Jekyll Island is the middle of a group of barrier islands known as the Golden Isles. In the early 1900's America's richest tycoons and businessmen decided to invest together to build an exclusive club here where they could bring their families and escape winter's cold. They had already built lavish summer homes in Newport RI so they decided to make this winter escape enclave more rustic. Their vision included hunting and fishing, but they still brought a Downton Abbey sized group of servants along who would wait on them hand and foot. They built the first condominium here, but those that wanted more privacy or to bring more guests and family built houses. All their homes had electricity and running water and telephone service. The telephone were supplied by the president of AT&T, one of their members. Their homes were designed by northern architects who did not realize that digging basements was a bad idea on a barrier island less than ten feet above sea level. They all flooded.
Founding members of the Jekyll Island club included Marshall Field, Henry Hyde, J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer and William K. Vanderbilt. At its largest the club had over 100 members including a Rockefeller - by invitation only. They enjoyed bringing their families here and getting away from it all. They probably would have liked the Florida winter climate even better, but at that point Florida had no infrastructure for such a lavish undertaking. The collapse of the stock market during the Great Depression was the beginning of the end. World War II dealt the death blow. German submarines were regularly spotted off the coast and their crews occasionally came on shore. The rich folks were afraid and many stopped paying their taxes and club fees here. Most walked away from their fully furnished homes never to return. In the 1950's the state of Georgia seized the island and turned it into a combination museum/recreation site. The historical area along the river where the homes faced west to see the sunset and avoid the worst of the hurricanes was preserved as much as possible. But while the homes had been abandoned, many of the contents had been stolen and the buildings were dilapidated and are still being refurbished as funds allow.
Today each car that drives the causeway to the island pays $6 to enter - not so exclusive any more, but the whole place feels like a resort. The island is ten miles long and laced with bike trails. Away from the historical zone, there are some residential areas. Most of the hotels are on the Atlantic side of the island on a long beach front. Our favorite spot on the island was Driftwood Beach where storms have ripped into the shoreline and created a tangled collection of tree trunks and roots that form a picturesque tableau. You could see the violence of the storms in the twisted limbs of the trees.