Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The last place visited in the Golden Isles was Jekyll Island. This island has a somewhat different history than the others we have visited. While it was first settled by an officer under General Oglethorpe of Fort Federica fame, it is best known as the location of the Jekyll Island Club for the early rich and famous. In 1896 the entire island was purchase by a group of wealthy northern business men. The original group of 53 included J. P. Morgan, William Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Goodyear, and Pulitzer. They wanted an exclusive place to relax, hunt and socialize with those of equal status.
They built the Jekyll Island Club house and later an annex when some of the members wanted even more privacy. Additionally, many of the members also built “cottages” on plots allotted to them. This lifestyle continued until the outbreak of WWII, when the residents became concerned that they would be the target of kidnappers from German U-boats. After the war they never returned to the island and the club buildings began to deteriorate.
The state of Georgia took over the Island and is shown as a State Park, but is operated by the Jekyll Island Authority. It is truly a unique state park. The Jekyll Club and many of the cottages have been restored and are operated as the Jekyll Island Resort. The state owns all the land, but has allowed private residents and other resort operators to build on the Island on a lease basis. The center village of the Jekyll has been designated as a museum and tours of the cottages are possible. Additionally, a number of the cottages serve as restaurants and lodging as part of the resort. It is a great place for a vacation or any special event.
The Island still reflects some of its early history. The ruins of the Horton house have been preserved. This was the Home of Major Horton, who served with General Oglethorpe and settled on this island. His home and property was obtained by the Frenchman Poulain Du Bignon in 1791. He died on the island and is buried near the creek across from the house. His family owned the property until it was sold to the millionaires to form their club.