s an ancient sport where the Irish would steal the British cannon balls and roll them around in a race.”“Gang” Signs: Not what you might expect. Being Irish in the U.S. is associated with drinking and craziness around St. Patrick’s Day, but that’s really a misconception—we’re truly about family and community. If you see a member, he’s more likely helping repair leaks at a local monastery, or handing out frozen turkeys at the Savannah Mission. High Points: Friendship and charity. Education is a big focus for us and we support organizations like Fresh Air Home, a nonprofit that helps underserved kids have a healthy, outdoor summer camp experience. And our best fundraising event of the year—without a doubt—is Road Bowling. It’s an ancient sport where the Irish would steal the British cannon balls and roll them around in a race. This year’s Irish Road Bowl Tournament is on March 21 at 10 a.m. and it will be our best yet. Everyone is welcome!
Dan Gilbert helps us navigate this weekend’s 5th Annual Savannah Stopover Music Festival.
The SCAD Museum of Art hosts the first posthumous exhibition of Oscar de la Renta's designs.
Where were you when Savannah magazine was born? Or rather, who were you? I was a painfully awkward 13-year-old with chapped lips and an outgrown perm. I had a closet full of turtlenecks, ruffled skirts and “Hammer” pants. Sci-fi and fantasy novels lined my bookshelves. A movie reviewer for the school newspaper, I sat through such thought-provoking master works as Home Alone and Witches with a notebook and pen in hand. A Mason-Dixon baby with a Southern mama and a Yankee dad, I danced to Salt ’N’ Pepa and sang along with John Prine. I wanted desperately to belong to something and someone, but I didn’t know how—or where. Meanwhile, editor Georgia Byrd (then Whitley) and publisher Don Harwood were already making this magazine. “Savannah’s Identity Crisis,” reads a line on the cover of the very first issue, and the crisis is apparent. “Will she remain a pretty lady rooted in the 18th and 19th centuries? Or will she move forward into the millennium with a futuristic attitude to match?” asks the feature article inside. That was 1990—a quarter of a century ago. Since then, hundreds of contributors have made their mark on this magazine, and hundreds of thousands have made their mark on the city. I can’t take credit for the past 25 years, but I can join you in marveling at how far we’ve all come. What a joy to be part of something bigger than ourselves—a collaborative organism of writers, photographers, local businesses and readers that has spanned the turn of a century and the change of an age. Savannah has grown—from a small town with an identity crisis to a tourist destination with a global reputation. The magazine has grown—from a stapled, 64-page quarterly to a glossy, perfect-bound lifestyle brand that produces 10 issues a year and frequently exceeds 200 pages. And we, as individuals, have evolved in ways impossible to quantify. Those are the stories I want to tell this year: stories of evolution and discovery. In this issue, you’ll hear from many of the people who have grown with this city—and many more who are changing it still. From energetic expats and enterprising young leaders to well-known pillars of the business community, we talked to more than 100 locals with memories of the past—and visions of the future. But this issue is only the beginning. We plan to party all year, with playful nods to our past and hopeful strides into the future. And the celebration isn’t complete until we hear from you. Send us your picture from 1990 and tell us how and why you’ve changed. Tell us a story about how far we’ve come as a city—and how far we still need to go. Join us in honoring a relationship of 25 years—and help us make the next 25 even better than the last. Say what you like about Savannah—please, do—but one thing’s for sure: We belong here. Now, let’s make ourselves at home. What a difference 25 years make! Annabelle Carr, Editor
What were you up to in 1990?Send us a throwback photo and you could win a pair of passes that will get you in to all of Savannah magazine’s parties this year.
Do you have a story to tell?What have you learned in the past 25 years? What do you wish you knew when you were 25? Email a letter to the editor today.
Older than America by more than three decades, Bethesda Academy stands as Savannah’s most storied educational institution. Allison Hersh ventures beyond the school’s signature arch to celebrate. Photography courtesy of Bethesda Academy,Teresa Earnest and Chelsea Warlick In the past three centuries, Bethesda Academy has seen a lot of change, but some things remain the same. Just ask one of the school’s hundred or so all-male students. “We are a family, not a school,” raves John Wyatt Ingram, the valedictorian of Bethesda’s class of 2012. “Bethesda is such a special place to learn and grow because of the history that surrounds us.” Now a sophomore majoring in pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, Wyatt is one of more than 13,000 success stories who have passed beneath the iconic arch at Bethesda. This venerable institution celebrates its landmark 275th anniversary this year, continuing its legacy of transforming lives on a scenic 650-acre campus nestled along the banks of the Moon River. Like the majestic live oaks lining the school’s main entrance, Bethesda has deep roots that run far beyond the surface. In fact, its story dates back to 1740, just seven years after Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe established Savannah as England’s 13th colony along the Atlantic coast.
A Love of LearningFounded by the Rev. George Whitefield as a home for 61 orphans, Bethesda has the distinction of being the oldest childcare facility in the United States. In its earliest days, Bethesda was visited by many of America’s founding fathers, and Benjamin Franklin was one of the institution’s earliest supporters. Over the past three centuries, Bethesda has upheld Whitefield’s founding mission to teach “a love for God, a love of learning and a strong work ethic.” The Bethesda Home for Boys provided young men with a stable alternative to their home environment through 1991, adding an on-site academic program the following year. In 2011, the school was re-branded as Bethesda Academy, linking the institution back to Whitefield's original vision that Bethesda always be “a seat of sound learning.” Over the years, Bethesda has evolved into an award-winning middle and high school serving a diverse student population—and focused on helping boys succeed in the classroom and beyond. Today, the school has a deep commitment to college preparatory learning and high-quality instruction. With an emphasis on integrated learning and spiritual development, the academy tailors its academic and hands-on educational opportunities to the developing minds of young men. “We make learning dynamic,” the school’s long-time president, David Tribble, explains. “Bethesda is a unique culture with traditional classrooms as well as out door living laboratories.” “Our boys are a living expression of Bethesda’s core values,”adds T. Mills Fleming, a partner at HunterMaclean who serves as the chairman of the Board of Governors. “Bethesda provides the infrastructure within which the boys cangrow and prosper. They know we care, that they matter and that we will give them the necessary tools to succeed.”
