MHP Students enjoy annual Coastal Field Study Trip

MHP Students spent 3 days in Savannah as part of their Coastal Field Study course. As part of their curriculum, MHP students take a coastal field study course every spring semester with the trip alternating between Savannah and Charleston.  This year’s trip to Savannah was filled with tours, activities, and learning as students enjoyed a full schedule of events planned by Dr. Wayde Brown.

The trip kicked off with a visit to the Chatham County Planning Commission’s office where they met with Ellen Harris, a preservation planner, who discussed the role of the planning office in preservation.  Students had the opportunity to learn about the different historic districts in Savannah and how the commission works to ensure the districts retain their character as changes occur.

The next activity of the day was a student-led tour of sites in the historic district as students embodied the spirit of “the flâneur,” wandering about being attuned to the unique history of the city.  Students were broken into groups and led visits to Colonial Park Cemetery, Wright Square, Telfair Square, Ellis Square, and the Riverfront.  Student Pearl Howell enjoyed embracing the spirit of the flâneur throughout the trip noting that “Savannah is a unique example of preservation, showing that it is not just buildings or sites, but entire cities that can be successfully preserved to maintain their historic character. I loved exploring the city, because every once in a while I stumbled into a square, and each one was different. Some had memorials, some had fountains, some had dog parks. It really shows how powerful local preservation can be, and how a few passionate individuals and groups can really make changes, or prevent them when they don’t serve the community.”

The afternoon of the first day consisted of visits to the Owens-Thomas House Museum, a historic house that once hosted the Marquis de Lafayette, where students learned about the ongoing preservation of the structure as well as their interpretation technique.  This was followed by a visit to Kehoe Iron Works, an adaptive reuse project of a former brownfield site.  The day concluded with an alumni happy hour at The Bier Haus.


On day 2, the students met with the Historic Savannah Foundation and learned how they used their revolving fund to save homes around the city.  Ryan Arvay, the Foundation’s Historic Properties Coordinator, then led the group around the city visiting homes saved by the revolving fund in various stages of rehabilitation. 

The afternoon was spent outside of Savannah touring the lighthouse at Tybee Island before traveling to Fort Pulaski where they met with Park Superident, Melissa Memory.  For student Maura Jackson, visiting Tybee Island was one of her favorite stops. Her favorite speaker was Sarah Jones, the executive director at the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum because “she talked a lot about how the site formed, how they worked with others to restore their structure and their current goals. [Maura] enjoyed hearing her share her passion for preservation and the site.”

The last day of their trip began with an African-American history tour of Savannah led by Dr. Jamal Touré of Day Clean Journeys.  This tour explored the nearly 300-year history of people of African descent in Savannah and included visits to the First African Baptist Church, Market Street, the African-American Monument on River Street, and housing projects built in the 20th century.  This tour was for David Dobbs, his hands down, favorite part of the trip.  He felt that “Dr. Jamal was a passionate and engaging tour guide who really made me feel connected to the history of Savannah that he was telling us about. As he often told us, ‘when you know your history, you soar.'”

Before returning to Athens, the trip had one last stop at Wormsloe State Historic Site.  Students met with an interpreter of the site for a tour before being led on a private, behind the scenes tour with Professor Cari Goetcheus.  They saw not only the public historic site but also the UGA owned acreage and the historic buildings still owned by the family.  

Caitlin Plesher enjoyed seeing “different sites in different stages of preservation with different modes of interpretation. Comparing the preservation and presentation of a historic square vs. a residence vs. a historic fort was really interesting for me. The trip reminded me that preservation looks like many different things depending on what your goals are for the property!”