Celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the beloved film this month by visiting spots in Savannah and South Carolina.
On July 6, 1994, the world was introduced to Forrest Gump, a small-town boy from Greenbow, Alabama, who had fallen in love with his childhood best friend, Jenny. Twenty years ago this month, the “Forrest Gump” movie, based on the book by Winston Groom, took audiences on a tour of the United States, while also giving viewers a small history lesson.
Stretching from Savannah, Georgia, to Beaufort, South Carolina, and its surrounding barrier islands, filming spots include some notable landmarks, areas of natural beauty and that famous bench where Forrest explained why life is like a box of chocolates.
The feather that starts the movie off, floating down over the square to land right next to Forrest’s foot, took flight off the steeple of the First Baptist Church in Savannah’s Chippewa Square. The steeple is currently undergoing construction, but the church still stands and is fully functional.
The film started with Forrest sitting on a bench in Savannah, telling the story of his life for anyone who would listen while waiting on a bus to take him to Jenny. That bench was also located in Chippewa Square. The bench has since been moved to the Savannah History Museum, and the actual location itself seems untouched. In the short time that I visited the square, several people came by to have their photos taken exactly where Tom Hanks sat that day.
All that stands in the place of the bench is a sign for Chippewa Square
One thing that not many people know about the filming of the movie is that for the bus to pull up on Forrest’s right side, the direction of travel in Chippewa Square had to be switched. So, the one-way streets changed direction during filming.
Another Savannah location made famous is Love’s Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant was featured as the location that Jenny worked as an entertainer and was on stage singing “Blowin’ In the Wind” naked. In the movie, the restaurant was turned into a truck stop.
The restaurant is still fully functional and even has the famous sign on display for its guests, but it is not the truck stop it once appeared to be.
Love’s sign from the film still on display on a shed at the restaurant
Exterior of the restaurant as it appears now
The majority of the film took place in South Carolina. For instance, the school where the principal explained Forrest’s intelligence to his mother was located in Walterboro. The location is now The Colleton Center.
In the film, Forrest had some trouble finding shrimp with Lieutenant Dan. So, for some extra help and encouragement he went to church every Sunday. That church is located off a dirt road in McPhersonville, South Carolina, and known as the Stoney Creek Independent Presbyterian Chapel of Prince William Parish.
Finding this chapel was not the easiest thing, and I had to use GPS coordinates instead of an actual address. In May of 2002, the chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places and therefore has been properly preserved.
During his long journey running across the United States, Forrest was interviewed by a television crew while crossing the Mississippi River. In reality, he was crossing the Beaufort River on the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Forrest was a member of the United States Army in the film, and during his time in the military he was deployed for the Vietnam war. The film crews and Tom Hanks did not actually travel to Vietnam to recreate the war scenes. Instead, they were filmed at Hunting Island State Park and Fripp Island in South Carolina.
Beach at Hunting Island
There’s been some debate over the location of the majestic live oak that young Forrest and Jenny sit under in the movie. Some say it is located at the entrance to Carolina Shores subdivision, near the end of Carolina Avenue in Beaufort, while other sources say Combahee Plantation. According to a 2015 story in The Wall Street Journal, the real tree is at Plum Hill, a plantation south of Charleston in Yemassee. We corresponded with the South Carolina Film Commission to confirm, and they said that used to be true, but the property that was Plum Hill has since been divided. The portion that the tree now lies (and also where many locations, including the Gump house and Jenny’s mobile home, were shot) is on private property.
In downtown Beaufort, you might see a building that looks awfully familiar as the Bayou Le Batre Hospital, which is renamed Gump Medical Center in the movie. The 801 Carteret St. building is actually the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Performing Arts Center.
Lucy Point Creek, on Lady’s Island just over the bridge from Beaufort, was the location for the majority of shrimp boat scenes in the movie. Bubba’s mother’s house was actually an existing residence on Alston Road, right near the creek. The majority of the scenes of the shrimp boat were done in the creek as well, and the special scene after the big storm, when Forrest catches all the shrimp, was filmed in the creek waters.
The story goes that all of the shrimp from Forrest’s hurricane trip were brought in from Gay Fish Company in St. Helena. The owner’s boat, “Miss Hilda,” can even be seen tied up in the scene when Forrest is naming his boat “Jenny.”
Lucy Point Creek
In the film, Gump attended the University of Alabama as a student and football player. However, the scenes for the film were not shot at Bryant–Denny Stadium. The football and college scenes were filmed in southern California at the Weingart Stadium at East Los Angeles College.
The actual Bryant-Denny Stadium, not used in the movie
The pride the South has for “Forrest Gump” runs from Georgia to South Carolina and beyond, but in Beaufort, remembering and paying homage to the film is taken very seriously. Many locals, like Irene Goodnight who sang on the set and then toured the country singing as Jenny and now runs a kayak business, have their own Forrest stories to tell. At Saltus River Grill along the Beaufort riverfront, you can order The Jenny cocktail, a mix of Meyer lemon-infused vodka, sweet tea with lemon and a sugar rim, while The Chocolate Tree on Carteret Street remains famous as a favorite spot of Tom Hanks during filming. The owner still sends him a box of chocolates each year on his birthday.
Find out more about Beaufort’s ties to the movie industry and “Forrest Gump” in our Travel section.
Photos by Jackie Gutknecht, except for Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge and Hunting Island by Deep South and live oak and Lucy Point Creek by John Wollwerth.