Last night we ate dinner with a group of Darby’s coworkers inside the “Herb House”â€”the oldest existing building in Georgia and part of the modern day Pirates’ House restaurant in downtown Savannah. The Pirates’ House occupies the spot where Trustees Garden, the first experimental garden in America, was located.
When General Oglethrope and his little band of colonists arrived from England in 1733, they came ashore in the vicinity of the present City Hall on Bull and Bay Streets. By the end of the first month, a suitable site of land was located on the eastern boundary of Oglethrope’s city plan on which an experimental garden would be developed. The plot of land was dedicated as Trustees Garden in honor of Oglethrope’s men, the Trustees of the new colony. The garden was modeled very closely after the Chelsea Botanical Garden in London. Consisting of ten acres, it was bounded on the north by the Savannah River, on the south by what is now Broughton Street, on the west by what is now East Broad Street, and on the east by Old Fort Wayne.
Botanists were sent from England to the four corners of the world to procure plants for the new project and soon vine cuttings, fruit trees, flax, hemp, spices, cotton, indigo, potashes, cochineal, olives and medicinal herbs were all taking root on the banks of the Savannah River. The greatest hopes; however, were centered in the wine industry and in the Mulberry trees which were essential to the culture of silk. But both of these crops failed due to the unsuitable soil and weather conditions. From this garden, however, were distributed the peach trees which have since given Georgia and South Carolina a major commercial crop and also the upland cotton which led to the creation of such great wealth for the 18th- and 19th-century planters.