Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, Georgia is a short trip up the ICW from Cumberland Island.  Jekyll Creek runs alongside the island, and the ICW is very shallow along the island.  The island must be approached at high tide to keep from running aground.  We anchored south of the bridge that connects Jekyll Island to Brunswick, Georgia and went ashore on a small public boat ramp located a mile or so from the historic downtown area.  

Jekyll Island is one of only four Georgia barrier islands that feature a paved causeway to access the island by car. It features 5,700 acres of land, including a 200 acre  Jekyll Island Historic District. The rest is tidal marshlands, mostly on the island's western shore. The island measures about 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, has 8 miles of wide, flat beaches on its east shore with sand packed hard enough for easy walking or biking, and boasts 20 miles of hiking and biking trails.... some paved, some not.  The ones that were not were the ones that got us in trouble.  We bicycled into town using a bike trail through the forest.  There were lots of exposed tree roots, which made for some rough bike riding.  Remember our Dahon bicycles?  The tires on the bicycles are meant for on-road use, not off-road use.  We rode into the downtown area and headed down a paved trail to the north end of the island.  LA noticed that his tires were getting wobbly.  We stopped and his back tire was blown.  We were able to limp back to downtown (which, by the way.. is not really a town... no retail stores... only historic buildings and some tourist shops.... However, rental bicycles were everywhere.  We stopped at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.  We met a nice guy, Jose, who was in charge of the hotel's bicycle rentals.  He took LA to a nearby hardware store where LA was able to purchase new rear off-road tires for both our bicycles.  He took LA back to the hotel where they worked together to replace the tires and get the bicycles ready to ride again.  What a nice guy!  Just goes to show you that one still can rely on the kindness of strangers when trouble comes up.

  The Famous Jekyll Island Club Hotel

The centerpiece of the historic district is the enormous Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a two-winged structure that contains numerous suites for rental, including a beautiful presidential suite that contains the 3-story turret on the front of the building.  The hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Jekyll Island Clubhouse was completed in January 1888. Fifty-three members purchased shares for $600 each, and a limit of 100 members was imposed to preserve the club's exclusivity. Members included the Rockefellers, Goulds, Astors, Goodyears, Morgans, Pulitzers, and Vanderbilts.  From 18881942 the club opened every January, except a few because of yellow fever outbreaks, to accommodate some of the world's wealthiest people. Members and their families enjoyed activities such as biking, hunting, horseback riding, and tennis, and frequented the north beaches. Some of the more esteemed members built mansion-sized "cottages" where they could ride out the northern winter with their social equals.  Each estate was huge, but to promote social interaction none included kitchens.  Members were expected to dine together at the club, where a staff from Delmonico's in New York prepared the meals.   

The Federal Reserve.......At the end of November 1910, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury A.P. Andrews,  along with five other of the country's leading financiers, who together represented about one-sixth of the world's wealth, arrived at the Jekyll Island Club to discuss monetary policy and the banking system.  The men developed the "Aldrich Plan", which became the forerunner to the Federal Reserve, which was created in 1913 under a Democratic administration. 

Thirty-three buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries surround the hotel, with many being mansion-sized cottages. Rooms in some of these cottages are for rent, while others exist as museums, art galleries, or bookstores. The historic district itself has been listed as a National Historic Landmark District since 1978.

The Jekyll Island Club Wharf accommodated some of the most luxurious yachts in the world during the existence of the Jekyll Island Club.  No other yacht was comparable to John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan's several Corsairs.  Corsair II, too large to dock, anchored in the channel.  Morgan was escorted to shore by a flotilla of small craft after a cannon had signaled his arrival.  Corsair II was 304 feet long, beam 33 1/2 feet, draft 17 feet, speed 19 knots, tonnage 1600.  When Morgan was asked how much it cost, he made his classic remark "If you have to consider the cost, you have no business with a yacht".  Today the wharf has two restaurants and is used by private boats and small tour boats.

