A cemetery, a murder and a musician in Savannah

The fountain at Forsyth Park

Too much high living, rich food and booze had taken their toll on my guts so I didn’t feel too perky on our Sunday morning in Savannah. I steered clear of breakfast and watched Graham tucking in instead.

But there was no stopping the sightseeing. Our first stop, with temperatures again high, was Bonaventure Cemetery, a short drive out of town and another location that featured prominently in the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The site was huge, shaded by live oaks dressed in Spanish Moss.

Gravestones and family plots old and new peppered the ground beneath all the foliage, some sporting weeping angels of varying degrees of creepiness. Beyond there were fine views of the wide, sluggish Wilmington River.

A weeping angel
A weeping angel

I found the grave of Moon River writer Johnny Mercer, one of Savannah’s best-known sons but, perhaps inevitably, the intense humidity and my mortal fear of mozzies (which had eaten me alive on this holiday) drove us away.

Back in town we paid a visit to the Mercer-Williams house on Monterey Square, built by Johnny’s great-grandfather Hugh but later famous as the place where antiques dealer and restorer Jim Williams killed his bit of rough – the story at the heart of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It had a lovely shop and a cool and shaded garden backed by the coach house where Williams carried out many of his restorations.

The Mercer-Williams house
The Mercer-Williams house

To call the tour whistle-stop and a whitewash, though, is an understatement. The house is beautiful, and it’s obvious that Williams was very talented and had great style. The terribly earnest guide talked at a million miles an hour about every work of art on show, but he never once mentioned the killing of Williams’ young man.

His sister, who lives there to this day, prefers to focus on the art rather than the scandal, but that was incredibly frustrating for the house is the focus of the story that woke us up to Savannah in the first place. And it was pretty hypocritical too, for her shop sold copies of the book and film and the house was littered with photos of her with star Kevin Spacey and director Clint Eastwood. Not only that, the film was actually shot in the house.

Sadly, for health and safety reasons to do with the staircase (or that’s the excuse they used), we couldn’t go upstairs to see the room where the killing happened. All in all, there was a very big elephant in the room during our visit…

Forsyth Park
Forsyth Park

We trundled on, via pretty Forsyth Park and some handsome streets, to our final house tour of the stay, the Isaiah Davenport. It was one of the homes that inspired the preservation and restoration movement in Savannah, when its threatened demolition inspired a group of local worthies to unite and fight to save the city’s historic landmarks.

We were shown around by a breathless teenager, which made a pleasant change to the posh old ladies we’ve become used to as guides. The property itself was OK, notable for some garish wallpaper, but by now the magic of house tours was beginning to wear thin.

Bonaventure Cemetery
Bonaventure Cemetery

So we had a quick last wander around, down the faded Broughton Street, through the magical and historic squares, stopping for a beer at a funky bar called Collins Quarter, where not even a fire alarm could stop me from downing several craft lagers.

At night we didn’t want too much drama and formal dining so we found an Italian place called Garibaldi’s and had pasta – a monumental mound of it of course. We finished the evening with beers at The Six Pence, one of our regular haunts, which was reasonably busy for a Sunday night.

And that was Savannah. Done.