Hostess City History: Savannah Cotton Exchange

At 100 East Bay Street, you’ll find a stunning red edifice that bears the words Savannah Cotton Exchange on its terra cotta facade. Originally erected in 1887, the Savannah Cotton Exchange was once the epicenter of economic activity in Savannah, back when cotton was king. At the time, the Hostess City was ranked first as a cotton seaport on the Atlantic. It was also ranked second in the world. During its prime, the exchange moved more than two million bales through the city each year. 

The Savannah Cotton Exchange was designed by nationally-acclaimed architect William Gibbons Preston, who beat out more than ten other architects in a competition. Preston’s design was unique, situating the building in the middle of an already existing street. To this day, the exchange is one of the only buildings in the world constructed in this manner. Built of red brick with iron window lintels and copper ornaments, the building is an excellent example of Romantic Revival architecture. 

The exchange remained active until 1951 when it went out of business. Since closing, it was briefly occupied by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. Then in 1976, it became home to Solomon’s Masonic Lodge. At certain times throughout the year, the Masons host local fundraising events and open the exchange up to visitors. For the most part, however, it remains closed to the public. The building has experienced erosion through the years, but it still leaves a lasting impression. 

The next time you find yourself strolling on Bay St., stop by the Savannah Cotton Exchange and read the marker to learn more about its rich history.