Historic Hotels of America™ Launches Romance Super Site, Guide to Getaways, Weddings, Celebrations

Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, a member of Historic Hotels of America which has just launched a super site dedicated to romance © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON, DC- Looking for a weekend getaway or a romantic vacation or a destination wedding? HistoricHotels.org/Romance is your source for romance inspired travel and heartfelt ideas. Use Historic Hotels of America as your guide to plan a luxury retreat, a garden wedding, or a romantic night out on the town. From romantic escapes to reunions, weddings to honeymoons and of course, anniversaries, Historic Hotels of America turns romantic celebrations into life’s most cherished moments. With over 260 historic hotels, inns, and resorts, Historic Hotels of America is home to the largest collection of romantic hotels. When history meets romance, nothing can be sweeter.

Historic Hotels of America has launched its all new romantic escapes e-guide, featuring more than 150 pages of new and expanded content highlighting its most romantic historic hotels, more content and destinations continue to be added. From romantic getaways to reunions, weddings to honeymoons and anniversaries, the new HistoricHotels.org/Romance puts romantic historic hotels and destinations in the spotlight, turning romantic celebrations into life’s most cherished moments. HistoricHotels.org/Romance has a number of inspirational sections for travelers to peruse the site’s many romantic escapes, including:

Romantic getaways. Historic Hotels of America has romantic inns, hotels, and resorts that blend history, luxury, and location into the ultimate destination, perfect for weekend getaways or vacation stays. Home to one of the world’s largest free-span dome, the West Baden Springs Hotel (1902) in French Lick, Indiana is an architectural wonder and just one of many marvels that will take your beloved’s breath away during your stay. This hotel has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark French Lick Springs Hotel (1845), also located within French Lick Resort boasts a spa that offers the best in tranquility, the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing treatment with your loved one. Travelers can select from more than 30 romantic hotels in the upper Midwest.

Grand Hotel (1887) on Mackinac Island, Michigan is the ideal location for a couple to steal away for a romantic getaway. In addition to the hotel’s five-course dinner served in the Main Dining Room, the Woods Restaurant, an opulent Tudor mansion accessible only by horse-drawn carriage, nestled in the wooded interior of Mackinac Island.

Weddings. Ambiance, architecture and history blend to create a storybook wedding. In Paso Robles, California where orange rays streak through lush gardens, your wedding photos will be works of art thanks to the Paso Robles Inn’s (1891) breathtaking gardens. With a number of outdoor wedding venues to choose from, couples can exchange their vows next to a babbling brook, then dance the night away at a fireside patio reception. Select from more than 19 romantic hotels in California.

Eureka Spring, Arkansas is often known as “The Wedding Capital of The South.” The 1886 Crescent Hotel’s (1886) picturesque location atop West Mountain and its proximity to Thorncrown Chapel make the hotel one of the most photographed wedding ceremony and reception sites in the contiguous six-state region.

Honeymoons. Create the honeymoon experience of your dreams and sweep your new bride or groom off their feet. Historic hotels are the perfect backdrop to set off on your newlywed celebration. The Caribe Hilton San Juan (1949) is the perfect locale for your romantic honeymoon with tranquil waves lapping at the shore of the secluded beach and seductive trade winds swaying into exotic gardens. Guests will come to understand why this AAA Four Diamond award-winning San Juan beach resort is the perfect backdrop for a honeymoon, or select from four romantic hotels in Puerto Rico.

As Waikiki’s only true destination resort, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort Honolulu (1955) has everything newlyweds will need for the most romantic honeymoon including breathtaking beaches, luxurious accommodations, fine dining, scenic views, and fun activities. Or select from the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (1901), the first lady of Waikiki, or The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) the pink palace of the Pacific.

Celebrations. Take time to celebrate life’s special moments. From engagement parties, anniversary getaways and life’s other important celebrations, Historic Hotels of America has just the right setting to commemorate your important milestone. The Lord Baltimore Hotel (1928) in Baltimore, Maryland is the ideal setting for an engagement party, bridal shower, or anniversary party. With a great city-center setting, The Lord Baltimore is the perfect location for all of your out-of-town guests with attractions and shops mere steps away. The French Kitchen sits at the top of the lobby’s grand staircase in the historic mirrored Versailles Room, and focuses on market-driven interpretations of classic French bistro fare, perfect for your special party or event. Travelers can also select from over 28 romantic hotels in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia region.

Reunions. Family history is born out of love and strengthened when those roots are cherished. For this reason, historical, romantic settings lend way for great family reunion inspiration. One of America’s most scenic routes, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect setting for romantic drives and family adventure. Winding through North Carolina, this scenic highway boasts hazy mountains and colorful woodlands, idyllic for a family reunion getaway. The Green Park Inn (1891) in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is a reunion favorite with generations of history peaking in the High Country mountains. Choose from over 12 hotels in the Carolinas.

“This is a year-round campaign launching in time for Valentine’s Day. Romance is not just one day a year, it is year-round at our historic hotels,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Love stories are breathless moments that stand the test of time. Write your next chapter at one of the many Historic Hotels of America, where ambiance, architecture, and history blend to create timeless romance. Historic Hotels of America is the largest collection of the most romantic hotels anywhere. Whether you’re courting, celebrating, rekindling, or reminiscing, we have the romantic escape for you.”

From booking a romantic getaway with your stunning sweetheart or planning the next family reunion, take a look on HistoricHotels.org/Romance where Every Day is Valentine’s Day at Historic Hotels of America.

Historic Hotels of America® is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation® for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Founded in 1989 with 32 charter members, today, Historic Hotels of America has more than 260 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties.  More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

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To view the Historic Hotels of America 2015 Annual Directory eBook, click here.

 

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Historic Hotels of America Presents its Most Haunted Hotels

Drop in any night to “America’s Most Haunted Hotel”: The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is host to a wide variety of spirits.

Washington, D.C. –  Historic Hotels of America invites travelers to visit America’s most haunted hotels. More than 110 historic hotels are still home to friendly hauntings. From spooky hotel tours and spirited stories, to real life hauntings, many members of Historic Hotels of America have great getaways in store for guests. Take advantage of fall themed packages available on HistoricHotels.org. Here are some tales for the traveler interested in haunted hospitality:

Admiral Fell Inn (1770) Baltimore, Maryland

The Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore has changed since the time when it was filled with crime-ridden saloons, brothels, and shipyards, but that doesn’t mean the spirits of the time have left. The Admiral Fell Inn is no stranger to ghost stories. Guests have often reported seeing floating sailors and disappearing butlers knocking on their doors. A hotel manager is also said to have heard a loud party after the hotel was evacuated during a hurricane. This comes as no surprise as parts of the building date back to the 1770s when it was a theater and boarding house where seamen, immigrants and “ladies of the night” would pass through.

