April 3, 2013

Yanks in the Southern Heartland

"The world is a book, and those who don't travel only read one page."  St. Augustine of Hippo
Carol writes:  We were relieved when the third attempt at sending us our proof of insurance “green card” was successful— correct dates and no typos!  We looked forward to heading toward Baltimore, but first a detour to Marietta, Georgia, to visit with Pem and Lucy Ellen, another friendship begun in the 60s at the Naval Academy. Pem and Lucy Ellen showed us good ole southern hospitality, and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up on old times and sharing travel plans with each other.

I have vivid memories from my childhood when my mother would talk about the summer she spent working as a seasonal worker at Sea Island, Georgia.  I have always wondered what it was like there, why a young teenage girl would leave her home in Cincinnati and travel so far away for a summer job.  My vague memory is that she worked at a resort on Sea Island called the Cloister.  Unfortunately, because it has been remodeled several times over the decades, I would have to be content to look at pictures of the present-day Cloister ; more importantly, however, access was strictly controlled at a security gate, and we were denied!  Only hotel guests and island residents were permitted entrance to the now privately owned island.  Sometimes disappointments in life open new doors that turn out to be even more rewarding, and so it was that our change of plans treated us to a marvelous day on nearby Jekyll Island.  I remember Mom mentioning Jekyll Island when she talked about her time on Sea Island, so a visit to Jekyll Island would have to satisfy my curiosity to revisit a place where she was very happy.

How to describe Jekyll Island…will our pictures do it justice?  The island was developed as a turn-of-the-century hunting retreat for a small group of what was at the time some of our country’s wealthiest men.  The seminal ideas for our Federal Reserve banking system were hatched by these men in the meeting rooms of the Jekyll Island Club.  The wealthy developers of Jekyll Island built a central hunting lodge and then over the years their families constructed grand cottages in their favorite architectural style.  Unlike many of our southern beaches, Jekyll Island escaped development of a glut of super-high-rise condos and hotels.  Thankfully, in addition, the private home area has remained “stuck” in its early 1950s rancher style architecture—no McMansions here.  A spot of trivia…the grand dining room of the main lodge was used in the movie “Legend of Bagger Vance.”
 Crane cottage built in Italian Renaissance revival style
 Faith chapel with signed Tiffany windows
 Gardens of Crane Cottage
 Jekyll Island Club
 Breakfast in the Grand Dining Room

 One of the grand cottages, circa 1884
 Unspoiled beach on Jekyll Island
This tree with natural built-in seat is the scene of many a marriage proposal on the grounds of the Jekyll Island Club

From Jekyll Island, the next day we drove to lovely Savannah for a day of walking in the wonderful historic district.  A tourist could spend many hours here touring a number of restored historic mansions.  Our pick was the Mercer-Williams house, known in recent times for the setting of the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  Savannah fascinated and charmed us with its beauty and numerous historical locations relating back to both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. 
 Colonial Park Cemetery
Mercer Williams House--used in the film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

 Fountain in Forsyth Park

It was a short drive the next day up to Charleston.  Our last visit to Charleston was a very brief stop on a 1989 Christmas trip to visit my family in Ohio, at which time I have vivid memories of damaged property from Hurricane Hugo.  Once again, we felt the best way to see the historic areas of the city would be by taking a day walk down to Battery Park and along the waterfront of Charleston harbor with its ever poignant view of Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  I couldn’t pass up one more “historic mansion tour,” this time of the Edmondston-Alston House.  This lovely antebellum home was built in 1825 and at one time provided refuge for General Robert E. Lee during the burning of Charleston in the Civil War.  
 Edmondston-Alston House

Homes along the Charleston waterfront

We could not have had three more beautiful days for our short visit to some of the south's most beautiful cities.  The timeless beauty of Jekyll Island and the historic districts of both Savannah and Charleston were captivating at every turn! We thoroughly enjoyed taking long exploratory walks back in time.
"It is a great art to saunter."  Henry David Thoreau

1 comment:

  1. Glad you had good weather. We need to get back to Savannah. We have only really been there once for a visit. Have fun in Maryland.