Built in 1856 as a free public school for poor children, the Massie Heritage Center serves as a museum preserving Savannah's history and a gathering space for various community and cultural events. The building, which is the only surviving building of the city's first public school system, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The center features several exhibits exploring the city's maritime history, its growth and development, its historic buildings and the preservation efforts to save and renovate these structures, Native American culture and history, and the classic architecture exhibited throughout the city. There is also an authentic early 1900s classroom with old desks. Outside the building are two garden areas, which used to be separate recess areas for boys and girls.
The building is named after Scottish-born Peter Massie, who donated seed money that would eventually be used to build the school. At the time education was given by private teachers and as a result many poor families, especially those in the countryside, could not afford this type of schooling. Massie therefore decided to give funds—$5,000—for the school which he wanted to be free of charge. It operated as a school until 1974 after which point it became the heritage center.