To book your fall getaway click here.

1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (1886) Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is host to a wide variety of spirits, hence the moniker “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” It is said that after the skeleton frame of hotel had been constructed in the 1880s that one of the Irish stone masons plunged to his death in what is now guestroom 218. This room proves to be the most spiritually active room in the hotel and has attracted television film crews for decades because of the quantity and quality of the ghost sightings reported. Throughout the history of the  hotel, employees have referred to this entity at “Michael,” a classified poltergeist due to the nature of the unexplained activity. Guests have witnessed hands coming out of the bathroom mirror, cries of a falling man in the ceiling, the door opening then slamming shut, unable to be opened again. The intrigue of this activity had drawn guests to specifically request the historic accommodations of guestroom 218 for the chance of experiencing something.

To book your fall getaway click here.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel (1887) Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island Club Hotel (1887) Jekyll Island, Georgia. Is it JP Morgan’s cigar smoke that you smell in Sans Souci? © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Sans Souci, one of the separate buildings of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is a four-story structure that was designed by Charles Alling Gifford in 1896. It was originally a condominium with apartments for six members and their families. One of these members, J. Pierpont Morgan, was especially fond of the large porch which graced the front of his apartment and allowed a view of the Jekyll River. He was a cigar smoker and would rise every morning at 5:00 a.m. to have a smoke on the porch without criticism from others. Morgan was fond of large, black cigars shaped like Hercules’ club, and they say you’d know where he was there by following the trail of the smoke. Contemporary guests who occupy this third floor, north end accommodation usually are not up at 5:00 in the morning, but several guests who have arisen at that hour have faintly smelled the odor of a cigar wafting about when absolutely no one else had been awake and certainly not one smoking a cigar.

To book your fall getaway click here.

The Omni Grove Park Inn (1913) Asheville, North Carolina

For nearly half a century there has been the belief by many employees and guests that there is a ghost who roams the hallways of the Main Inn. She is referred to as the Pink Lady because of the flowing pink gown she wears. It is believed that this young woman was a guest in guestroom 545 in the 1920s and that she either jumped or was pushed to her death in the Palm Court, five floors below. No records exist that support any of these claims but it may have been hushed up to avoid negative publicity. Reports of her sightings still occur, some say they just see a pink mist, others a full apparition of a young long-haired beauty in a pink gown.

To book your fall getaway click here.

The Red Lion Inn (1773) Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA: It has been said that guests have awoken to the feeling of someone standing over them at the foot of the bed © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ghostly rumors continue to swirl at the inn which has seen the likes of many paranormal investigators and mediums. The fourth floor, in particular, has been said to have the most activity. Both cleaning staff and guests have claimed to see a “ghostly young girl carrying flowers” and “a man in a top hat.” It has been said that guests have awoken to the feeling of someone standing over them at the foot of the bed. Cold spots, unexplained knocks, and electrical disturbances have all been reported. Guestroom 301 is also known to be a haunted hot spot.

To book your fall getaway click here.

The Stanley (1909) Estes Park, Colorado

When precisely the strange events began happening at the Stanley Hotel has never been documented, but interesting occurrences are a part of the history of this hotel. Ms. Elizabeth Wilson was the chief housekeeper at The Stanley Hotel in its very early days. On the evening of June 25, 1911, during a storm, she was involved in an explosion that took place as she was lighting the acetylene lanterns that were the back-up system for the hotel’s electricity. Ms. Wilson was shot down in the explosion from what is now guestroom 217 to the floor of the MacGregor Room one story below. She was not killed, but her ankles were broken. Since the 1950s, it has been reported that she might take special care of people who stay in 217. Sometimes guests staying in that room encounter extra housekeeping services, including having their things put away or unpacked.

To book your fall getaway click here.

Promoting Cultural & Heritage Travel to Prestigious Historic Treasures

Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservationwith 32 charter members and today, has more than 260 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties, but more than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

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Historic Hotels of America Announces 2013 Annual Award Winners, Celebrates Milestones

The famous lobby at the Willard Hotel, the Washington DC hotel which dates from 1850 for which the term “lobbyist” was coined, as individuals seeking favor waited in the lobby. the Willard InterContinental was named Best City Center Historic Hotel © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Historic Hotels of America named its 2013 Annual Awards recipients at its gala, held at The Pfister Hotel (1893). Honors were given in multiple categories ranging from Hotelier of the Year and Hotel Historian of the Year to Sustainability Champion and Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel.

Each year, these awards honor, encourage, and recognize the most exemplary historic hotels, hoteliers, and leadership practices. The Historic Hotels of America Hotel of the Year Award is the highest honor awarded. The Best Historic Hotel awards are given to historic hotels demonstrating the highest contribution to furthering the celebration of history and demonstrating leadership and innovation in one of four categories ranging from under 75 to 400 guest rooms.

Of a strong group of nominees, the following Historic Hotels of America hotels and hoteliers were honored with these prestigious awards:

Historic Hotels of America New Member of the Year

o   The Jefferson, Washington, D.C. (1923) Washington, D.C.

Historic Hotelier of the Year

o   Dennis Costello, Historic Hotel Bethlehem (1922) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Best Small Historic Inn/Hotel (Under 75 Guest Rooms)

o   The Wort Hotel (1941) Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Best Historic Hotel (75-200 Guest Rooms)

o   Gettysburg Hotel, Est. 1797  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Best Historic Hotel (200-400 Guest Rooms)

o   Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (1923) Ojai, California

Best Historic Hotel (Over 400 Guest Rooms)

o   Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa (1847) Point Clear, Alabama

Best City Center Historic Hotel

o   The Willard InterContinental (1850) Washington, D.C.

Best Historic Resort

o   French Lick Resort (1845) French Lick, Indiana

Hotel Historian of the Year

o   Bob Tagatz, Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan

Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year

o   The Morrissey Family, The Saint Paul Hotel (1910) St. Paul, Minnesota

Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel

o   Plume at The Jefferson, Washington, D.C., (1923) Washington, D.C.

Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel

o   The Stanley (1909) Estes Park, Colorado

Historic Hotels of America Sustainability Champion

o   Timberline Lodge (1938) Timberline, Oregon

Historic Hotels of America Ambassador of the Year (Quarter Century Service)

o   George Moore, The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa (1852) Mobile, Alabama

Historic Hotels of America Heritage Award

o   The Marcus Family, The Pfister Hotel (1893) Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Historic Hotels of America Community Leadership Award

o   The Lenox (1900) Boston, Massachusetts

Historic Hotels of America Lifetime Achievement Award

o   Thierry Roch, Former Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America

The hotels were nominated by fellow members, past award recipients, and honorees. Award winners were judiciously chosen by the Historic Hotels of America selection committee.

