Georgia Historical Society Dedicates New Historical Marker Recognizing Savannah’s WWII Home Front Efforts

Staff Report

Monday, May 15th, 2023

The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) dedicated a new historical marker that recognizes Pine Gardens and Savannah’s Defense Community on Thursday, May 11, 2023, in partnership with the Chatham County Board of Education and the Eli Whitney Alumni Association. The historical marker commemorates Pine Gardens, a defense community originally created in 1942 for civilian workers supporting World War II home front efforts.

“We are pleased to be a part of this auspicious occasion celebrating a part of Savannah’s history that ties together so many elements: the Pine Gardens neighborhood, the Whitney School alumnae, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the Georgia Historical Society,” said Dr. Ann Levett, Superintendent, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools. “It is our honor to have this historical marker placed on the Eli Whitney School property as a reminder of the importance that education plays--and has always played--in Savannah’s history. Students now and in the future will know the history of this school and the role this neighborhood played in supporting our country’s defense system and building community for families here in Savannah.”

During World War II, United States defense industries expanded, attracting civilian workers nationwide who sought home front employment opportunities. In Savannah, the Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation operated as one of only eighteen companies in the nation to manufacture Liberty Ships, merchant vessels built inexpensively and efficiently to support the war effort. At any given time during its wartime operations, the corporation employed around 15,000 people. To accommodate its workers, Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation built the Pine Gardens Defense Community to provide not only attractive, affordable housing on ample lots, but also community amenities for its workers. The neighborhood remained, growing after the war to include an annex and the Eli Whitney School. Today, Pine Gardens is one of the largest intact defense communities in Georgia.

The marker dedication took place at 2 Laura Avenue in Savannah. Speakers included Kurt Hetager, Chief Public Affairs and Administrative Services Officer, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System; O.C. Fowler, President, Savannah Council Navy League of the United States; Breana James, Historical Marker and Program Coordinator, Georgia Historical Society; Dr. Daves Rossell, Professor of Architectural History, Savannah College of Art and Design; Vanessa Miller-Kaigler, Deputy Superintendent and Chief Operations Officer, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System; Van Johnson, Mayor, City of Savannah; Dr. Ann Levett, Superintendent, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools; and Elyse Butler, Marker Manager, Georgia Historical Society.