In the Most Delightful Country of the Universe

Teaching classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design kept me busy this fall, but I am now settling in for marathon winter writing. Before we delve back into the discussion about the other Mills Lane family construction projects, I have to mention some authors and books that have been a part of public discussions around Savannah in 2018. I am always amazed at how often connections to Mills Lane pop up.

Roger Smith, director of The Learning Center at Senior Citizens, Inc., talked about Savannah’s Literary Legacy at one of the Hungry for History lectures at Savannah City Hall. One of the first books he mentioned, The Most Delightful Country of the Universe: Promotional Literature of the Colony of Georgia 1717-1734, was published in 1972 by Mills Lane IV’s Beehive Press.

Smith said that as “chairman of the publicity committee” Savannah founder James Oglethorpe may have been a little too enthusiastic when he described the speculative colony called Georgia as an idyllic place where the “temperatures are temperate all year long, all year round, never uncomfortable, no mosquitoes to worry about.” Oglethorpe had not even visited yet. Perhaps that was a bit of early fake news.

General James Oglethorpe, Savannah’s founder   (photo, Oglethorpe.edu)

Maybe a more realistic viewpoint was that of Royal Governor Henry Ellis, Smith continued. As Ellis was coming up on his second summer in the dusty, sandy streets of Savannah, he asked the English king if he could go to his majesty’s provinces in Canada for the summer saying, “The people of Georgia breathe the hottest air of all the peoples of the earth.”

While that title is no longer available through the Beehive Foundation, many others about Georgia history are.

Even the architecture where we listened to the lecture was touched by the hands of a Mills Lane. The original dome of City Hall was clad in copper. Mills Lane Jr. funded the gold leaf for the first gilding in 1987.

As a part of the same lecture series, Tania Sammons, a Savannah-based curator and writer, had earlier this year talked about architect William Jay. In addition to the Telfair Academy, and the Richardson-Owens-Thomas House, Jay designed the William Scarbrough House that Mills IV restored in the 1990s and turned into the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.

Links to the talks, organized by Luciana Spracher, Director of the City of Savannah Municipal Archives are at https://www.savannahga.gov/1356/Public-ProgramsCity-Hall-Exhibits.

Orlando Montoya, WRUU Savannah community radio host and area tour guide, organized his annual program on author and poet Conrad Aiken with help from the Unitarian Universalists. It was hosted by The Book Lady, whose owner Joni Gusti started the program reading notes from Aiken to his neighbors across Oglethorpe Avenue, Antonio and Henrietta Waring. Our last blog talked about Mills IV’s mother’s family, the Warings. More stories from the Waring family will be forthcoming.

When writer Harlan Greene spoke about the flamboyant Harry Hervey, author of The Damned Don’t Cry, last spring, he started his lecture with a story about arriving in Savannah and asking Mills IV whom he needed to talk to for research into Hervey’s life.

Mills Lane IV is connected to a large part of Savannah’s story. The next blog post will explore that connection in Chatham Square.

Rexanna Keller Lester is working on a book about Mills Bee Lane IV and his preservation legacy. For more on architecture and the history of the South, click on the “Books” tab at the top of the page.

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