“Historic Hotels of America is proud to announce the 2013 Annual Award winners,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “These historic hotels and hoteliers are the finest across America. They inspire travelers to discover and experience the treasures where America’s history was written.”

As the Official Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Hotels of America provides the recognition to travelers, civic leaders, and the global cultural, heritage, and historic travel market that the member hotels are among the finest historic hotels across America.

Historic Hotels of America Honors Members Celebrating Milestones

Historic Hotels of America honored hotels celebrating a significant anniversary* in 2013, and those planning a 2014 celebration, at a special “Milestones & Celebrations” luncheon at the Historic Hotels of America 24th Annual Conference.. The celebration luncheon was held at The Pfister Hotel (1893) in Milwaukee.

“We are pleased to recognize eight 2013 historic hotels for achieving milestones ranging from 100 to 250 years old since first built and look forward to six historic hotels celebrating events and activities in 2014 for achieving similar milestones,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “In 2013, these historic hotels have recreated, commemorated or celebrated significant events and history from their past.  These hotels are where an important part of the history of America was written.   Their celebrations and achievements over the past 100 to 250 years are testimony to the contributions each has made to the heritage and economy of the towns and cities where they were built.”

2013 Historic Milestones and Celebrations:

100 Years:

Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1913-2013

Grande Colonial Hotel, La Jolla, California 1913-2013

Hotel Du Pont, Wilmington, Delaware, 1913-2013

Omni Severin Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana 1913-2013

The Gasparilla Inn & Club, Boca Grande, Florida 1913-2013

The Omni Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Asheville, North Carolina 1913-2013

125 Years:

Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine, Florida 1888-2013

250 Years:

John Rutledge House Inn, Charleston, South Carolina 1763-2013

2014 Historic Milestones and Celebrations:

75 Years:

The Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida 1939-2014

National Hotel Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Florida 1939-2014

100 Years:

Colony Hotel, Kennebunkport, Maine 1914-2014

Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park, Montana 1914-2014

125 Years:

The Blennerhassett Hotel, Parkersburg, West Virginia 1889-2014

150 Years:

The Morrison-Clark Inn, Washington, District of Columbia 1864-2014

(25 year anniversaries begin at 75 year increments as all member lodgings must be at least 50 years old to qualify for membership in Historic Hotels of America.)

About Historic Hotels of America® is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation® with 32 charter members.  In 2007, Preferred Hotel Group partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to grow and enhance Historic Hotels of America. Historic Hotels of America has more than 244 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties.  More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit www.HistoricHotels.org.

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King & Prince Resort on St. Simons in Georgia’s Golden Isles Has Storied Past and Playful Present

The King and Prince on St. Simons Island among Georgia’s fabled Golden Isles has been welcoming guests since 1935 and still offers a traditional, old-fashioned Southern hospitality © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate

The King & Prince on St. Simons Island among Georgia’s fabled Golden Isles is a resort with all the delights one can imagine to draw generations of families, honeymooners, empty-nesters and golf enthusiasts. A member of Historic Hotels of America, what makes the King & Prince so special is its connection to St Simons Island and the history of the Georgia coast – in fact, the America’s colonial past and the Civil War.

Indeed, each of the 235 members of Historic Hotels of America is unique, with its own special history, personality and character. Each has a special connection to place as well as events and people. These are so much more than mere buildings, structures and rooms. They embody the spirit and lore. These properties keep – and tell – the stories of the people and place – and as a result, you feel a connection to the generations who have stayed here before – and you come away from this step back into time realizing that people then are not so different from people today. That is very humbling. And while they are all distinct and different – some are grand and luxurious and some are modest inns – I have always come away with a very special experience (800-678-8946, historichotels.org).

The King & Prince resort’s storied past dates back to 1935, beginning with Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn founding their own private club after being thrown out of the Sea Island Club for being practical jokers and troublemakers. They built their club as a gambling, drinking, dancing destination. Mysteriously, their club burned down within a matter of months of opening. They rebuilt and opened again and that building, too, was burned down. But the third time was the charm.

View slideshow: King & Prince Resort on St. Simons in Georgia’s Golden Isles

Every owner of a historic property adds to the story, and also takes on the responsibility (most say it is a love) of caretaker, steward, guiding and nurturing the hotel for future generations. The Sturdivant family of Mississippi bought the King & Prince in the 1970s and turned the King and Prince into the jewel of their company, MMI Hospitality.

Over the last 10 years, they have invested $15 million in renovations to the golf, lobby, pool and rooms: the Historic Building was renovated and restored in 2003; the Oceanfront Building rooms where we stay were renovated from 2007-9; the golf course was done in 2009,the pool complex redone in 2012, and even during our visit, they were putting finishing touches on the renovation to the ballrooms, front desk and executive offices.

The renovation has preserved what is so special about the King & Prince. For example, the ballroom, which overlooks the water and is so popular for destination weddings and special events, has these utterly exquisite stained glass windows, each that meticulously tell a story.

All the windows but the north wall were installed in 1938 and designed by High Point Glass and Decorative Company from High Point, NC. Three additional arches were discovered on the north wall during renovations in 1983. Three new stained glass windows were designed by the son of the original artist.

The historic building of the King and Prince Resort has Cabana rooms with oceanfront parlors and patios © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Historic Building also has specialty accommodations including oceanfront suites, Tower rooms, and Cabana rooms (my favorite) with oceanfront parlors and patios (I vow when I return this is where I will stay).

The resort is its own village, with several different buildings offering a combined total of 194 rooms.

There is also the Oleander Building with spacious rooms each with its own balcony and ocean view; and Beach Villas with two and three-bedroom accommodations and full kitchens, living areas and patios or balconies; and Resort Residences which are quaint one-bedroom beach cottages and private homes with up to five bedrooms.

Our room in the Oceanfront Building has a refreshing nautical color palette of blue and white, and when we open the balcony door, the sea breezes flush through. We overlook the newly redone pool complex (stunning) and the lush landscaping, palm trees, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Within minutes of gazing out to the water, I see a pod of dolphins swimming by.

Exploring the King & Prince

The King & Prince resort offers today’s vacation goers what resorts have always offered previous generations: rest and respite, a place to be together, updated to be sure to for modern tastes. But then again, the resort was modern in its day.

In this age when time seems to be sped up so much, these historic hotels have a timelessness that makes you feel as if time stops when you walk through. You take a breath as you cross the threshold, like a “zen” aura.

This is what I hoped for – and found – as I explored the King and Prince, but what I had not ever known was how historically significant St. Simons Island was.

