This building stands out on Factor’s Row, mainly because of its large circular fountain with a Griffin in the center, and the ornate iron railing with medallions featuring famous statesmen, poets and authors. This is part of the same ironwork that is in front of the Philbrick-Eastman house on Chippewa square. (Although Moses Eastman commissioned the Philbrick-Eastman house in 1844, it was completed for John Stoddard in 1847.)
The Savannah Cotton Exchange was designed by William G. Preston, who was a Boston architect, and in 1887 was one of the first major buildings to be constructed entirely over a public street. Built of red brick with a terra cotta facade, iron window lintels and copper finials and copings, this is a magnificent example of the Romantic Revival period.
In the 1870’s cotton export revenue was about $40 million; Georgia was the leading cotton producer in the country, and Savannah was one of the major cotton seaports. The Cotton Exchange became a world leader in setting prices on cotton bales shipped around the globe. The insect, known as the boll weevil, took a huge bite out of the cotton industry, and by 1920 the building was obsolete.
Not much of the original Exchange remains, but there are archival photographs that show the inside of the building at the height of business. In 1974, Solomon’s Lodge #1 took a hundred year lease on the building. Established in 1734, the then British Colony of Georgia was the first colony that Masonic Charity founded for the “poor, the distressed and the persecuted.” James E. Ogelthorpe, who founded Georgia, instituted the first Masonic Lodge within the Colony.
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