One of Savannah’s pioneering educational institutions is sporting a new look. Amy Paige Condon leaves her fingerprints at the scene.
After the three-year, million-dollar renovation by the Savannah Chatham County Public School System, you’d think the guides at the Massie Heritage Center to be a little more protective. You might expect them to caution the 14,000 students who come through the Massie’s doors annually to keep their hands off the exhibits.
On the contrary, Candy Lowe and her guides encourage the students to engage—to touch screens so that a laser light illuminates sections of a scaled, three-dimensional model of the Historic Landmark District, detailing how the city grew, where the Savannah fires occurred and the stories behind the monuments.
“It gives (students) an appreciation of the uniqueness and genius of the city plan that’s still a living, breathing, functioning city the way General Oglethorpe intended,” explains Candy Lowe, Massie’s instructional director.
A Teaching Tradition
The Massie School opened on Calhoun Square in 1856 as the city’s first public school—three years before the State of Georgia even offered public education. It closed in the mid-1970s and has since become a pioneering teaching museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
In the east wing of the museum, students survey artifacts and learn about the seven women who sparked the city’s groundbreaking preservation ethic. Lowe reminds me, “We could’ve very easily been a city that wiped the slate clean.”
In the west wing, Massie becomes a sensory tour through the world’s classic architecture, including a walk through the grand façade of Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s like walking through a portal to another time, and it also helps connect Savannah’s architecture to the great structures and movements that inspired it.
Designed to enrich the school system’s curriculum, the Massie has also become a “first stop” in Georgia’s first city, offering a history lesson for visitors of all ages as they prepare to experience the “living, breathing” Savannah right outside.
Public education, indeed.