Southern Agenda

A Modern Gilded Age

When the Jekyll Island Club opened as a private hunting lodge in 1888, it was dubbed “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.” Drawn to a warmer climate and its hidden location—at the time, one could reach the island only by boat—the country’s wealthiest families, such as the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Astors, flocked to this natural oasis ninety miles south of Savannah. In 1896, a small group of the Club’s founding members built Sans Souci, a six-unit building that is widely considered one of the country’s first condominiums. Other members erected “cottages” (mansions, really) as their island home bases, while others settled into suites in the Clubhouse. Inspired by that past, Jekyll Island Club Resort recently finished an extensive refresh of its guest rooms, suites, historic cottages, and grounds—all open to overnighters. Douglas Rucker, area managing director at the resort, says that the redesign also draws heavily from the surrounding landscape. In the guest rooms, floral prints festoon the headboard fabrics, highlighting the deep purple vining passionflower that blooms across the island. In the Grand Dining Room, new carpeting features a whimsical motif showcasing horses and other island animals like squirrels and broad-winged hawks as a nod to the spot’s hunting club roots.