Just recently we returned from a lovely week at the Jekyll Island Club on the coast of Georgia. Not our first time, but each time I am struck. It is a course of study in architecture, design and fine living. Such an easy getaway from Atlanta, and it’s as if time slows at the Jekyll Club – a place where croquet is played on the front lawn, porches overlook the gardens and beautiful historic trees, and architectural masterpieces line the street to the Jekyll Island Club Resort – a once seasonal destination for the wealthiest people in the world.
Without a long history lesson, here are a few highlights of the club’s beginning taken from the Jekyll Island Club website:
- 1792 – Chiristophe DubGinon purchased property on Jekyll Island.
- 1879 – Newton Finney, and brother-in-law, John Eugene DuBignon, a descendant of Christophe DuBignon, collaborate to turn Jekyll Island into a private hunting club for the nation’s wealthiest individuals, quickly becoming their winter hideaway.
- 1886 – The Island was purchased by the newly formed Jekyll Island Club which Munsey’s Magazine called, “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.”
- 1888 – The Club officially opened its doors in January 1888, quickly becoming a retreat for families that represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth.
More history can be found here.
Lining Riverview Dr. to the Jekyll Club, and often referred to as Millionaire’s Row, are several of the finest examples of high-style architecture built by some of the most notable names in American business and industrialism such as Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Marshall Fields, William Vanderbilt, Joseph Pulitzer and many more. These cottages served as seasonal homes during January through March.
The Jekyll Club
This club itself is Queen Anne Style with a 4-story turret. The Palm Court is a glassed-in porch to the lobby which overlooks the interior courtyard, front lawn, and driveway of the club. This is one of my favorite rooms in the entire club. The Palm Court offers a brief respite from the heat and humidity with air-conditioned views of all the goings on around the club and feels like you’re at someone’s home. The lobby conjures up images of all things Ralph Lauren and the American way of life.
The Dining Room
The main dining room at the club offers a grand dining experience. Men, be sure to bring long pants. You can’t dine in the dining room without them. However, my favorite room, just inside the Grand Dining room is the River Room. The circular room with windows all around has a much better view of the property and gardens, in my opinion.
Just a short walk from the hotel is The Wharf restaurant overlooking Jekyll Creek in the marsh. Today humble boats dock just off the restaurant, but this is where many of the wealthiest members of the club would have docked their private yachts. This waterway was the only way to get on Jekyll at the time. In fact, Joseph Pulitzer (best known for the Pulitzer Prize) died on his yacht Liberty en route to Jekyll Island. His home no longer stands on the club property, but a plaque is posted in its original location.
Pier Rd., just steps from the club, is lined with shops previously occupied by many of the club’s employees like the accountant, manager, and boat engineer, and offers art galleries and gift shops located in these historic cottages nestled under the live oaks. Just walking the property itself is beautiful. There’s an ice cream shop, bicycle shop, tennis, and golf, and it’s not uncommon to see people dressed in white playing croquet on the front lawn. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, occupying one of the old buildings on the property, is a hospital for sick sea turtles, and if you don’t find all of this enough, you can take the bus to the beach village for shopping and dining. But, the whole point of the club is to slow down, sit on the porches and rock, walk the tree-lined paths, play board games in the game room, and disconnect.
Two other notable buildings.
Faith chapel on the property, still open for weddings today, has a stained glass signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and San Souci was the first condo building ever built in Georgia. As you can see, the paint colors all around the property are gorgeous.
Lastly, the trees on Jekyll are mesmerizing live oaks draped in Spanish moss. Many of the branches bend so low they touch the ground, and I recently mentioned in a social media post, they are part storybook and part Poltergeist. Remember that scary tree in Poltergeist with the branches like arms? It had to have been a live oak. Even so, they are breathtaking. The property is as majestic as it is due in part to these trees. Grand houses and buildings need grand trees.
There many other cottages and buildings on the property, but I’ll save those for another time.
Hope you enjoyed the blog and make time to go someday. It is a place to be protected and treasured for sure.