Originally called Decker Square, Ellis Square was renamed sometime between 1757 and 1770 to honor Sir Henry Ellis, the second colonial governor of Georgia (1757-1760). From the mid-eighteenth century until 1954, a series of progressively grander market buildings occupied this square. To help revitalize the area and attract more shoppers, the City permitted the last market (1870-1872, Muller and Schwaab) to be razed in 1954 and replaced a year later with the two-level Park and Shop Garage. By the late twentieth century, public discontent with the loss of the market and distaste for the parking facility prompted the City in 2002 to solicit public input for revamping the space after the deck's fifty-year lease expired (demolished 2005). The project involved a bold public-private development partnership, with preliminary studies and public forums conducted by Sottile and Sottile and Cooper Carry, leading to the clear preference for an active-use modern square, rather than a re-creation of the lost market building. Prior to constructing the new square, the site and neighboring vacant parcels were excavated to a minimum depth of forty-five feet to form an enormous underground parking garage able to accommodate more than one thousand cars (2005-2008), a design-build project by Batson Cook Developers. On top of the garage, the urban fabric of streets, square, and two buildings was reconstructed. The 2008-2010 landscape design of the new public space reinterprets the traditional form of Savannah's historic squares, notably through the brick paths that align with the sidewalks of adjacent streets and the use of live oaks, with features new to a Savannah square—an oval design, changes of grade, splash fountains, and movable tables and chairs. The diagonal eastern edge of the fountains aligns with true north. The corner pavilion, the Ellis Square Hospitality Center (2009-2010, Lominack Kolman Smith Architects), the city's first LEED-certified project, adds a retro-modern element into the square. The life-size Johnny Mercer Monument (2009, Susie Chisholm, sculptor) honors the Savannah native who became one of the most successful songwriters of the twentieth century.
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