Symbol of the Guilded Age with New Century Appeal
By Barbara Barton Sloane
"Mr. Rockefeller never feels so well as when he is enjoying the secluded and exclusive life which only this Paradise on earth affords." So reported the Brunswick News on January 30, 1917. Ah, those millionaires!
In the gilt-edged times of a century ago, the country’s rich journeyed to places like Saratoga, New York; White Sulphur Springs; West Virginia and, of course, to Jekyll Island, Georgia , the particular paradise the Brunswick News referred to. I had the happy opportunity to visit Jekyll Island recently and can affirm that this destination continues to instill happiness and a sense of well-being in its visitors.
Located on a Georgia barrier island of unusual natural beauty and recognized as a Natural Historical Landmark, the Jekyll Island Club was built in l886 as a hunting retreat for the nation’s wealthy elite and was the site of events and meetings of historic significance. The first transcontinental phone call was initiated here in 1915 from the island by Theodore Vail, then president of AT&T. The fond memory of members of yore – J.P. Morgan, Jay Gould, Vincent Astor, William K. Vanderbilt, Marshall Field and others is kept alive at Jekyll Island with sepia photographs lining its halls.
Since that unique time in our history, not very much has changed at Jekyll Island. The Clubhouse, which is American Queen Ann in architectural style and the collection of adjacent structures have been splendidly restored, and is on Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List and named one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
The resort has 157 rooms and suites in five historic settings. There’s the Clubhouse adorned with turrets, bay windows, verandas, and views of rolling green lawns, the intracoastal waterway and vast marshlands. Additionally, there’s lodging at the Annex, San Souci, Crane Cottage and Cherokee Cottage. I stayed in the 81 year old Crane Cottage, an Italian Renaissance structure which recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It was private, quiet, comfortable and full of turn-of-the-century
While there, I spent a pleasurable afternoon relaxing in the Crane Cottage gardens with a good book on a bench in the shade of a live oak tree. Jekyll Island lends itself to such pursuits, but make no mistake, if activity is your aim, there’s plenty here to keep you busy.
Something for Everyone
Jekyll Island is the site of Georgia’s largest public golf resort with 63 holes of challenging courses and year-round play. You can horseback ride, experience a horse-drawn carriage, walk the Tidelands Nature Center, go on a dolphin tour and have fun shopping the historic shops on Pier Road. For the extended, multi-generational family, this resort is ideal as most of the activities are geared for grandparents to tots.
You’ll find a world of compelling contrasts: old and new, rich history and modern comforts, grand surroundings and simple pleasures, energizing sports and complete relaxation. And on the last Sunday of each month, the Club holds a dinner dance in the Grand Dining Room with gourmet dining and dancing to a live band.
Have a Close Encounter with a Sea Turtle
Jekyll Island is home to the new $2.5 Million Sea Turtle Center whose goal is to enhance public awareness of this endangered species and to provide rehabilitation for injured or ill sea turtles. I had the opportunity to visit this Center and was impressed with the heroic efforts for sea turtle conservation that take place here. Later, I stopped by the Lobby Bar to
sample bartender Kenny Bjorn’s "Turtletini ," a cocktail created as a salute to the sea turtles that swim thousands of miles to Jekyll Island’s beach each summer.
Make Jekyll Island a Family Tradition
If you plan to visit, be aware that there are homes you can rent, "cottages" you can buy, or you can just simply fly down, rent a room at the Club, sit on its sprawling porch in a wicker chair and watch grass grow. Jekyll Island, an unhurried kind of place, lends itself well to just such laid-back activities. Fifty percent of the resort’s visitors are repeat customers as families pass the tradition of vacationing here from generation to generation. Visit Jekyll Island and you’ll have a truly luxurious and memorable landmark experience.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island Georgia 31527
Tel: 912.635.2600/Fax 912.635.2818
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