Savannah Then and Now: Broughton Street

Then and Now

Photos: Courtesy of the Georgia Historical Society

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The City of Savannah looks much different than it did when it was founded back in 1733. WSAV is taking a closer look at some of the city’s most iconic locations and how they’ve changed over time.

First up is one of Savannah’s busiest streets, Broughton Street. Today, the street and surrounding areas are popular spots for tourists and locals alike. The area is home to historic buildings, new restaurants, popular retailers, and at one point, skyscrapers.

Skyscrapers aren’t likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Savannah, but Luciana Spracher, Municipal Archives Director for the City of Savannah, says our city used to be much taller than it is today.

“At the beginning of the early 20th century, the early 1900s, we did have skyscrapers,” Spracher said. “Buildings that were 10 stories, pushing 12 and 14 stories. Those were our skyscrapers.”

Architects like Hyman Wallace Witcover, who designed Savannah’s City Hall, were experimenting with new building materials, elevators, etc. and building up, rather than out.

Spracher says the skyscrapers were in the center of downtown Savannah, near Johnson Square. That area has always been a hub for businesses, including WSAV at one point. Many years ago, WSAV was located at the corner of Broughton and Bull streets inside of the then tallest building in the city.

Left: WSAV-TV on the the corner of Broughton and Bull Streets

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, most of the skyscrapers came down. Spracher says investors felt that it was cheaper and easier to rebuild instead of renovating the big buildings.

“I think it’s kind of a shame that we’ve lost pretty much all but one of those tall buildings that really gave us some height and really showed Savannah’s prominence in the South as a modern city,” Spracher said.

During that same time period, business along Broughton Street began to decline. The once-thriving commercial street turned into a home for “false facades” and vacant residential spaces, according to Spracher.

This decline in business was, in part, because of the shift of traffic to Savannah’s Southside when Oglethorpe Mall opened in 1969.

In the 1990s, however, Broughton Street started to see revitalization efforts and eventually grew into what it is today. Spracher says when people started moving back into the residential spaces upstairs, it attracted more restaurants and nightlife, along with new retailers.

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