Outside of the city of Savannah sits the city’s powder magazine. The building resembles a small castle, hidden among the trees and overgrowth. In 1898, the structure was built for the City of Savannah by then-Mayor P.W. Meldrim. The powder magazine stored explosive powder, artillery ammunition, and eventually dynamite. This magazine is the only municipal powder magazine still in existence in Georgia.
The powder magazine was designed by famous Savannah architects Alfred S. Eichburg and Hyman Witcover. Eichberg and Witcover are credited separately for designing other Savannah buildings; including the City Hall, Telfair Hospital, the Scottish Rite Temple, and SCAD’s Eichberg Hall. Mason John Eason completed the Gothic-style structure on November 10, 1898. The total cost of the project was $3,650 for the building and $800 for the fifteen acres of land, $4,450 total. On an average day, the powder magazine held 96,000 pounds of black powder and 8,500 pounds of dynamite. There are two rooms inside, totaling 1,400 square feet. The building is considered the sturdiest structure in Chatham County. Reportedly, the brick walls of the structure are three feet thick, with a rock and steel-reinforced roof made of brick and tar. Impressions of the powder kegs are still visible on the tar floor.
While in operation, there was a caretaker’s cottage located about 150 feet from the magazine. The Keepers of the Magazine were jobs appointed by the Mayor for a term of three years. The primary daytime Keeper had a residence and pay. At first, the Keeper’s pay was based on the amount of ammunition sold. However, once the industry began to decline, the compensation was switched to a regular salary. There was also a paid secondary night Keeper, which was a necessity due to the isolation of the area.
The Savannah Powder Magazine was closed in 1963, due to the expense of operation with only one steady customer. The building has been abandoned ever since. Developers have wanted to demolish it. Others talked about turning the building into a night club. A homeless man once camped there because he said the natural setting was conducive for communicating with outer space. Recently, Tommy Holland has put proposals through the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Mr. Holland created the Powder Magazine Park Commission in efforts to restore the structure and turn the property into a park. Due to a lack of funding, no further changes have been made.