Savannah: Cotton History: In the antebellum South, cotton was a major crop. Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi produced more than half of the world’s cotton. At one point in that time, Georgia was the leading cotton producer in the country. The cotton had to get from the plantation where it was grown to Europe, and there were many steps in between, some of which were facilitated by “cotton factors.” Those cotton factors, also known as cotton brokers, had their offices in the buildings in Factor’s Row; below the offices were warehouses where the cotton and other goods were stored.
Factor’s Row is where the Cotton Exchange was located and worldwide cotton prices were set. Factor’s Walk constitutes the walkways made of concrete and iron that connect the buildings on Factor’s Row to the nearby 40-foot bluff. There are two ramps where the cotton was moved down onto River Street to the lower levels of those buildings, and was stored prior to shipping: the Drayton ramp and the Abercorn ramp. They are paved with cobblestones that were used as ballast to stabilize the ships coming over and left behind when their holds were filled with goods for the return voyage.
Hotels, restaurants, and shops now occupy those old buildings and provide a counterpoint to the more well known tourist destination of River Street below.
Vic’s on the River is one of the finest dining restaurants in Savannah with a grand view of the river. As you head east, there are some charming shops as well as destination spots for breakfasts and lunches. The River Street Hotel is an historic gem and houses Tubby’s Seafood River Street, an iconic restaurant where you can sit inside or out, enjoy the river view and classic southern dishes. Cafe M is a great choice for classic French sandwiches and treats. Two Cracked Eggs is an excellent choice for breakfast.
If architecture is your forte, as you stroll past the old Cotton Exchange notice the fountain with the lion and the medallion fence. Don’t forget to glance down and across at the pedestrian bridges as the walk below you slopes down to the river, and try to envision the huge bales of goods that barreled down that walkway. Take a good look at Solomon Lodge No. 1 and John Stoddard’s Upper Range Warehouse for a taste of history and don’t miss the Vaults built into the retaining wall.
When you’re finished, hike down one of the steep slopes, or find an elevator, and meet us on River Street.