Another one off the list!

Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2014

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , Georgia
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I first heard of Jekyll Island when another coach club was hosting a rally here.  It sounded like a pretty interesting place so I put it on my short list of places to visit if we should ever return to this part of the country.  So, it was with great anticipation that we finally entered the island for our five night stay. 

First a little background.  Jekyll Island is one of Georgia's 13 barrier islands.   Barrier islands are found along nearly the entire eastern seaboard of United States. Many of Georgia's barrier islands are among the most pristine anywhere. Geologically these remarkable islands are considerably younger than the mainland. Some came into existence approximately 30,000 years ago; others emerged only within the last 5,000 years. Jekyll Island, in fact, has added almost 20% to it's size in just the last 50 years. 

Along Georgia's 100 miles of shoreline the Atlantic Ocean has no direct contact with the mainland.  It first comes into contact with the barrier islands and than makes it way through marshlands before finally 'coming ashore' along the mainland.  To put it another way, to go to the beach in Georgia you first have to go to an Island! 

Now, time for just a bit of history.  As we are discovering in this part of the world the Spanish were here first laying claim to Jekyll Island in 1510, Ponce de Leon was even here sometime after that.  In 1562 the French came along, laid claim to the land and proceeded to build and behave as if they owned the place. They were run off a short time later.  Than it was time for the English to lay claim to all the land between Jamestown and St Augustine.  There would be a bit of fighting going on starting in 1681 between the English and the Spanish ending with the English laying claim to the Island in 1702. 

Along comes English General Jame Oglethorpe who creates the colony of Georgia in 1733 which includes Jekyll Island - which he names after his friend Sir James Jekyll.  In 1792 the DuBignon family brought slaves to the island and ran a profitable cotton plantation.  This all came to an end in 1862 when Union Troops took over the island.  By the end of the war the island was deserted. 

By 1886 DuBignon and a partner had decided to sell the island to a group of rich "Northerners" as a private winter retreat.  The island was purchased and shares were sold to the "Jekyll Island Club", 53 members would purchase shares costing  $600 each.  In 1888 the clubhouse was completed.  Club members included J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor, Joseph Pulitzer and William Vanderbilt - just to name a few.  The Jekyll Island Club was the "richest, most exclusive and inaccessible club in the world".

The Jekyll Island Club was in existence from 1886 until 1942.  The members would come down for the 'season', anywhere from three weeks to three months in January, February and March.  Quite a few members built private 'cottages' ranging from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet in size.  They would spend their time hunting, having tea, riding 'dune buggies', dining and relaxing. 

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. Most members walked away from the cottages they had built, leaving them completely furnished.   The state of Georgia condemned the island in 1947 and paid the remaining members a total of $675,000.

Jekyll Island became a State Park in 1950 but did not open to the public until a causeway bridge was built in 1954 - prior to that the only access to the island was by boat.  The late 60's and early 70's saw the building of resort hotels, a convention center and shopping center.  The late 70's and 80's saw the creation of bike paths along with the renovation of the clubhouse and cottages. 

The island does have a range of lodging options, everything from staying at the historic clubhouse to a campground.  Guess where we stayed?! The island has over 20 miles of bike paths and we had the opportunity to pedal a few of them - not nearly as much as we had wanted to, guess we have to go back!  You can walk around the historic district or take a guided tram tour which allows you access to a couple of the 'cottages'.  We opted for the tram tour AND a walk around.  Despite the fact that the island now has a few hotels, private homes and the convention center on it, the historic district still feels like you could easily bump into an Astor, Vanderbilt or Rockefeller.  It really is a special place and one I am glad to put back on my short list for a second visit!!
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