The Jekyll Island Club Hotel - A Legacy Revealed

You may not have heard of the Jekyll Island Club, but you're certainly familiar with its legacy. Every time you pick up the telephone or pull a dollar bill out of your wallet you come in contact with the history that was born out of this landmark club nestled on the southern coast of Georgia. Between the late 1800's and 1942, the club served as the winter playground for names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Pulitzer. Today, the Jekyll Island Club operates as a hotel, allowing mere simpletons like yours truly to walk the same hallways once traveled by America's titans of industry.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

The Millionaires Club

If the Jekyll Island Club were a book, the road leading to her grounds would be the beautifully designed cover. After winding through several miles of coastal marshland, the road eventually turns into a narrow path which is canopied by many of the island's famous oak trees. Finally, at the end of the tree covered lane rests this Victorian beauty and her trademark turret, just tall enough to peek over the top of the majestic oaks. The history practically oozes off the pages of this book, and if the walls of the Jekyll Island Club could talk, oh the stories they would tell.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
The clubhouse and moss covered oak trees.

Besides being the winter hideaway for this country's equivalent of royalty, the Jekyll Island Club often found itself playing a part in the history its elite members were crafting. For example, in 1915 Theodore Vail, the chairman of AT&T, took part in the first transcontinental telephone call between Alexander Graham Bell, his assistant Thomas Watson, and President Woodrow Wilson. Mr. Vail was recovering from a leg injury at the club, and ordered 1500 AT&T employees to man the line between Jekyll Island and San Francisco to ensure that he wasn't disconnected - pun intended - from his role in the historic moment.
Jekyll Island Transcontinental Telephone Call
The first transcontinental phone call from Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island's more famous - and today, more controversial - place in history comes from the role it played in the creation of the Federal Reserve. After averting a collapse of the financial system just a few years earlier, in 1910 a group of prominent New York financiers and influential politicians boarded a rail car bound for the Jekyll Island Club under the guise of a hunting trip. The gathering was done under a cloak of secrecy due to a general distrust amongst the public for Wall Street and financial institutions. After ten days of intense deliberation, a plan emerged to create a system which today we know as the Federal Reserve. An enduring legacy of the Jekyll Island Club, and one we all come in contact with each and every time we see the words "Federal Reserve Note" on the US Dollar.
Jekyll Island Club Morgan Center
Once the club's indoor tennis court, now the Morgan Center conference hall.

Despite counting some of America's wealthiest families on its membership roster, the Jekyll Island Club fell on hard times during the Great Depression and was eventually forced to close its doors in 1942. The club and its history were nearly lost forever, before a designation on the National Register of Historic Places saved it from a fateful meeting with a wrecking ball. Finally, in 1985 the Jekyll Island Club Hotel was born, securing this landmark's place in both history and the future.

The Club Reborn

During the multi-million dollar restoration, the original club was left mostly intact with a few changes tossed in to bring the hotel into the modern era. The clubhouse was completely overhauled inside and out, however many of the furnishings such as the original hand carved railing on the staircase are a throwback to the hotel's origins. In addition, a stroll down the Hall of Mirrors takes one past the parlor rooms which are appropriately named after significant people and events in the club's history. The wood floors creaked beneath my feet revealing the building's 125 years of age, however to describe the clubhouse as "old" would be an insult to this stately and distinguished space.
Jekyll Island Clubhouse
The clubhouse...
Jekyll Island Club Hotel Hall of Mirrors
...and the Hall of Mirrors

The rooms at Jekyll Island Club are divided into several buildings spread throughout the grounds of the hotel. The Clubhouse and Annex are essentially within the main building, while the San Souci, Crane Cottage, and Cherokee sections offer a more secluded location and a few advantages of their own. The Crane and Cherokee buildings are former personal homes of club members which have been converted into lodgings, and offer some of the most recently updated rooms at the hotel. Likewise, San Souci, which was built by J.P. Morgan - yes, that J.P. Morgan - and a few other members as private apartments, is a popular choice for weddings at the Jekyll Club Hotel.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel Room
The room...
Jekyll Island Hotel Crane Cottage
...and bath in the Cherokee buillding.

Our room was in the Annex section, which was completed in 1901 and dates to some of the earliest years of the Jekyll Island Club. The room featured a wet bar, sitting area, a fireplace which was likely usable at one time, and high ceilings which expanded the feel of the already large area. There was no white duvet, and the furnishings were a little more traditional than my usual taste in hotel rooms, but it all fit with the overall feel of the clubhouse. If you prefer a more modern take on your hotel rooms, the hotel offers the best of both worlds with the more updated decor in the San Souci and Cherokee buildings. 
Jekyll Island Club Hotel Room
Our room...
Jekyll Island Club Hotel Room
...if only the fireplace still worked.

Easily the best feature of our room was the solarium, which was complete with comfortable rocking chairs and a great view of the croquet lawn and Intercoastal in the distance. On this somewhat cool day, the warmth of the sun in the glass enclosed room mixed with a slight breeze and occasional knocks from the croquet lawn made this the ultimate spot for an afternoon nap.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel Room
The solarium = nap central.

Eventually, MJ got bored watching me sleep in the solarium and pulled me out of my slumber to explore the grounds of the resort. First, I needed a quick jolt in the way of iced coffee and something sweet from the hotel's Cafe Solterra. Not only do they serve Starbucks coffee - something that keeps any hotel on my good side - their Key Lime pie might well have been the best I've ever encountered outside of the Florida Keys.
Jekyll Island Club Crane Cottage
Crane Cottage
Jekyll Island Club San Souci
San Souci

As we made our way from one end of the property to the other, I couldn't get over the mind-boggling natural beauty of this resort. There was the palm tree lined promenade which fronted the Intercoastal Waterway, the sunken gardens outside of Crane's Cottage, and then there were the oak trees... I fell in love with the majestic oaks of Georgia's Golden Isles on our recent visit to nearby St. Simons, and the ones on Jekyll Island are every bit as impressive. In fact, these beauties are so synonymous with Jekyll Island Club, they are even featured in the hotel's official logo.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
The waterfront promenade.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
The trademark Jekyll Island oak.

Finally, no visit to a great hotel would be complete without having dinner in their signature restaurant. The Grand Dining Room takes one on a journey back to the glory days of Jekyll Island Club, where the men enjoyed their after dinner brandy and cigars, while the ladies adjourned to a nearby parlor. My guess is the shrimp and grits weren't featured on the menu back then, but old J.P. and the gang really missed out.
Jekyll Island Club Grand Dining Room
The Grand Dining Room then...
Jekyll Island Club Grand Dining Room
...and now.

After dinner we enjoyed a glass of wine on the solarium, and soaked up the last few hours of our weekend on Jekyll Island. As the reflection of the moon twinkled off the Intercoastal, I watched as a vintage car made its way down the tree covered lane and pulled into the hotel's porteco. An older couple climbed out, dressed to the nines, and made their way into the clubhouse for what I could only assume was dinner in the Grand Dining Room. If there were ever a moment that could capture the essence of this historic hotel, this was it.
Jekyll Island Club Grand Dining Room
Shouldn't every hotel have their own wine?

There are some, however, that feel "historic" is a dirty word which translates loosely into "old." If sleeping in the same room as a Rockefeller or dining at the same table as J.P. Morgan draws little excitement, then this is probably not the hotel for you. There can be no denying the hotel's age, and yes she shows the 125 years in places, but to only take that away from an experience at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel would be to miss the point entirely. The point is, they don't make them like this anymore, but I really wish they did.

Enjoy Your Stay

Speical thanks to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel for hosting our weekend visit. As always, all opinions and pontifications are my own.