And while there is plenty to do at the resort – especially playing its championship golf course – it is also the base from which to explore, preferably by bicycle, this interesting island.

I am off to explore.

The pool complex at the King and Prince was redone in 2012, part of $15 million in renovations to the historic resort over the past 10 years © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A focal point for the resort is the oceanfront pool complex, which was completely redone for the resort’s 77th birthday. It is absolutely exquisite, with three different pools, lush landscaping, dramatic lighting at night, and a new Ocean Terrace Grille lets you dine amid the magnificent ambiance.

There is a family-friendly wading pool with water features, shaded areas and castle-building space; a lagoon-style pool with underwater benches and deck-jets; a formal relaxation pool with chaises, umbrellas; and an oceanfront deck where you can lounge.

There is also an indoor pool.

I’m loving the name they have given to the historic beach cottage where they offer spa treatments, The Royal Treatment Cottage. The quaint cottage is designed for relaxation, with a fireside relaxation lounge, changing cabanas, and quiet treatment rooms. The focus at The Royal Treatment Cottage is on massage therapies and treatments, both traditional and customizedSwedish, aromatherapy, reflexology, sport-specific, side-by-side for couples, and custom therapies. Massage appointments at The Royal Treatment Cottage are available daily (based on availability) and require advanced reservations.  (Click for a complete listing of services,  912.638.3631, ext 5690.

There are also tennis courts and a tennis pro on property.

I head for the beach, the best place to completely decompress as you walk.

By now it is sunset, the colors changing the landscape so dramatically moment by moment.

I walk back along a small promenade that goes in front of the beachfront cottages, where there are delightful swing chairs.

We head to dinner at The King’s Tavern Restaurant as couples arrive, every woman in a red dress, for a special ball in the ballroom.

The King’s Tavern Restaurant

The King’s Tavern Restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers a perfect atmosphere:  very colonial, with a fireplace and wood paneling. Here you delight in Southern coastal cuisine while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean through a gorgeous oval picture window.

The dinner selections this evening include baby spinach and artichoke salmon; Atlantic salmon; Angus beef rib eye, 12 oz ;  New Zealand rack lamb loin); Surf & turf, Crab legs. They offer a special where you can get all you can eat crabs legs, served on an enormous plate; there is also a prime rib special that is superb.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tomato/mozzarella appetizer and the crab-shrimp bisque was sensational, a perfect texture and flavor.

For dessert, we enjoyed the Granny smith caramel apple pie, key lime pie. Other popular selections: the Southern bourbon peace pie; triple chocolate cheese cake.

We start our day with the Southern Breakfast Buffet that includes King and Prince Muffins, Omelettes Made-to-Order, Belgian Waffles, Cheese Grits, Sizzling Bacon, Sausage Patties, Biscuits & Gravy, Fresh Fruit, Pastries, and much more. There is also an a la carte menu. Offering a delicious selection of fresh local delights, dine ocean side while choosing from chef inspired soups, salads, and sandwiches, or try the signature Shellfish Spaghetti.

The King and Prince was in the midst of transitioning to a new Executive chef, Jason Brumfiel, who had been at the Cloister Hotel on Sea Island. He brings a farm-fresh-to-the-table orientation and a focus on healthy dining experiences.

At The King and Prince, Jason is creating dishes with an elegant yet delicate hand. He uses his knowledge of global cuisine and ingredients to add an exciting twist to Southern culinary traditions  that have been the Resort’s signature for nearly eighty years.

The pool menu is being enhanced with more healthy options as well as grab-and-go salads, wraps, Gazpacho, Mediterranean selections, but there will still be burgers and fries (you have to).

King & Prince Golf Course

The back nine holes of the King and Prince golf course is famous for the marsh and natural setting – there’s even an eagle’s nest © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the morning, we get to experience one of the unique attractions of the King & Prince – its championship golf course.

The King & Prince Golf Course is on the north side of St Simons, about a 30-minute drive along the 16-mile long historic Frederica Road from the resort on the southeast corner of the island.

It is one of the most beautiful courses I have ever played on.

Unlike tennis, where the environment and atmosphere play hardly any part, golf courses are unique settings, and the King & Prince is an outstanding golf destination. It is no surprise that Golf Digest Magazine featured the King & Prince among its “36 Best Buddies Trip Destinations” – and I have to believe that is because the course isn’t just great for golf, it is a destination you want to experience.

The King and Prince is designed to wind among the ancient oaks (you can spot an eagle’s nest at the 13th hole), vast salt marshes, and dramatic island holes (see for yourself: you can actually take a 3_D, hole-by-hole flyover of all 18 holes online, www.kingandpricecome/golf.php).

Originally designed by architect Joe Lee, the 18-hole, par 72 course is renowned for a group of four spectacular signature holes on the back nine, carved from the marsh “islands” and accessed by 800-feet of elevated cart bridges.

The championship course underwent a $3.6 million renovation in 2009, improving play and the golf experience.

“Our long awaited golf course renovation now features Mini-Verde greens, 60-inches of Tif sport collars, Celebration tees, roughs and fairways – and our traps are wrapped in Emerald Zoysia,” said Rick Mattox, Golf Club Manager “We’re the only course in our region with these types of grass and our golfers are amazed at the fantastic course transformation.”

Each green has four different grasses – so it looks lush, and enhances the playing experience.

What I find particularly striking is that instead of “men’s” and “women’s” tees, they have five different tees, so you don’t have to be self-conscious about your play, and you can enjoy playing more. Beginners (and occasional golfers like me), can avoid the frustration of attempting to hit over water and marsh (and spend more time enjoying the serenity of the view!).

Golf is social, but it is a game you play against yourself. Here, you really do get the peace, the zen aspects of golf.

I was surprised to learn that it also is one of the most affordable golfing experiences for a course of its quality – astonishing: King & Prince guests play for $79 (and there are golf packages that include balls, carts, multi-day); walk-ups are invited ($115) (Tip: everyone wants to play in the morning so it is easiest to get time in the afternoon).

The Hampton Grill is a  lovely restaurant in the clubhouse – more like a parlor than a restaurant. Its famous for its chicken salad (they’ve been making it the same way for 24 years) and seasoned fries. The prices are actually very reasonable – Caesar salad $6.75, Asian chicken salad, $8.75, burger $7.75, sandwiches $5.75-9.75.

A Resort with a Storied Past

I get back to the King & Prince in time to hop on the Lighthouse Trolleys Tour, which appropriately starts for me with a history of the King & Prince.

