Whitefield Chapel By John Pierce

Whitefield Chapel, on the Bethesda Orphanage (now Academy) campus in Savannah, Ga., is named for the founder of this oldest, continuous charity in North America. One of the best-known figures of the 18th century, evangelist George Whitefield preached to throngs of eager listeners in Britain and throughout the colonies of the New World.

He was known for many things: riding by horseback from New York to Charleston preaching to large crowds; befriending the secular-minded Benjamin Franklin who admired the preacher’s intellect; organizing the first group of Methodists; relating to the Wesley brothers — Charles and John — who didn’t agree with his embrace of Calvinism; and being a major force in the great spiritual awakenings of that time on both sides of the Atlantic.

His days in Georgia were brief, but raising funds for the orphanage he established in the coastal city was a passionate part of his travels. Every day tour buses stop at the Whitefield Chapel so visitors can take photos.

To learn about the great 18th-century preacher? No. To pay honor to his influence on the religious life of a young nation? No.

It is the place where super-cook Paula Deen got married in 2004, ya’ll. And the rest is history.

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