Located in Johnson Square, the Moon River Brewing Company sits in what was considered to be one of the first neighborhoods in Savannah due to having the first Post Office and hotel which was The City Hotel in 1821. And, of course, in every hotel there is a bar. And with every bar there can be some drunk and unruly patrons. Several deaths can be attributed to men acting out after one too many at the City Hotel. Some were shot while at least one was killed by a lynch mob. Their spirits are believed to be alive and well in the building today.
The most popular story is of James Stark, the town bully. Stark and Philip Minis, a prominent jewish doctor, had played a game of cards or horseshoes together in the past. Minis won but Stark was certain the doctor had somehow cheated.
Stark liked to go to the City Hotel and get drunk. Once he had a few beers in him, Stark started to insult other patrons until he provoked a fight. One night he saw Minis and started calling him some pretty bad things. Minis didn’t like it but decided to call it a night and left. A few days later Stark was back at the bar when Minis wasn’t and began slandering him again. Minis contacted one of Stark’s friends in order to squash the problem between the two but it only infuriated Stark even more. Stark challenged Minis to a duel across the river in South Carolina but Minis didn’t find out until a day or two later.
A few days after the ‘scheduled’ duel Stark went back to the City Hotel and told everyone in the bar that the town doctor was a coward. Word got back to Minis so he got his gun and went to the Hotel. When Minis arrived he started looking for Stark. As Stark was coming down the stairs he yelled at the top of his lungs that Minis was a coaward. Enraged Minis reached for his gun and shot Stark dead on the staircase. Minis surrendered to the police later that night and was acquitted of murder charges.
The City Hotel shut down in 1864 before General Sherman rolled into Savannah. It was used as a warehouse and furniture store as well as a hospital when Yellow Fever broke out in Savannah. Hundreds of people, including children, died while being treated.
After Hurricane David tore the roof off the building in 1979 it sat empty until 1995 when it was renovated. Moon River Brewing Company opened four years later, and since then, employees and visitors have told stories about hearing children’s voices in the brewery. Waitresses have experienced seeing a young girl run through the second floor at night as well as seeing shadow figures in the basement.
The ghost of James Stark is said to to also be haunting the building. Various employees and construction workers have experienced be pushed on the staircase. A construction worker’s wife was severly injured at the hands of the spirit when she came to visit her husband as he worked on the second floor. It’s rumored that due to strange circumstances on the top two floors and the staircase the owners of the Moon River Brewing Company chose to expand their beer garden next door leaving the top floors vacant. Since construction on two unfinished floors would be cheaper than buying land on West Bay Street, you can imagine some pretty sinister occurrences must have taken place to prevent them from renovating the top floors.
Today, you can stop by for drinks, food, and even visit the basement; however, the top two floors are off limits to visitors.