Monday, September 13, 2021

The Cottages of the Jekyll Island Club Part I

Moss Cottage
by Denise Weimer

My previous two posts revealed how Gilded Age tycoons created a retreat on an island off the coast of Georgia. The beautiful, Queen Anne clubhouse opened for the winter season of 1888. But fifty lots had been set aside for members who wished to build their own “cottages,” and as crowding became an immediate issue in the clubhouse, some members pursued this option. Though the cottages built on Jekyll [originally Jekyl] Island changed hands many times, a total of fifteen were built—most of which are restored and on the current historic trolley tour.

1. McEvers Bayard Brown supposedly built his cottage an inhospitable distance from the club house for his wife, who jilted him. He fled the country aboard his yacht, dropping anchor off the coast of England, where he became increasingly eccentric. He authorized club employees to use the house and continued to send money to the club.

2. Philanthropist Nathaniel Kellog Fairbank of Chicago built the second cottage in 1890, just south of the clubhouse. While Fairbank thrived on the island, considering it a retreat from scandalous legal cases in which he’d become entangled, his wife disapproved of Jekyl’s rustic chapel.

3. At the same time, Charles Stewart Maurice of Athens, Pennsylvania, was constructing his house. Hollybourne blended island materials including the use of tabby with Flemish style. Designed by New York architect William Day, the house cost $19,100 to build. Charles and Charlotte became historians and authorities on Jekyl wildlife until her death by typhoid in 1909. Wicker, chintz, Oriental rugs, and animal skins decorated the interior.

4. Porches, turrets, and a gazebo enhanced Solterra (1891), the grand frame home of Frederic Baker, head of a New York warehouse firm. Multiple parties and President William McKinley were hosted at Solterra. On March 9, 1914, a fire broke out in the attic, destroying the home.

5. Architect Walter Rogers Furness of Philadelphia, the club’s youngest member at twenty-six, built his home in shingle style with a rounded front corner. In 1896, he sold to Joseph Pulitzer. Eventually, the cottage became the island infirmary. 

6. The cottage of Gordon McKay, who made his fortune improving and patenting a process for sewing boots during the Civil War, was constructed in 1892. McKay shocked society by divorcing his first wife and later marrying his housekeeper’s daughter. His generosity to his second wife did not end after they, too, divorced. In 1904, William Rockefeller purchased the cottage and named it Indian Mound. 

Indian Mound Cottage

7. Owner of a Philadelphia marble works, William Struthers, built Moss Cottage in 1896. His daughter, Jean, was very active in the island’s social and sporting life. The family entertained often and lavishly. George Macy purchased the property in 1911.

Join me in October for fascinating glimpses of the last eight cottages of the Jekyl Island Club.

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of a dozen published novels and a number of novellas. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses!

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  1. Thanks for posting and continuing your tour of this beautiful place. Not exactly what I think of when I hear about "cottages"!!! They are beautiful, though.

  2. I enjoyed this article a lot! The homes are similar to the ones many Chicago tycoons built on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin after the Great Fire in 1872. They, too, called them "cottages".

  3. Interesting. It is fun to learn about historical sites in other states. Gives me something to put on my list of places I might want to tour someday.

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. I've heard of a number of areas where the Gilded Age tycoons wintered. All fascinating. - Denise

  5. Love that era. , the "cottages", the parisoles.

  6. These are really big cottages. I wonder why the extra l was added to the end of Jekyll.

  7. Michelle, great question! In 1929, the GA legislature passed a resolution to correct the spelling b/c the island had originally been named by General Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of GA, in honor of his friend, Sir Joseph Jekyll. Funny thing, members soon felt the change of spelling jinxed everything. Less than three months later, Black Thursday occurred. The Great Depression changed the lifestyles of most of the members forever. Residents of the nearby town of Brunswick took up the grim (and smug?) saying about the club: "they doubled the l, and they all went to ..." - Denise