On an Island in Georgia
Jekyll Island sounds like it belongs at Disney World. There's something a little comical or maybe haunted about the name.
Just getting to the historic island with its grand hotel, felt kind of like a Disney Adventure! After crossing the Sidney Lanier Bridge we were greeted by the Jekyll Island sign... on its own little island. We then, turned onto the Jekyll Island Causeway and passed between 2 old towers. Then we paid our $6.00 fee to cross the bridge over Jekyll River to get to the island, which is actually a State Park... 65% undeveloped.
When booking our stay, (with amazingly cheap rates in January) we asked to be in the oldest section of the hotel. This photo, with the Victorian turret shows the original Clubhouse which was completed in 1888.
If we'd been willing to pay more, we could have booked the Presidential Suite, which included its own spiral staircase up to the Rapunzel-ish tower!
As we approached the original club building with its 1901 annex, I was distracted by splotches of white covering the green lawn. As we got closer, I could see that the images were croquet players, dressed in white.
The game was just ending, so I got no photos. I had to chuckle at the thought of dressing in white to play the game, since my croquet memories include cut-offs and bare feet. The serious looking players toted some mighty big mallets which looked nothing like the ones I remember!
I'm not a big fan of clubs, especially exclusive ones. I didn't last long as a Girl Scout and I had no urge to join a sorority.
But the hotel is not really a club anymore and no one was telling me what I could or could not do. So I enjoyed a little sitting and wondering about those 53 original members/investors who opened the club nearly 130 years ago.
It was fun exploring all the shady porches and verandas. I loved imagining who would have been rocking on this porch in the 1920's when the hotel was in its hey day.
Since the Club Hotel originally limited its memberships to 100, only the wealthiest families got to enjoy these shady nooks and crannies. My ancestors were never elite enough to have club membership, but the Rockefeller, Morgan and Vanderbilt families did. I wonder what they sipped while they rocked? I wonder what secrets they shared?
Round Porches and Rooms...
The once exclusive club could have been housed in a more rigid or intimidating structure. But the asymmetric design of this building with all the curves and curious rooflines, made this hotel look playfully inviting.
A Calm Place
Plus, the setting for this lovely hotel was just peaceful, with live oaks and Spanish moss. I especially loved this round room, (once a porch) beside the turret.
I began to wonder about all the people who have climbed up in the turret to take in the view from the circular balconies. In more recent years it's possible Robert Redford, Matt Damon and Will Smith ventured up... while filming "The Legend of Bagger Vance" here, in 2000.
Changes Over Time
The porches were a little empty during our visit in January, but that was partially due to the temps. The hotel has seen even quieter days in its history. The Club lost half its members during the depression and they were forced to close during WWII.
The state of Georgia ended up buying the island in 1947, but it was never successful in operating the resort. The hotel closed down in 1971 and eventually reopened as a luxury resort in 1985.
The Hall of Mirrors greeted us when we first entered the Clubhouse. The long hall with arched supports, looked quite dramatic. I startled myself a couple times when the tall framed mirrors came to life as I passed.
I expected to see a grand lobby at the end, but again, this didn't open as a typical hotel. The check-in for our stay was in a separate, smaller building. This hall lead to the dining room and sitting areas.
The hall ended at the entrance to the dining room, near the staircase and some cozy sitting areas.
The woodwork and fireplaces were inviting. The boar's head above the fire... was amusing.
A few steps beyond the fireplace was this sunny, round room which was set up for a Victorian Tea. There were tea cups at the ready and rose or two on each table.
No Tea for Us
The staff was prepping a long table with finger sandwiches, scones and other teatime treats. Don and I passed on tea, but enjoyed sneaking a peek after 4:00, when we saw quite a few ladies in festive hats, sipping their tea.
At the turn of the century, I'm sure the ladies who arrived by yacht from the northeast, also enjoyed fancy teatimes. But I was surprised to learn that women in 1888 were encouraged to participate in many athletic activities, including hunting.
There was an elevator, but our room was up just one flight of stairs. I do love old stairs. In fact, I liked the stairs so much I kept going up.
The Top Hallway
The hallway on the top floor was a lot more curious than our second floor hall. I was intrigued by the absence of doors.
I heard voices of men laughing down at the end of the hall, so of course, I walked further.
Curiouser and Curiouser
This funny little sitting area was outside the door where I heard the men laughing. Two chairs with long legs sat on an uneven floor, beside two odd windows, underneath a low ceiling. (The window view was quite lovely)
Then I heard a noise coming from the elevator. I was almost knocked over by the bellman's cart. He didn't see me as I squeezed by.
Our hall and floor wasn't mysterious and full of laughter, but Don and I were quite pleased when we found our room.
We, as always, had booked the most economical room, but were graciously given an upgrade, without asking.
Comfy and Spacious
The king bed and flatscreen TV were reminders of today, but the woodwork and fireplace were nice peeks into the past.
There was nothing overly fancy about the bathroom, but as usual we were glad to have one. The Clubhouse didn't have indoor plumbing when it first opened.
The wood ceiling looked oddly old, so I wondered what this space might have been.
When we opened our shutters, we had a nice view of the pool and the river beyond.
Then and Now
It was too chilly for a swim in the old pool.
But we had a nice view of the sun lowering over the pool in the evening. Too bad the old diving board and platform are now gone.
In the evening we joined a few others at the cozy bar at the bottom of the stairs. The Club didn't have a bar originally. During the filming of Bagger Vance, a bar was temporarily created for some scenes. It became so popular, they built a permanent one.
We chatted with a number of interesting guests that evening. The most intriguing person at the bar, was the gentleman on the right. 94-year-old Harry Anderson is a well-known yachtsman from Mystic, Connecticut. He started coming to Jekyll island as a child with his grandfather, who was one of the original members when the club first opened.
Grand Dining Room
We chatted with the manager earlier when making dinner reservations.
He gave us a little hotel history as we admired the ionic columns, chandeliers, flowers and large windows.
All was even more swanky at night. We weren't traveling with swanky dress clothes though, so luckily they were flexible. Men's jackets were preferred, not required.
Flavors, Fire and Music
My shrimp and grits, with a triangle of asparagus was scrumptious. The piano music wafting through the dining room, added a bit of charm. And the amazing fireplace with its shiny marble, carved mantle and glowing screen, added a cozy warmth to our end of the room!
What a treat to enjoy our lovely feast and head up to bed. No coats and no car... just one flight of stairs and we were home.
I was glad we were able to enjoy the fun of staying in a place that was once a playground for the rich. I was a little worried we would feel out of place or possibly turned off by today's snooty guests. I was also afraid I would feel bothered with the guilt of staying in a hotel where past guests not only had to be wealthy, but of European decent.
But the hotel seemed relaxed and non stuffy. And best of all, my conscience encouraged me to read up on more of the island's history.
It's not a perfect one, but it's worth sharing. The link below talks about the island's history with segregation and integration. There is more good in the history than I realized.
I love it when an overnight stay encourages me to learn more.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!