The historic King & Prince Resort, on the beach of St Simons island, has been welcoming guests since 1935 © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The King and Prince originally opened in 1935 as a private club – that everyone seems to agree upon. But there are several versions of the origin of its name. One version is that its owners, Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn, two “cut-ups,” practical jokers, and basically troublemakers, opened their own private club after being thrown out of the Sea Island Club. The name was derogatorily applied to suggest their self-importance and the fact that one was tall and the other stocky; another version is that the name “befitted its regal atmosphere.” (I have my own notion that the name came because of there was a landowning family, King, who owned one of the largest plantations, Retreat Plantation.)

They built their club for gambling, dancing and drinking – and had pavilions. But just three months after opening, a fire, attributed to arson, destroyed the Club. Two months later, the rebuilt King and Prince Club reopened with the Mediterranean architecture. That, too, was burned down and they rebuilt again.

At the onset of World War II, radar was in fledgling years. It was developed first in England but the technology was brought here to St. Simons for further research and development of enhanced radar. A top-secret project, St. Simons was selected as a radar research facility because of the island’s isolation from the mainland. The government took over the King & Prince was taken over by the government as a naval training facility and a radar station.

The Lighthouse Trolleys tour is fascinating (more to come); 912-638-3333, www.lighthousetrolleys.com), and shows off many places I come back and visit in more depth – plenty to fill out a week’s holiday: the St. Simons Island Lighthouse (which you can climb; this one dates from 1872) and Maritime museum and AW Jones Heritage Center (saintsimonslighthouse.org), and Neptune Park Pier village (the waterfront park is marvelous and there is a new Fun Zone playground), which is a block-long “downtown” of shops and restaurants (the island has more than 20 galleries and antique shops); the St Simons Island Island Playhouse theater and Library, historic sites including Bloody Marsh, Christ Church (dating from 1884, has a Tiffany stained glass window, and cemetery that is absolutely fascinating, (christchurchfrederica.org), and most fascinating of all, Ft. Frederica National Monument, where you can see ongoing archeology of the colonial-era community (nps.gov/fofr).

My favorite way to get around is also a major activity here: biking.

There is a bike-rental shop, Ocean-Motion, a short walk from the King & Prince, and miles and miles of paved paths around the island; Ocean-Motion also organizes kayak nature tours (1300 Ocean BlvdSt. Simons, 912-638-5225, 800-669-5215).

And we are off to explore the island (see next).

St. Simons Island is one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, a popular resort playground lying midway between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, offering a mix of natural beauty, rich history and quaint charm, and year-round pleasant weather.

The King and Prince offers guests a complete resort experience, including beachfront activities to horseback riding, tennis, biking and fishing. A variety of tours are available that provide samplings of the area’s history and culture, whether by foot, bike, trolley or boat.

High season is from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-August, with a bump around spring break, mid-March through mid-April. Low season is from the week after Thanksgiving through mid-February. Check the website for a host of packages and specials.

The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, 201 Arnold Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522 
912-638-3631,  www.KingandPrince.com.

See also:

Eagle Island, one of Private Islands of Georgia, offers rare experience and slideshow

Discovering Sapelo Island, Georgia and Gullah-Geechees of Hog Hammock and slideshow

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© 2013 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel Enchants with Timeless Charm, Gilded Age Splendor

Jekyll Island Club Hotel enchants with timeless charm © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is a hidden jewel.

Sequestered on a small barrier island off of New Brunswick, Georgia, The Jekyll Island Club Hotel enchants you from the moment you come up the long drive under a canopy of trees, the river on one side, and you behold this fairytale-looking structure with turret, circular porches.

I arrive in the late afternoon, when the wooden structure is bathed in golden light.

View slideshow: Jekyll Island Club Hotel enchants with timeless charm

You immediately feel calmed, transported away from the pressures of today, into an aura of timelessness.

A Historic Hotels of America member, Jekyll Island Club is unique in its personality, character, architecture but most importantly because of its a special connection to the place, its people, indeed the history of the state and nation. It Is the centerpiece of a 240-acre Historic District on Jekyll Island, itself designated a state preserve and operated by a special Jekyll Island Authority.

Just as it was originally designed, the Jekyll Island Club remains a place of simple pleasure, albeit in a classy, luxurious environment, providing an extraordinary guest experience – as unique as the property itself.

We come here today for the same reasons the Gilded Age tycoons brought their families 125 years ago, when the Jekyll Island Club first opened: the simple pleasures of the tranquility here, to be immersed in the glorious outdoors and natural splendor – the beach, the forests.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is the fourth chapter in the storied history of the island– after the Indians, the colonial period, the plantation period and the Civil War.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel enchants you from the moment you come up the long drive under a canopy of trees and you behold this fairytale-looking structure with turret and circular porch © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Jekyll Island Club we see today is mostly the creation of the Gilded Age, its founders the mostly uber-wealthy Northerners, the industrialists and bankers who both propelled and prospered in the emergence of the Industrial Age.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel was originally built in 1886 as a hunting retreat for America’s wealthy elite – including JP Morgan, William Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, the Vanderbilts, Goulds and Astors.

This connection to heritage and history is manifest in the historic photos that decorate the walls – that affirm how faithful to the original the property remains. Just as in the early years when the Club was opened to the general public, you absolutely get a thrill (as the first guests did after the state took over the Club) to sleep in the same rooms as these titans who had so much impact on shaping America.

One photo stands out: Because of the concentration of internationally prominent business leaders, the Jekyll Island Club has been the scene of some important historical events, such as the first transcontinental telephone call placed by AT&T president Theodore Vail on January 25, 1915, with JP Morgan and William Rockefeller standing by.

AT&T president Theodore Vail makes the first transcontinental telephone call from Jekyll Island Club on Jan. 25, 1915, as JP Morgan and William Rockefeller stand by © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Meeting and function rooms are named for these founding members: Pulitzer, Aldrich, Aspinwall and one room named “Federal Reserve.”

A puzzle, which I unravel later – turns out that the outlines for the Federal Reserve were worked out here, at the Jekyll Island Club, by the “first name club” – a small group of literal “movers and shakers” of the banking industry who met here secretly after the economic panic of 1907, to come up with some plan to reform the banking industry.

Using only their first names or nicknames, Nelson Aldrich, Henry Davison, A. Piatt Andrew, Benjamin Strong, Paul Warburg, and Frank Vanderlip left New Jersey by rail in a private train car owned by Aldrich, a US Senator from Rhode Island, on their trip southward in mid-November, 1910.

This history does not seem so long ago, but instead resonates in the headlines today after the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression, followed by an attempt to inject reform into the financial industry, and the present controversy over the role of the Federal Reserve. It is all so juicy and exciting as you feel you have a front-row seat to history unfolding, the connection is so real, especially as you go through the Jekyll Island Museum, with photos and artifacts – even the phone.

