Plan early to enjoy the Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens

Special to The TribuneDecember 11, 2013 

Sturdy southern oaks never give up in a hurricane. Their tensile strength provided shipbuilders the wood to reinforce American frigates when the country was young.

The same thing is true of the strength of the Southern women who prevented the destruction of Savannah’s historical homes and buildings by forming the Historic Savannah Foundation. Their efforts are celebrated every spring in the Savannah Tour of Homes & Gardens.

The next tour is March 27 to 30, 2014, with tickets on sale now at savannahtourofhomes.org. Some of the more popular events, such as a riverboat brunch, sell out early.

Savannah’s historic district was a slum 50 years ago. Booze and lawyers weren’t allowed in the city under its original 17th-century Georgia charter, but once enough drinkers moved to the area they voted in changes and the end result years later was dissipation.

Although the city was designed to include parks (called squares) every few blocks so the homes of most residents could look out at flowers and southern oaks draped in Spanish moss, people simply drove through the squares instead of around them, and old homes were destined for destruction.

Today many are interested in seeing the Georgia showplace with its handsome squares and cascading azaleas. Savannah is often featured in movies and on television because it is so beautiful.

The four-day home tour extravaganza includes self-guided walking tours, lectures, food for thought luncheon lectures, dinners, riverboat gospel brunches, high tea, restoration basics, gardener tours, architecture discussions, Bonaventure Cemetery strolls, Civil War Savannah presentations and more.

Proceeds support outreach programs of the women of Christ Church Anglican, preservation efforts of the Historic Savannah Foundation and neighborhood restoration efforts of Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent Garden Club.

The home and garden tour includes lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse, a restaurant famous for serving Caroline Kennedy and President Obama when each visited Savannah.

The Mrs. Wilkes’ Boardinghouse cookbook offers recipes for boarding house trifle and Sunday morning pancakes. There’s one for Savannah Mint Julep, too, but it’s hard to think about serving guests 18 ounces of whiskey and bourbon mixed with a cup and a half of creme d’menthe and three cups of sugar.

“Glasses should be rimmed with lemon juice and powdered sugar and garnished with fresh mint sprig.” It’s probably best to simply nibble the mint spring and quietly pour the rest down the sink.

Many of these historic homes or walking tours are on uneven surfaces and include stairs. They are not designed for those who have difficulty walking or for wheelchair users.

Since Charleston, S.C., is only 106 miles from Savannah it is easy to fly into either city and drive the 106 miles between the two. The Charleston Festival of Houses and Gardens is March 20 through April 19, 2014. Check historiccharleston.org for details. Public transportation is readily available in both cities.

Mary McCorkle lives in Los Osos. Contact her at happygardener225@gmail.com.

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