Corsair II, J.P. Morgan's Yacht, and John Pierpont Morgan (photos courtesy of Pierpont Morgan Library)

In 1884,  John Eugene DuBignon built a simple farmhouse on Jekyll as his residence.  He and his brother-in-law Newton Finney then turned their attention to creating a hunting club on Jekyll Island for wealthy businessmen.  By 1885, they had acquired ownership of the entire island and sold it to the newly incorporated Jekyll Island Club.  DuBignon Cottage became known as the "Superintendent's Cottage" and was the home of E.G. Brob, who served as the Jekyll Island Club's resident manager for 42 years.

DuBignon Cottage

Sans Souci was built by Henry Hyde (Equitable Life Insurance) in 1898 as a retreat from the Club Hotel.  Housing 6 apartments, it was America's first condominium for the rich. The name "Sans Souci", meaning "without a care", captured the sentiment of the Club-era.


Sans Souci

Faith Chapel, constructed of Tidewater Red Cypress shingle, was built in 1904 in the Gothic style with copies of the Notre Dame de Paris gargoyles.  The main attraction of this quaint chapel is the magnificent stained glass.  One of the two interior windows is signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and is one of only four of its kind in the United States.

  Faith Chapel

Villa Ospo, built for $50,000 in 1927 by William Jennings, was designed by one of the nation's foremost architects at the time, John Russell Pope.  Pope designed the Washington National Gallery of Art.  Ospo was the name given to Jekyll Island by the Guale Indians, one of the first inhabitants of Jekyll Island.  This was the only cottage built on the island with a garage.

Hollybourne Cottage was built in 1890 by Charles Stewart Maurice and housed the only family to be associated with the Jekyll Island Club from its inception to its final dissolution in 1948.  It was the only house built during the club era with the island's native tabby.  The house is reputed to be the most haunted home on the island and is the only one yet to be renovated.

Hollybourne Cottage

Cherokee Cottage was built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1904-1907 for Dr. and Mrs. G.F. Shrady of New York City by their son-in-law Edwin Gould.  It is now used by the Jekyll Island Club Hotel for weddings, receptions and meetings.

Cherokee Cottage

Crane Cottage, built by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Teller Crane, Jr. in 1919.Richard Crane founded the Crane Company, which built fluid control equipment and plumbing fixtures and was the first to make white bathroom fixtures.  Located adjacent to the Jekyll Island Club, the building of this house caused quite a stir.  It was feared that the construction would overshadow the club, destroying the atmosphere of "simplicity" of the club.  Although a complaint was lodged by one of the members of the club, the matter was discreetly tabled, and the cottage was built.  Crane Cottage has 17 bathrooms, which was practically unheard of in the 1900's.  One of the most spacious and opulent cottages on the island, it now hosts weddings and other social events.

 Frances Miller Gould built "Villa Marianna" cottage for his bride, Florence Amelia Bacon.  Named for their little girl, Marianna, the beautiful Spanish architecture home was completed in mid-October 1928 and the moved in for the 1929 season.   This was the last member's house to be constructed on Jekyll.  

Is it "Jekyll" or "Jekyl" Island??

Originally, the island was named by James Oglethorpe for his friend, Sir Joseph Jekyll.  Over time, the second "L" was dropped, and the island became known as "Jekyl".  In the summer of 1929, a seemingly insignificant incident which, from a historical perspective, take on a symbolic meaning for the club.  At the instigation of club members, the Georgia legislature passed a resolution to "correct" the spelling of Jekyl by adding a second "L".  Signed on July 31, 1929, the resolution noted that the correct and legal name of the island was "Jekyll".  The name change, however, was like a jinx that came upon the club.  Less than three months later, on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, the stock market plummeted. Tuesday, October 29 saw another disastrous decline.  Panic swept the country and undermined American confidence in the banking and financial system. 

The End of an Era

During the Great Depression the club experienced financial difficulties, and by the time the United States entered World War II the era of the Jekyll Island Club was over.  In 1942 when a German U-boat torpedoed a tanker in St. Simon's Sound just north of Jekyll Island, the government feared the island was too tempting a target.  At that time, the membership of the island controlled one-sixth of the world's wealth.  The Coast Guard took over and evacuated the island.  The state of Georgia condemned the island in 1947, paid the remaining members a total of $675,000, and turned the island into a state park.  By legislative mandate, the island, 65% of the island is and will remain in a mostly natural state, including parks and picnic areas.  Most of the original cottages have been preserved and are open to the public.

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