One of the cottages at the Jekyll Island Club © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Unlike the summer “cottages” these same families built in Newport, Rhode Island, which were designed as showplaces – or rather to show off – their wealth, success and by extension, their power, the Jekyll Island Club was built to be a place where the elite families could enjoy simple pleasures like the beach, tennis, golf and bicycling. Even so, for years, there was an unofficial competition among the yachting members to see who would arrive in the most impressive and beautifully appointed vessel. There were activities for women and children. As the families grew, they built their own “cottages” – still much more modest than they built in Newport.

Notably, most did not have kitchens because they all dined in the Grand Dining Room, the high point of the day. They also entertained there.

The hotel today seems a living link to those people and those times. It is easy to forget what century you are in.

Stepping into Jekyll Island Club’s Grand Dining Room is like stepping into a photo from the 1920 © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Grand Dining Room is still a focal point of the original hotel. It looks exactly as it did in historic photos, and stepping across the threshold, is like stepping through the portal of time, like that scene in a movie, where you walk from a black-and-white photo into the movie scene.

At the hotel, itself, you can enjoy a traditional afternoon Victorian tea, croquet, massage services, fitness center, putting green, and swim in a magnificently set pool, overlooking the river.

Here, you really do get to sleep where the giants of American industry have stayed. You see what they saw, and walk the paths they did.

There are niceties – such as early morning coffee served until 8 am in the lounge with comfortable chairs and a fireplace; live piano music in the afternoons and weekend evenings, WiFi throughout the hotel, oodles of porches and wicker chairs.

But the atmosphere here isn’t pretentious or formal – it is wonderfully casual and comfortable, a place for families, for couples, for empty-nesters.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel offers 157 elegantly appointed rooms in five distinct settings, ranging from the original Club, itself, which dates from 1886, and the connected annex, built in 1901 for the overflow of guests. Two of the venues, the Crane Cottage and Cherokee Cottage, are historic, recently acquired, restored and added to the hotel’s collection, and are absolutely exquisite, like a fantasy come true for those who have fantasized about having a fabulous mansion (and particularly ideal for destination weddings).

Crane Cottage, with 13 guestrooms a charming dining room, courtyard and gardens, was built in 1917, and is very popular for destination weddings © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Crane Cottage is utterly exquisite. It was built in 1917 by Chicago architects Adler and Dangler, was inspired by an Italian Renaissance villa admired by Richard Teller Crane Jr., the original owner. who was a plumbing magnate. It is the largest, most lavish of the cottages and has a landscaped formal sunken garden with fountains and upper terrace. Not surprisingly, it has 17 bathrooms. Now part of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, it offers 13 guestrooms, plus a charming restaurant dining room. It is especially popular for destination weddings with its outdoor courtyard, fountain and gardens (see story). Even if you are not staying in Crane Cottage, it adds to this stunning ambiance.

Cherokee Cottage was built in 1904 in the Italian Renaissance architectural style by Edwin Gould for his in-laws, the Shrady’s. Dr. George Frederick Shrady of New was an eminent physician, editor of the Medical Record, and Assistant Surgeon, U.S.A., during the War Between the States who attended ex-President U.S. Grant, as consulting surgeon, in his last illness. (Edwin Gould, who owned the cottage “Solterra” on Jekyll, was the son of the famous financier Jay Gould, who left an estate of over $60,000,000.) The three arched, double front doors welcome guests into a light, spacious great room, and its 10 guestrooms accommodations express a life of elegant leisure.

Another cottage, Sans Souci (meaning “without care”) was built in 1896 and owned in part by J.P. Morgan. This six-unit building is considered to be one of the first condominiums built in this country. The floors, leaded art glass, stairway and skylight are all original.

Several other cottages that have been restored, but are not part of the Hotel, are open to the public and visited as part of the historic tours. Among them: The Indian Mound Cottage, built with 25 rooms for the Rockefeller family, and the Goodyear Cottage completed in 1906 by the firm of Carrére and Hastings.

Simple Pleasures – Priceless

At Jekyll Island Club Hotel, relish sitting under live oak © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the island offer a host of simple pleasures: hanging out on the beach (the Jekyll Island Club provides a shuttle to a relatively private section with its own Ice Cream Pavilion); fishing off a pier, golf on the original 100-year old nine-hole course and three other 18-hole courses, tennis, and bicycling (the hotel has bike rentals and there is another rental shop on the island; you can ride 17 miles around the island, and a total of 22 miles of bike paths).

One of many surprises of Jekyll Island is that because it is a state-park, operated by the state’s Jekyll Island Authority, activities such as golf, tennis, horseback riding are actually quite reasonably priced.

This includes horse-drawn carriage rides of the historic district – the best way to fall under Jekyll Island’s spell (45 minutes, offered Tuesday-Saturday, 9-5, $15/adults, $7 3-12; 35-minute evening rides, 5-9 pm, $40/couple).

Besides the Jekyll Island Museum (free to visit), you can also take Historic District Tours – visiting the 240-acre district with entree to some of these magnificent Victorian cottrages surrounding the hotel ($16/adults $7/child).

Tennis: Jekyll Island Tennis Center has 13 outdoor clay courts, resurfaced in 2011 and considered one of 25 best municipal facilities in the country ($6 pp, 912-635-3154).

Golf: 63 holes of golf on the island. Operated by the state-run Jekyll Island Authority, just $45 for 18 holes and half-cart and walking is allowed (hotel concierge can reserve tee times in advance).

Miniature Golf: At a central center for family-oriented activities, there are playgrounds, a bike rental shop and miniature golf (two courses, $6.50 pp, 9-6 Sunday-Thursday and 9-9 Friday and Saturday, 912-635-2648).

Horseback trail rides: Western-style horseback riding from the Clam Creek stables take you along the beach or marsh with a trail guide ($58/hour); a Sunset Ride, 1 1/2 hours, is $78 pp (www.threeoakscarriageandtrail.com, 912-635-9500).

SummerWaves Water Park (open daily in season, evening swims in peak season,210 South Riverview Drive, www.keyllisland.com/summerwaves, 912-635-2074).

There are also charter fishing and dolphin cruises, right from the hotel’s wharf.

Across the causeway, you can go shrimping on a 60-foot steel hull shrimp boat that sails out of Brunswick; or take the Emerald Princess II casino/cruise for buffet, dancing, live entertainment and gambling ($10 pp).

Several important attractions are within the historic district and just beyond on the island. Most notably:

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, located right on the property, opened in 2007 in what was the island’s historic power plant building, is devoted to the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles; you can experience hands on exhibits, witness sea turtle operations. ($7/adults, $6/seniors, $5/child, georgiaseaturtlecenter.org, 912-635-4444).

