Earlier this week, Tom and I returned to Jekyll Island to tour the National Historic District with some of my favorite people – my mom and dad. We rode our bikes past the historic homes the previous week, but didn’t stop because we wanted to take the tour. So we drove back to Jekyll Island and parked at the Jekyll Island Museum.
The National Historic District has 34 historic structures left over from the Jekyll Island Club. The Club formed as an exclusive winter hunting club and retreat. It cost $600 to join in 1886. Some of the wealthiest men in the United States bought memberships and built beautiful “cottages” on the grounds. They would come with their families during the season (January – March) and hunt, play golf, ride bicycles, play tennis, and play croquet. While on the island, members pursued “a life of elegant leisure.”
We took the tram tour around the island ($16 per person) and got to see all of the cottages that are still standing. The tram tour also allowed us to go inside two of the houses. One of them, the Moss Cottage, is 7,000 square feet for a family of three and the six servants who traveled with them. The members and their guests could stay in the cottages or in the hotel. If they stayed in the hotel, they could use the servants who were on the staff of the hotel.
As we toured the grounds of the National Historic District, we also saw the stables, the indoor playground, and several small shops that were originally homes for married servants. Purchasing the tram tour allowed us to go inside Faith Chapel, built by the members for Sunday worship. There are two beautiful stained glass windows inside, one designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The Jekyll Island Club began in 1886 and had its last season in 1942. The Great Depression caused the membership to decline and WWII caused problems with hiring enough staff. In 1947, the State of Georgia bought the island from the club and turned it into a State Park and resort. The resort closed in 1971. In 1978 the Jekyll Island National Historic District was formed and restoration work began on the buildings. Today all of the cottages have been restored except for one. You can stay in the hotel or just eat lunch in the dining room, if the rooms are too expensive for your wallet.
We enjoyed touring the National Historic District and seeing the grand cottages. For a little while, we pretended that we were the rich and famous people who were members of the club. But a little while was long enough. As I looked at the cottages, all I could think was “I’m glad I don’t have to maintain that!”