The Traveling Steve's

Pre-Christmas weekend at Jekyll Island

I’m behind in writing the blog a bit and am doing so this week from Maysville, Kentucky where I’m working on business. I’m going to recap the past weekend however, which was spent at  beautiful and serene Jekyll Island.

We had a wonderful three day weekend stay at Jekyll Island this past weekend; as always one of my favorite places anywhere to visit.  My brother Andy and his partner Art (from Virginia) went with Steve (DOS) and myself on our 3 night Pre-Christmas stay on the island.  

I have written about Jekyll several times, detailing the history of the island and providing links to this once turn of the 20th century haven for the millionaires and lifestyles of long ago.  If you’re not familiar with Jekyll Island or it’s history, please research this and visit, but Shhhhhsshhhh – keep it to your self, as we don’t want this best kept secret to get out!

Once accessible only by boat or yacht, today Jekyll Island is connected via a cause-way of several miles with a final bridge connecting the island.  This former winter country club of the super rich lasted for over 50 years from late 1880’s  to early 1940’s.  

Several of the historic ‘cottages’; (i.e. mansions) of the era, and the main Club House from 1888 still stand, and can be toured via the tram tour, while Crane and Cherokee ‘Cottages’, Sans Souci and  the Club House offer luxurious overnight accommodations. 

We stayed in the Presidential Suite once again at the Club House, with it’s signature turret and balcony overlooking the historic area and directly facing Indian Mound, former winter ‘cottage’ of the William Rockefeller’s.  By day you can sometimes watch the locals playing croquet, all dressed up in their whites, while at night during the Christmas holidays you can see the tranquil white lights on the Spanish-moss and Christmas lights on the main tree on the lawn.

While the exterior of the Club House and Jekyll Island in general was decorated very nicely, we brought our own decorations for the room, which we put up on arrival.  We have stayed here several times, and always enjoy decorating our special room.  

The Presidential Suite has a large living room with fireplace and adjoining bedroom which also has a fireplace.  The bathroom is large and has a huge jacuzzi tub as well as separate walk-in shower.  Best of all there is an outside balcony with rocking chairs on the main (4th floor) level,

and a birds-eye view (and awesome sunsets) from the turret a very narrow walk up the spirally staircase above.

My brother Andy and Art stayed next door at Sans Souci (meaning ‘without care’) and was said to be the first condominiums in the U.S, with six individual units, housing such big-wigs as J.P. Morgan, and William Rockefeller (in addition to his house next door) among others. Today these luxurious accommodations have been sub-divided into 24 guest rooms, showing just how big these original 6 apartments must have been.

 Andy and Art had the top left unit (3rd floor) which housed J.P. Morgan  We stayed there once and it’s a nice and airy room complete with fireplace as well.  The only drawback to Sans Souci is there is not an elevator there.  While not a huge inconvenience, if on the third floor you do have a couple flights of stairs to navigate; quite worth it though for the nice accommodations and balcony view overlooking the river (from the front units).  Many of the San Souci rooms such as Andy and Art’s also have a fireplace as well.

Our island friends, Michelle and Larsen, joined us at our room Friday night for the second annual ‘stocking glitter night’, which we started last year, and plan to continue as a Jekyll Christmas tradition.  I brought some Christmas stockings and Dollar store glitter-glue, and we each decorated our own stocking with our names and whatever we wanted to create.  Using the glitter-glue pens, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do – but what a fun activity!

We had drinks on the turret, carefully navigating the steep and narrow staircase, but were rewarded with a birds-eye view of the historic district, Jekyll river, and sunset from high above the property.

We later had dinner together in the Main Dining Room. The elegance of the dining room offers regular people such as ‘us of today’, the chance to dine in the same room where icons of industry dined like Kings and Queens of yesteryear.

 A little imagination of what it must have been like goes a long way, although today one no longer needs to wear a Tux or Hoop Dress every night for dinner, such as the Upper-Upper Class did of the early 1900’s did here.  It is estimated that when the 100 or so Jekyll Island members were in residence, they owned 1/6 (one -sixtth!) of the world’s wealth!  Way before cell phones, dot.com’s, social media, sports, and actor’s zillion dollar salaries, the Jekyll Island Club composed the titans of late 1800’s and early 1900’s creme of the business and financial industries.

Now that the Jekyll establishment of yesteryear is no longer a country-club for the ultra-rich, the state of Georgia owns the island, preserving the historic district, while allowing for a few hotels and homes on the island.  Fortunately it can not be developed more than a certain percentage, so it will keep it’s simplistic and scenic charm.