Jekyll Island Museum was surprisingly fabulous. Also located within the historic district, right at the Club, has wonderful artifacts, exhibits, video. The museum is free to visit, and also hosts daily Passport to the Century Tour, a guided tram tour of the entire historic district including entry into two of the restored cottages ($16/adults, $6, 7-15, offered 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm daily). It also offers an e-guide Self-Guided Tour, a hand-held multi-media tour of the historic districts you can do at your own pace (daily, $8/per unit) open 9 am-5 pm daily, 912-635-4036, jekyllisland.com).

The Wanderer Memorial to an infamous event: on November 28, 1858, the ship, Wanderer, sailed into the St. Andrews Sound south of Jekyll Island. On board were roughly 400 enslaved Africans who were illegally imported to the United States 50 years after an act prohibited importation (it went into effect in 1810) in one of the most sensational and controversial moments in Jekyll Island history. The Wanderer Memorial includes a sculpture by artist Mario Schambon and three text panels describing this event, the sensational trial of the slave runners, and the fate and legacy of many of the enslaved Africans. The Wanderer Memorial is located on the southern end of Jekyll Island in the St. Andrews Picnic area. It was dedicated on the 150th Anniversary of the ships landing in 2008.

Indeed, our visit to Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the island presented many improvements and new activities and attractions in only these past few years.

Dining

Grand Dining Room continues to be the scene of social gatherings and gourmet experiences. Beautifully restored in the Victorian mode, the room is dominated by Ionic columns and gleaming white woodwork, and three handsome fireplaces, complete with intricately carved mantle pieces and marble. The lawns and the river can be seen through expansive windows. The glow of candlelight and piano music create an atmosphere of romance and anticipation of the gourmet meal to come. The last Sunday of most months boasts Sunday Dinner Dance with gourmet dining and ballroom dancing.

The hotel’s full service restaurant, the Grand Dining Room offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and famous Sunday Brunch. The á-la carte menu features continental cuisine specializing in seafood, gourmet specials and authentic Southern fare. The Club pianist complements evening dining and Sunday Brunch. Jackets or collared shirts, slacks or appropriate jeans for gentlemen is requested. (912-635-5155 for reservations)

The Courtyard at Crane, a less formal dining option but absolutely fabulous, is located in the center courtyard and loggia of the historic Crane Cottage. You can dine inside or outside. Cottage Crabcakes, Jumbo Shrimp and Scallop Scampi and Lobster Francais are favorite selections on the menu. The wine menu features a blend of the Mediterranean and Northern California wine country. Dress is casual. (912-635-5200 for reservations).

The wharf at Jekyll Island Club is the place to be at sunset © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The coolest venue is Latitude 31º, located on the historic wharf in the Jekyll Island Historic Landmark District, serving fresh seafood and live entertainment (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during summer ). There is also a Raw Bar where you can eat on the wharf with the band and watch the sun set over the river.

Café Solterra, is the hotel’s popular bakery-delicatessen, for casual dining throughout the day and late at night. presenting pastries, muffins and sticky buns each morning homemade by our pastry chefs. Other continental style items are also available including fresh fruit and cereal. To complement any breakfast or all day long, this inviting dining spot proudly serves Starbucks Coffee, featuring special flavors daily. Open throughout the day, lunch and dinner offerings include fresh garden salads, a wide variety of sandwiches and wraps, plus homemade soup. Dessert is a treat! Try the famous cafe cookies, Haagen Dazs ice cream or the homemade cakes and pies. The friendly staff will also prepare picnic lunches or assist you in large quantity items for any party or family gathering.

Another snack shop is Doc’s, amid small cottages that are interesting shops.

There is also a casual pub and a Pool Bar.

The hotel has its own Beach Pavilion is located on the Atlantic Ocean. This breezy Jekyll Island dining spot features hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches, chips, hand scooped ice cream and an assortment of beverages. Amenities include picnic tables, beach chairs and sun umbrellas, towel service and restrooms.

(A Full American Plan (3 meals daily) is available for $ 96 per person, per day, and Modified American plan (breakfast and dinner) at $ 76 per person, per day including gratuities and tax).

Special Events and Packages

A popular retreat for the Gilded Age moguls, it is no wonder Jekyll Island Club Hotel is so popular for honeymoons, destination weddings, and as a romantic retreat © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Throughout the year, there are events and festivals on Jekyll Island – For example, November-March, Music and Merlot; November-December is Holidays in History, Christmas Tree Lighting Festival, Music and Merlot (877-453-5955, jekyllisland.com).

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel matches these seasonal festivities with packages. For example:

Christmas Package (available Nov. 25-Dec. 27) offers accommodations, breakfast buffet, Christmas stocking, commemorative Christmas ornament, from $199/double occupancy.

New Year’s Eve Celebration package provides three nights accommodations, breakfast buffet for two each morning in the Grand dining Room, New Year’s Eve Dinner for Two, admission to After Dinner Party at the Morgan Center with DJ and dancing and casual dining; Party favors and Champagne toast at midnight, New Year’s Day upgraded breakfast buffet; food and beverage taxes and gratuities, at $849 per couple with early dinner seating, $899 per couple for late dinner seating.

An ongoing mid-week Heritage Tour Package includes accommodations, hotel history tour, tram tour of the historic district, admission to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, afternoon tea one day, breakfast buffet, and taxes and gratuities (from $499).

A Club Cuisine package which includes dinner in the Grand Dining Room or at the Courtyard at Crame, with wine, and breakfast buffet, hotel gift upon arrival (champagne, fruit and cheese plate and glasses), taxes and gratuities, from $759

Check out Romantic getaways, honeymoon packages, golf getaway, tennis getaway, girlfriends getaway. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is also extremely popular for destination weddings and elopements (see story).

High season at Jekyll Island Club is mid-March through August; shoulder is September-November and low season is December-February

Room rates run around $219-$269 weekends, making it one of the best values for a grand historic hotel.

There are no regularly scheduled children’s activity programs, but the hotel can create one for groups.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel, 371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA 31527, 855-598-3640, jekyllclub.com.

There are no regularly scheduled children’s activity programs, but the hotel can create one for groups.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel, 371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA 31527, 855-598-3640, jekyllclub.com.

See also: Jekyll Island, from Gilded Age playground to Georgia’s public park and slideshow

____________________

© 2013 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

Jekyll Island, From Colonial Plantation to Gilded Age Playground to Georgia’s Public Park, is as Enthralling as Ever

One of the best ways to explore Jekyll Island and experience it, too, is biking. along its 22 miles of bike paths which takes you goes along the river and sea marshes, through forests of live oak dripping with Spanish moss © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin

Most who come to Jekyll Island will luxuriate in its rustic charm, its peaceful splendor. They come to commune with nature, enjoy the beach, bike along its miles of trails. A popular retreat for the Gilded Age moguls, it is no wonder it is so popular for honeymoons, destination weddings, as a romantic retreat and as a family getaway.

