The Savannah Blarney Stone’s Journey to America
The idea of the Savannah Blarney Stone was sparked by a Savannah couple’s desire to unite the Savannah community and inspire others to make a difference. In 2009, Dr. Sidney Smith and his wife Colleen began making plans to have a stone from Blarney Castle in County Cork, Ireland, transported to Savannah to serve as a charitable tradition. Using his own gift of eloquence, Dr. Sidney Smith contacted the Blarney Castle Estate in 2014 to establish a relationship with the Irish organization and purchased the massive slab of blarney.
After the stone was delivered to the Smith’s residence, the couple began working with the community and selected ten very diverse charities that would benefit from the Savannah Blarney Stone. The stone made its first debut on River Street in 2019 during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and the proceeds that were raised by those who wanted to take part in a long-standing Irish tradition were donated to the selected charities. To further establish the Savannah Blarney Stone in the Savannah community, the stone will be open to visitors year round at its Cohen’s Retreat location or annually during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and a few other events. Each year, Savannah charities will be chosen to benefit from the Savannah Blarney Stone.
The Savannah Blarney Stone’s Permanent Home: Cohen’s Retreat
Percival Randolph Cohen (Percy), for whom Cohen’s Retreat is named after, viewed Savannah as his home and those residing in Savannah as his family. Percy’s legacy was immortalized in 1927 when, after his death, the wealth of his estate was distributed throughout the Savannah community. Dr. Sidney Smith and his wife Colleen Smith, the current owners of Cohen’s Retreat, purchased the Savannah Blarney Stone as their way of continuing on Percy Cohen’s legacy and celebrating his gracious attitude to support local charities. It is only fitting that the Savannah Blarney Stone resides in the same quarters where Mr. Percy worked towards making for a better Savannah community.
Below are just a few of Percy Cohen’s contributions to the Savannah community:
Constructed in 1934, Cohen’s Retreat, then Cohen’s Old Man’s Retreat, was built with the intent that no old man would die old and lonely.
In his days as CEO of Savannah Compress, Percy saw the working horses and mules of Savannah had nowhere to drink fresh water. His estate left monies to create a drinking fountain for the animals, which is now located at the corner of Bull Street and Victory Drive.
The Bethesda Home for Boys, a then orphanage, was at maximum capacity, so Percy’s estate left funding to construct an additional cottage. The cottage still bears his name.
The “Cohen’s Shelter for Little Ones” provided a means for impoverished children to see the ocean. Operations continue today as “The Fresh Air Home” lovingly maintained by the Froebel Circle.