‘We just lived like family’ Neighbors share stories of historic Carver Village community

Celebrating Black History

Savannah’s Carver Village community recently became a nationally recognized landmark.

Residents in the tight-knit neighborhood say its a distinction helping to preserve an important piece of the past.

1948: that’s the year Mr. Henry Mack moved to Carver Village.

“Wasn’t no Carver Village. I bought the foundation,” Mack recalls. “They’d just started the housing. And they had a little shack across the street selling these properties and they were selling the foundation and I bought it.”

The World War II veteran purchased the land when he was just 27 years old. He’s now 98.

Mack put $125 down on his new home — the total payment was $4,500. Little did he know, the investment that he and others made more than 70 years ago would help raise generations.

Some have gone on. Others, including Mr. Mack, never left.

“I’ve seen it grow from nothing to this,” he said.

Named after noted scientist George Washington Carver, the historic neighborhood is located west of downtown Savannah — just beyond the on-ramp to Interstate 16. It was established to provide affordable housing for working-class African Americans.

With 600 homes, it was once known as the largest individually-owned housing development for people of color in the world. 

“We just lived like family out here during that time,” Mack said. “Everybody just like family.”

In its heyday, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and even world-famous musicians were a part of that family.

Savannah jazz legend Teddy Adams says, comparatively, he was relatively new to Carver Village as a permanent resident.

“I moved there in 1960,” Adams said. “However, I became affiliated through childhood friends as early as 1950, almost 10 years before I moved there.”

Adams says some of his best musician friends came from Carver Village.

“Jimmy Lloyd Brown from Brick– I played with his mother. She was from Carver Village. And the late Bobby Green– one of the best musicians that Savannah has produced was from Cubbedge Street,” he added.

Adams lived on Elliott Avenue. For 44 years, that was home.

“All of my kids grew up there… and that’s all my wife knows– not being from the states. She moved from Japan to Elliott Avenue,” he said.

Like Adams and Mack, Richard Shinhoster says he has nothing but fond memories of Carver Village.

His family home on Barton Street is still there.

“I moved there when I was in first grade. Started first grade at Springfield Terrace Elementary School,” Shinhoster said, adding, “We had a good upbringing. Later, we found out that we did not have as much as other people in Savannah.

“But growing up, we were happy. We had each other and that made us feel that we were loved.”

That seems to be the narrative of many rooted in this tight-knit community.

Now, the nation is finally beginning to appreciate its value.

Last week, the Historic Carver Village Neighborhood Association announced that the community has been placed on the Registry of Historic Places — making the neighborhood a nationally recognized landmark. 

The designation acknowledges the community’s history and contributions to Savannah.

Those who live here hope this new distinction will reestablish a sense of pride among neighbors and solidify Carver Village as a cornerstone in the city. 

Through this designation, Carver Village homes are now federally recognized properties.

The neighborhood association hopes to have a museum highlighting its history. It’s also looking to preserve 59 properties.

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