Located in the heart of downtown Savannah, the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace has been a gathering place for girls for more than 100 years. For the past two years, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) have been working to enhance access to the site by developing a renovation plan to serve all visitors. GSUSA today announced that the Savannah Historic District Board of Review (HDBR) approved Girl Scouts’ landscaping plans for the outdoor space at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.
The main components of the plan includes restoring the existing gate at Oglethorpe Avenue, relocating the main entrance to Oglethorpe Avenue and into the garden, adding a green wall element and including seating and lighting in the outdoor space. Since purchasing the property, Girls Scouts of the USA invested heavily in the Birthplace attracting more than 1 million guests to Savannah. This renovation is a continuation of ongoing efforts to make the site fully accessible for programming and tours.
“For many girls, visiting the birthplace of our founder Juliette Gordon Low is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “The approval of the Savannah Historic District Board of Review ensures that everyone has access to the site and can enjoy all of the property while we continue doing the important work to honor the legacy of Juliette Gordon Low. Our goal in this renovation is to provide an inclusive and engaging experience for girls and visitors from all over the world. We are excited about this opportunity to make sure the Birthplace lives on as a proud symbol of Savannah and Juliette Gordon Low’s legacy to empower girls to become future leaders.”
In addition to addressing issues of circulation, accessibility and safety, the planned renovation seeks to drive education and engagement at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in a way today’s Girl Scouts will find exciting. None of the planned renovations will affect the historic landmark status or compromise the historical structure. The outdoor area will still serve as a garden with plant selections and design features that honor the site’s past and present. The site will continue to be used as a programming space as well as a ceremonial space for Girl Scouts activities like traditional pinning ceremonies.
To help carry out this vision, a Birthplace Advisory Committee (BAC) was formed in 2018. Several individuals from the committee spoke at the meeting to explain the strategic and sentimental planning that was involved in developing the new outdoor space. Strategically, the landscaping plan will allow for better flow for guests and provide a sense of arrival when visiting the heart home of Girl Scouts. Sentimentally, the garden design will allow large open spaces for Girl Scout troops who visit from all over the world to conduct ceremonies which is a huge part of Girl Scout traditions.
Ryan Madson, a local urban planning and landscape architecture professor, said members gave input into the renovation decisions as well as assisted in public outreach. “Staff and BAC members have listened to ideas and feedback from community members, preservationists, Gordon family members, visitors themselves, and most importantly, the girls.”
Just like the Girl Scout program, this renovation is for all girls, drawing inspiration and expertise from women of today. Savannah-based, female led companies, Greenline Architecture and Barge Design Solutions were selected as the project architect and landscape architect for the renovation.
“Barge Design Solutions is headed by an amazing female landscape architect in her own right, Laura Ballock, who has a solid reputation in Savannah for projects that are attuned to preservation concerns,” Madson said. “We have appreciated their deft solutions to landscape design challenges as well as their great respect for our need to evolve the use of the space while honoring its past.”
Local Girl Scout leaders also spoke in support of the landscape design mentioning the importance of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace to the Girl Scout experience.
“Girl Scouts has devoted millions of dollars over the last 60 years—in part raised by girls themselves—to ensure the Birthplace continues to be a jewel for the Savannah community and visitors from across the US and the world,” said Sue Else, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia. “This garden plan is the fruits of that labor. It honors the history of the site, meets the present demand and will serve Girl Scouts well in the future.”
The renovation is currently underway with a fall 2020 expected completion. For more information on the Birthplace and upcoming renovations, visit http://www.juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org/