Then and Now: Savannah’s Greenwich Cemetery

Then and Now

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Hostess City is the final resting place for many notable figures throughout history, and Bonaventure Cemetery is the most-toured gravesite in the area.

But just beyond Bonaventure sits a little-known cemetery that holds a piece of Savannah’s rich history.

Greenwich Cemetery is the youngest of the municipal cemeteries but is situated on a property with as much historical significance as the rest.

It was established in 1933 as the Greenwich Addition to Bonaventure, with manicured gardens full of elegant statues and fountains and exotic foliage. It was once considered the most sought-after privately-owned estates in the south.

City of Savannah Municipal Archives Director Luciana Spracher says the mansion and property rivaled the Biltmore estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

“It was filled with art and treasures. The garden was filled with statuary,” Spracher said. “There was a portrait of Casimir Polaski inside and rivaled artwork all over the world.”

In 1923, a fire started by a short circuit in an upstairs sewing room burned the mansion down. All that was left were the statues and fountain in the surrounding gardens. The statues are currently on display at the Telfair Academy.

But many years prior, it was known as Greenwich Plantation.

“Wealthy plantation owners made their wealth and success on the backs of enslaved labor,” Spracher said. “That’s history we need to recognize.”

“This is prized land here on the Wilmington River,” she added. “It’s always been owned by wealthy people who got to enjoy that. The city purchased it in 1937…I think it’s fitting that now it’s a site that can be enjoyed by so many Savannah citizens. It’s now a place for everybody, whereas before, it was always limited to the wealthy and the privileged.”

Not only was the gravesite a location for several silent films in the 1920s, but many significant community members are buried there, including Cecelia Seiler, wife of Sonny Seiler and co-owner of Uga.

Visitors also enjoy the open space, the natural landscape and wildlife, and the views of the Wilmington River.

“A lot of people think of cemeteries as depressing, sad places, but they are one of the most beautiful places we have in our properties to enjoy the nature and the beauty of the land,” Spracher said.

Greenwich Park

A three-and-a-half-acre section of Greenwich Cemetery has been designated as a park and meditation area for cemetery visitors.

Spracher says Greenwich Park serves as a central feature for future cemetery sections that will be developed over time.

The park surrounds a half-acre pond that was created on the northeastern corner of Greenwich Estate, bordering the marsh across from Causton Bluff on Saint Augustine Creek, now the Wilmington River.

“It has expansive views,” Spracher said. “This is a peaceful, quiet place if you want to come enjoy the marsh and the river, this is a very lovely place to do that.”

The cemetery is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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