On Saturday, we toured the island a bit, parking near the new Westin Hotel, and walking thru it to see the Christmas decorations and oceanfront views.  In the lobby they had some cute and original displays, including this one with turtles pulling Santa’s sleigh!  (There is a Georgia Sea Turtle Center on the island, nearby in the historic district.)  And of course a super large Christmas tree in the lobby area. We walked around the property a bit, including the second floor outdoor terrace, which offers scenic views of the ocean and newly built boardwalk and shops area.

We had lunch at Wee Pub, which was across the street from the Westin and was a nice and inviting Irish Pub offering individual TVs at our booth as well as good food and drink.  As it was only noon, we declined the ‘drink’ but did have a great meal of burgers and Ruben’s.

 After lunch we walked around the new shopping area a bit, and took in some of the beautiful beach views.  It was an unseasonably warm December day, and although we didn’t stroll on the beach, we did enjoy the seaside walks along it as well as the piers overlooking the dunes.

On Saturday evening, we took the seasonal Christmas-time trolley tour thru the historic district. We had done this last year, and once again had Phyllis as our guide on the tram tour, who is super knowledgeable about all the history of the island, and tells it in interesting and fun stories.  

The Christmas tour offers a chance to see a couple of the ‘cottages’ decorated for Christmas, including the 1884 Dubignon Cottage, (which pre-dated the Jekyll Club and housed the island superintendent as well as later served as overflow accommodations for Club members).

Dubignon Cottage was festively decorated in period Christmas style of the late 1800s.  Two of the traditions they have, we do as a family, with a bit of variations.  The main Christmas tree on the first level is adorned with ornament and yards of ribbons, which lead to Christmas gifts.  We do something similar to that called Cob-Web Christmas, where strings of yarn and different color Christmas lights (one color per person) are all tangled up, and each person has there own color to navigate thru to find their presents – for us it’s a Christmas eve fun activity before opening the main presents on Christmas day.  

The other tradition we also do is Christmas Crackers’.  I provided this link to the origin of the Christmas Crackers, and it appears to be started in the UK in the mid 1800’s.  The upstairs tree in Dubignon Cottage was decorated with Christmas Crackers on it.  Our tour guide Phyllis, also gave us each a ‘Cracker’ to take with us and open at our leisure.  We also brought our own ‘Crackers’ which you’ll see later on in this post.  At home with Family, we typically share the ‘Crackers’ at the end of the meal on Christmas Eve or Day, or both.  Really a fun thing for the family to try if you haven’t done so before. You can buy them at Costco or similar, Amazon etc in boxes of 8 to a dozen.

Next we visited the Rockefeller’s Cottage ‘Indian Mound’, as well as Faith Chapel. The tour ends at twilight, just as the lights of the village are coming on, and the sun is setting across the river, making for a wonderful night of memories.  We were supposed to go to Faith Chapel on the second stop of the tour, but a wedding was taking place, starting a bit earlier than we were expecting  (before 5pm), so we had to reschedule that as the last stop.  We did get to see some of the dressed up wedding guests while Phyllis briefly stopped there, (trying to find out about the time mixup), but we were blessed with this photo of an adorable flower girl and her mother.

At Indian Mound, we toured some of the rooms of the Rockefeller’s Cottage, including the Living Room, and bedrooms, and later had refreshments on the porch.   As the sun was setting and the evening lights were slowly coming on, it made for quite a warm, festive, and beautiful evening.

After the tram tour, we went back to our room, and Michelle and Larsen came by and met us for an early Christmas celebration.  

Santa (me) had filed the stockings we had ‘glittered’ the night before with small items, including souvenirs we had bought on various trips but had never given out, key chains, ornaments, and even Kauai ‘Kookies’!  Michelle and Larsen also surprised us by bringing a stocking for DOS and I and Andy and Art, also filled with treats.  Served with Eggnog they brought, and Vinos I had, we had a nice pre-Christmas celebration!  We even had the bellman light a fire for us for our pre-dinner party, which added a warm ambiance to the room.

Before going to dinner, we celebrated with ‘Crackers’, a Christmas tradition we like to do. Each person gets a ‘cracker’ and on the count of three pulls it apart to discover the prize inside, joke or riddle, and a ceremonial ‘crown’ we put on; looks silly but it’s a lot of fun!

For dinner, Andy and Art, DOS and I had dinner downstairs in the Main Dining room again, this time getting a nice table by the fireplace.

