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Historical Savannah Lends Southern Charm to Summit Meeting - 2004-06-09

The host city for this week's G-8 summit at Sea Island, Georgia, is the southern American city of Savannah, whose history and charm have long attracted visitors from around the world.

Savannah's recent prosperity is built on ocean shipping, military bases and increasingly tourism.

Savannah was founded by English colonialists many decades before the American revolution. Its numerous town squares make Savannah America's first planned city. Its busy seaport was a center of the cotton and slave trade.

For today's tourists Savannah's attraction is its hundreds of 19th century buildings with wrought iron balconies, graceful palm and magnolia trees, nearby recreation facilities, and southern hospitality.

As a tour bus passes the downtown Johnson Square, guide Angela Gibbons emphasizes Savannah's rich pre-civil war history. "This is where the sun dial, the public wells and the public ovens [for cooking] were located," she says. "It's where the declaration of independence was read to the colonists [in 1776]."

In the square, busy executive and Savannah native Randall Robinson enjoys a picnic lunch. Protected from the sun by a large straw hat, Mr. Robinson says this quiet green space is part of Savannah's charm. "You know, it's a peaceful environment. It's good to get out of the office to enjoy the sights and scenery and just kind of unwind."

Savannah's tourist economy for this week is disrupted by the G-8 summit. Roadblocks are set up on many downtown streets. Security is pervasive. And the only tourists for now are the several hundred journalists, technicians and off duty security and military personnel.