An exploration of time and place in Savannah’s burgeoning Starland District
Edited by Heather Henley and Josh Rayburn
From marshes to farmland to cultural arts hub, the story of Starland is one of slow, but consistent, evolution centered around local communities. Follow this journey through this special area’s past, present and future.
[The Starland Creamery, the center of the Starland District.]
The Thomas Square Streetcar Neighborhood (1733 – 1995)
In the years after Savannah’s founding in 1733, settlers began shifting south of the city’s center. They transformed forest and marshland in what is now The Thomas Square Streetcar and Metropolitan neighborhoods into farms and plantations.
Bull Street, the city’s main vein, was at the time elevated on a ridge, becoming the main route between Savannah and the Forest Rivers of what is now southside Savannah. The tract lines between the farms evolved into the primary streets of the neighborhood.
In 1888, streetcar lines A and B were extended from downtown Savannah into the area, opening it up for residential development. In the late 19th century, development in the area was slow going, with the streets hardly defined. A large portion of land south of 37th Street was a privately owned botanical garden, known as Concordia Park or Keisling-Teynac Botanical Garden. The only remaining relics of the garden are two stone gatehouses at 2600 Bull St., at the city of Savannah’s Park & Tree Department headquarters.
In the early 20th century, development of both residential and commercial buildings took off, peaking in 1920 – the same year the street cars were removed. During the period, two-story homes, apartments, and single-family buildings were added. A number of architectural styles can be found in the area, including Queen Anne, Folk Victorian, Neoclassical Revival and Craftsman.
Historically, the area around Thomas Square, one of 12 original parks and the only one still in existence, was bounded by Anderson Lane on the north, East Broad Street to the east, and Victory Drive to the south. The Metropolitan neighborhood mirrored Thomas Square, running north to south from Victory to Anderson Lane, and east to west from Bull Street to West Broad Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
From the beginning, Thomas Square and Metropolitan had been homogeneous neighborhoods because of their proximity to downtown. Schools, fire stations, police stations, a library, grocery stores and other utilitarian business popped up to serve the growing number of residents. During the early 20th century, Bull Street and Victory Drive were also used for auto races, like the International Grand Prize Automobile Race.
In the 1930’s, a number of dairies dotted the neighborhood, including the Starland Creamery and Annette’s Dairy, which served both downtown Savannah and the nearby residents.
After World War II, the neighborhood shifted dramatically as wealthy residents filtered out and into the suburbs of Ardsley Park and beyond. Their former houses became occupied by low-income families, and businesses left the area.
Back in the Day Bakery at 2403 Bull St., the corner of West 40th.