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Chatham County Historical Markers

United States Customhouse

  • Source: Ed Jackson
  • Marker: United States Customhouse
  • Location: Corner of Bay St. and Bull St., Savannah


The U.S. Customhouse stands on historic ground. In a house

on this site James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of

Georgia, lived for a time, and in 1736 John Wesley preached his

first sermon at Savannah in a building which stood on the rear

of the lot.

The cornerstone of the Customhouse was laid in 1848. The

building was completed in 1852 at a cost of $146,000. Built of

granite from Quincy, Mass., the structure is one of the most

handsome and substantial public buildings erected in that era.

The magnificent fluted columns have tobacco leaves as capitals

instead of the traditional decorations. The columns, each

weighing fifteen tons, were brought to Savannah by sailing

vessels. The unusual inside stairway divides at one-half height

forming into circular stairs with no perpendicular support.

Although the building is used primarily by the United States

Customs Service, it houses several Federal agencies. In earlier

years it also served as a Post Office and Federal courthouse.

In 1859-1860 the celebrates cases growing out of slave-running

by the yacht “Wanderer” were tried here before Justice Wayne

of the U.S. Supreme Court.