Once again, the dinner was wonderful, and as we got there a bit late at 8:15pm, we were the last to leave the Main Dining room at the end of the night at 10:45pm.  Not to be rushed out of course, it was a nice and relaxing evening of dining. even thought he pianist Tim, stopped playing around 9:30pm, and it was a bit quieter then.

 Dining in the Grand Dining room, this time with the fire place glowing, however was once again truly a treat.

On Sunday, we slept in a bit, and went to brunch in the Main Dining Room at 11am.  The brunch offers many selections, including a huge chilled seafood table of cocktail shrimp, crab, smoked shrimp and salmon, caviar, cheeses, meats, etc, while the hot food buffet line, salad bar, bread and pastry tables, and dessert tables are spread out in the room as well.  While we had iced tea or coffee with the meal, we did have a symbolic champagne toast.

After brunch we toured the historic district on foot for some photos and exercise. We especially like Sunday afternoons and evenings at Jekyll, as most of the weekend guests and wedding parties have checked out, and it is even quieter than normal.

We walked down by the Jekyll Dock, which was the original and only point of entry to the Island back in the Club days.  Members would arrive either by their yacht, or railcar to nearby Brunswick, Georgia, and be escorted by the Club boat to this port.  A restaurant and raw bar that was opened a few year back are now closed for renovation, and from the looks of it will need a bit of work after Hurricane Matthew this year.  Again, using a little imagination, one can only wonder what it would have been like to walk off the boat onto the Jekyll Island paradise each season, being met by the Club Superintendent Ernest Grob, with a carriage taking the members and guests to the Club or their winter island ‘Cottages’.

We also walked by the Jekyll Island dock, which was the sole point of entry for both Members, Guests, and the island workers, as there was no bridge or causeway in the days of the Club.  Using a bit of imagination, one can picture the Members arriving on their yachts, or via the Club boat had they arrived by private rail car in nearby Brunswick.  The island superintendent Ernest Grob would be dockside waiting for them, and they would be whisked off by horse-drawn carriage to the Club House or their winter ‘Cottages’.  What a wonderful life!

We re-visited Faith Chapel in the afternoon, as when we were there on our tour last night, it was starting to get dark (thanks to a wedding at 5pm) and we couldn’t see the full sunlight effect of the two beautiful stained glass windows, including one actually signed by Tiffany.  

Inside Faith Chapel we met Amanda, who is with the Jekyll Island Authority, and was on hand to answer questions.  We had quite a delightful and interesting conversation, and invited her back to see the ‘turret room’  when she was done work at 5pm.

We packed up a bit late in the afternoon for our departure in the morning, but left the lights and decorations up until right before going to bed.  Amanda stopped by for a visit as promised in the evening, with Andy and Art over, and later Michelle and Larsen, for pre-dinner drinks before dinner.  It was nice talking with Amanda as she was a wealth of information on Jekyll, and everyone shared a joint sense of the history of the island and the lucky few who get to visit her even today.

Our farewell dinner was at Crane Cottage, the largest and most extravagant ‘Cottage’ ever built on Jekyll Island.  Although we’ve never stayed in Crane Cottage, we usually have dinner there on our last night on Jekyll, mainly because it’s closed to wedding parties on Friday and Saturday nights, as shown below from Saturday night’s lawn festivities. Dining in Crane Cottage is a more casual and intimate dining experience, and you feel like you are dining in someone’s mansion – well actually you are – but they called it a ‘Cottage’ back then.  We like dining in the Library wing, which is a cozy setting of five tables arranged in a quiet room  on the main level of the house (right side wing).  The library offers a large fireplace, providing a romantic and charming ambiance for the meal.

We had an outstanding meal, as well as service (from our friendly server Gabby) and enjoyed the  library room to ourselves, after another couple finished up their meal shortly after our arrival. We had some nice wines with our leisurely meal, while we soaked up the warmth and atmosphere of the huge fireplace.

After dinner, we once again had ‘crackers’, the Christmas tradition type, (we had brought with us to Crane) and wore our ‘crowns’ with fun and pride, as we told the corny jokes that come inside the crackers, as well as collected our small ‘cracker-jack-like’ prizes.

After finishing our meal, we headed back to the Clubhouse around 10:30pm, saying our goodbyes to Michelle and Larsen until next trip, while Andy and Art headed back to Sans Souci.

As the weekend at Jekyll was drawing to a close, we all agreed we would have our pre-Christmas celebration again at Jekyll next year – same time/same place!  Glitter stockings and all!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

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