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Solomon’s Masonic Lodge No. One (Savannah Cotton Exchange)

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1886–1887, William G. Preston; 1975 alterations, Thomas E. Stanley and Associates. 100 E. Bay St.

The Savannah Cotton Exchange was established in 1872 by a group of local cotton financiers, and in 1886 they received permission from the City to erect a building over the Drayton Street ramp on the condition the ramp remain passable. Its location at the head of Drayton Street closes a rare long vista in Savannah. A competition awarded the commission to Boston architect Preston, who went on to create several of Savannah’s most iconic buildings. His Queen Anne design is characterized by its stout classical proportions, bold reddish color brick and terra-cotta details, a steep triangular gable, and a copper-clad ventilator crowning the roof. Bas-relief representations of the world at the building’s outer edges declare the scope of the city’s cotton trade. The building’s most remarkable achievement, however, is not readily apparent: it stands on cast-iron columns to allow Drayton Street to pass beneath it, making it a rare public building erected completely over a street.

The decline of the cotton trade in Georgia due to the boll weevil infestation brought an end to the building’s use as a mercantile exchange in 1920 and led to its conversion to a Masonic lodge beginning in 1975, when their sign was added and the interior entrance altered. The trading hall within remains largely intact, including the impressive stained glass window featuring the word “Cotton,” but with modern seating installed by the Freemasons. The terra-cotta Winged Lion Fountain (1889) in front of the building, also designed by Preston, symbolizes power and authority and may also reference the winged Lion of St. Mark, the symbol of Venice, one of history’s great trading centers. The original fountain was destroyed by a car in 2008; the 2009 reproduction is a faithful copy by restoration artist Randy Nelson. The surrounding cast-iron fence is a section of railings cast by the Wood and Perot foundry in Philadelphia for the proposed state capitol building in Milledgeville, Georgia, but which was never completed once the capital was moved to Atlanta. The railings found their way to Savannah in 1857, where they adorned the magnificent Wetter House on West Broad Street (demolished 1950) until they arrived here in 1958. The medallions depict notable statesmen and literary figures.

Writing Credits

Robin B. Williams with David Gobel, Patrick Haughey, Daves Rossell, and Karl Schuler


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Robin B. Williams with David Gobel, Patrick Haughey, Daves Rossell, and Karl Schuler, "Solomon’s Masonic Lodge No. One (Savannah Cotton Exchange)", [Savannah, Georgia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Savannah, Robin B. Williams. With David Gobel, Patrick Haughey, Daves Rossell, and Karl Schuler. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2016, 23-25.

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