A Living LaboratoryToday, Bethesda Academy is a school for more than 100 young men, with a curriculum designed specifically around the ways boys learn most effectively. With residential and day school options, Bethesda is home to a wildlife management program, an organic farm and garden (complete with Dwarf Nigerian Goats, egg-laying hens and grass-fed cattle) and a nationally ranked chess team. Instead of lugging expensive books, each student receives a laptop loaded with the necessary texts, as well as interactive games and activities designed to engage and stretch his attention span. “We teach the boys the value of discipline, responsibility and hard work in the classroom, on the playing field, and through our popular farm and garden work-study program,” Fleming says. “The boys can also earn credit towards their tuition by working on the farm (and other programs), and this makes them more appreciative of what it means to be a part of Bethesda’s rich heritage and culture.” The school’s lush campus boasts stunning waterfront views, picturesque moss-draped live oaks and an informative visitor center that is open to the public, sharing Bethesda’s incredible story through multi-media exhibits and rare artifacts. “There is no place like Bethesda in the United States,” Fleming declares. “We do not receive any state funding, so we have to raise close to $3.4 million per year to operate. Every dollar raised is a dollar well spent to give the boys a second chance to succeed.” During the past 275 years, one constant has remained: a commitment to Whitfield’s founding values. “Traditional values create a sense of brotherhood among our students,” Tribble explains. “They’re classmates, workmates and teammates who share a bond in a very unique learning culture.”
The Power of PlaceBethesda Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and offers students a wide range of academic, athletic, vocational and spiritual development opportunities. “Bethesda is a powerful place, with carefully designed curriculum, programs and work study, producing boys and outcomes that are beginning to gain national recognition,” raves board vice-chairman John C. Helmken II, South State Bank regional executive and executive vice president. More than 85 percent of the school’s graduates attend college after graduation. Bethesda alumni have gone on to become acclaimed business leaders, scientists, teachers, doctors and professional athletes. Many institutions have come and gone over the past 275 years. So, what is the secret to Bethesda’s longevity? “We have learned that as the needs of our youth change, we need to change as well, while keeping our connection to traditional values,” Tribble muses. “You have to adapt and grow and learn and re-invent yourself.” That versatility has been key to Bethesda’s impact over nearly three centuries. With strong leadership, committed teachers and a clear mission, this is one Savannah institution with an illustrious past—and a bright future. “We will do everything we can,” Helmken promises, “to make sure that those who come after us are able to celebrate thousands of additional success stories.” That’s a promise for the next 275 years.
Beyond the ArchAllison Hersh takes notes at Georgia’s oldest—and, arguably, most breathtaking—educational institution. Practical Values: Bethesda’s founder, the Rev. George Whitfield, wanted the institution to be a place of strong Calvinist influence defined by a wholesome atmosphere and strong discipline. Boys were taught a variety of trades so they could earn a living as adults. Family Friendly: Although Bethesda was founded as an orphanage in 1740, its mission and focus have evolved over the years to include students of all backgrounds. Approximately half of the school’s students participate in the boarding program, while the other half live at home and attend Bethesda as a day school. Smart Moves: Bethesda is home to one of the nation’s top competitive chess teams. In 2014, Bethesda’s chess team competed in an intense three-day tournament in San Diego, California, ranking ninth in the nation in the Under 800 Division. Fighting Spirit: Reverend Whitefield’s legacy has a proud military history. A brave Bethesda boy has fought and died in every war in which the U.S. has been involved, dating all the way back to the American Revolutionary War. Historical Romance: The school’s Whitfield Chapel is one of the South’s most romantic places to tie the knot. With herringbone brick floors and vintage wooden pews, this historic chapel has hosted dreamy weddings for celebrities such as Paula Deen, actress Mandy Moore and country singer Joe Nichols.
Editor's LetterApparently, I can’t say it enough in this era of blurred lines: There is no pay to play in Savannah magazine.
Our advertisers support ethical content and choose to align their brand messages with our authentic cultural identity. That’s something worth considering—if, like many Savannahians, you tend to let your values influence your purchasing decisions.Thanks to the support of many wonderful locals, the editorial pages in your hands are the product of curiosity and community spirit, not bribery or backscratching. That includes this issue’s Best of Savannah™ reader poll, a straightforward popularity contest that depends entirely on your choices. No one on our staff may influence the outcome. We simply eliminate duplicate ballots and tally up your votes. This year, we’ve added editors’ picks in an effort to highlight the movements and makers that are enhancing the Savannah lifestyle. Those choices were influenced by our own observations, enthusiasm and educated guesses about what impassions our community of invested Savannahians. Nothing more. To round out this Best of Savannah™ issue, we started out by looking at the concept of “the best” from many different story angles, among them competition and pursuit of excellence. In particular, the city’s traditions of hunting, automobile racing and artistry captured our imaginations—you’ll see why—and we explored those topics thoughtfully, by unraveling the stories of numerous local characters. I’m proud of the work we do at Savannah magazine, and I see us getting better at it every day. Nothing makes us happier than a good story. And nothing crushes us like the assumption that our stewardship can be bought or sold. Your trust is important to us, and we work hard to earn it. That’s why ideas are the only editorial currency. Shady streets and squares: yes, please. Shady transactions: no, thank you. Now, what’s your story? —Annabelle Carr