For me, though, the delight comes in being immersed in the history of this place – like so many of the Historic Hotels of America members, the Jekyll Island Club is unique, has a special connection to the place, its people, indeed the history of the state and nation.

View slideshow: Exploring Jekyll Island Georgia

History is made: photo in Jekyll Island Museum shows the first transatlantic telephone call, made from the Jekyll Island Club in 1915 by AT&T President, with JP Morgan standing by. Jekyll Island was the playground for the Gilded Age moguls © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Being here at the hotel and then exploring the small island, is like being on a scavenger hunt – the clues are the photos that decorate the walls, the names of rooms and buildings, the historic markers you come upon on the trails, the ruins and the structures so lovingly and faithfully restored. Just across from the Jekyll Island Club, which is within a 240-acre historic district of Victorian cottages and buildings, you find yourself in a splendid museum with fascinating artifacts, in the ruins of a colonial home, a memorial to one of the last slave ships to bring its human cargo to America’s shores. Its beach was used for a battle scene in the Civil-War movie, “Glory,” about an all-Black regiment that so bravely went to its death fighting for freedom; the legacy is a boardwalk constructed for the film.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel was originally built in 1886 as a hunting retreat for America’s wealthy elite – including JP Morgan, William Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, the Vanderbilts, Goulds and Astors.

The very proximity of these movers and shakers meant that important history was made here: One photo stands out showing the first transcontinental telephone call placed by AT&T president Theodore Vail on January 25, 1915, with JP Morgan and William Rockefeller standing by.

Photos that decorate the walls show that It is remarkably intact from the way it was, and yet, though you would never know it from looking at the pristine, idyllic setting today, it has gone through its own tumult. It was used as a private club – quite literally an “Ol Boy’s Club” and probably, the world’s first time-share, since the members were fractional owners – up until World War II, when U-boats were spotted and the government evacuated the island.

After the war, their island retreat fell out of favor of the members who moved on to newer, posher, trendier resort destinations like Palm Beach, Florida.

The state of Georgia condemned the island, paid $675,000 to take it over as a state park (a controversy that figured into the defeat of Governor Thompson though his opponent after winning completed the transaction), and attempted to continue to operate the hotel up until 1970, when the hotel was closed. “Pirates” who came by boat actually looted the hotel, and it fell into disrepair.

Up until that time, the island could only be visited by boat – the original club members had their yachts that they delighted in showing off.

Then, a group of private investors took it over, on the condition that the state build a causeway. They restored the hotel to its distinctive elegant style, and reopened it in 1986. It is now a National Historic Landmark and a member of Historic Hotels of America, and as such, has that distinctive characteristic of being so much more than a “building” or “structure,” but a unique connection to the people, place, heritage and events that shaped the state of Georgia and the nation.

The Jekyll Island Club hotel is the centerpiece of a 240-acre historic district, dotted with Victorian era buildings that were part of the original Club, and the rest of the island is remarkably and wonderfully unspoiled, uncommercialized, with 65 percent of it preserved from development.

This connection to heritage and history is manifest in the historic photos that decorate the walls – that affirm how faithful to the original the property remains. Just as in the early years when the Club was opened to the general public, you absolutely get a thrill (as the first guests did after the state took over the Club) to sleep in the same rooms as these titans who had so much impact on shaping America.

Meeting and function rooms are named for these founding members: Pulitzer, Aldrich, Aspinwall and one room named “Federal Reserve.”

This strikes me as a puzzle, which I unravel later. It turns out that the outlines for the Federal Reserve were worked out here, at the Jekyll Island Club, by the “first name club” – a small group of literal “movers and shakers” of finance who met here secretly after the economic panic of 1907, to come up with some plan to reform the banking industry.

Using only their first names or nicknames, Nelson Aldrich, Henry Davison, A. Piatt Andrew, Benjamin Strong, Paul Warburg, and Frank Vanderlip left New Jersey by rail in a private car owned by Aldrich, a US Senator from Rhode Island, on their trip southward in mid-November, 1910.

This history does not seem so long ago, but instead resonates in the headlines today after the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression, followed by an attempt to inject reform into the financial industry, and the present controversy over the role of the Federal Reserve. It is all so juicy and exciting as you feel you have a front-row seat to history unfolding, the connection is so real, especially as you go through the Jekyll Island Museum, with photos and artifacts – even the phone.

History unfolds as you travel around Jekyll Island.

Colonial Ruins, a Slave Past

Ruins of Horton House, built by William Horton who was granted the island in 1736. It is one of the oldest buildings in Georgia © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Early on my first morning, I take a drive to explore the island. Everything is engulfed in a dense fog. A vintage 1940s car dramatically emerges out of the fog setting the stage, perfectly, and I come upon the ruins of a colonial-era building.

This was the home of Major William Horton who was one of the top military aides to General James Oglethorpe, the man who was granted the Georgia colony (it was America’s 13th colony) and who named Jekyll Island for his friend, Sir Joseph Jekyll, an English politician who provided him funds (naming rights!)

The colony grew rapidly, and an immediate conflict developed with Spanish colonists in Florida. Oglethorpe quickly dispatched 30 recruits led by William Horton to construct the town and defenses at Frederica on St. Simons Island. After proving himself on St. Simons, Horton was granted 500 acres of land by the Trustees of the colony, and in April 1736 he ventured over to Jekyll Island to stake his claim. Horton died in 1748 and the remains of his house, built of a mixture of lime, sand and oyster shells (tabby), are among the oldest structures in Georgia. Over the next 40 years, Jekyll had a number of different owners, ranging from personal entities to a group of Frenchmen called the Sapelo Company, which included DuBignon, escaping the French Revolution in 1792.

The site also includes the cemetery of the DuBignon Family, which owned Jekyll Island from 1792-1886 and occupied the house as their home from 1794 until the mid-1800s.

The Horton House is one of the oldest buildings in Georgia, and the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jekyll Island’s fortunes are tied to the DuBignon family who followed Horton.

Christophe DuBignon came to Jekyll Island in 1794, established a plantation and brought 16 slaves to work sea island cotton fields.

After Christophe’s death in 1825, the plantation was run by son, Henry Charles, until the Civil War.

Painting of Wanderer in Jekyll Island Museum recalls the island’s most infamous event in 1858 when 409 slaves were brought to the island © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On November 28, 1858, some 50 years after Congress outlawed the importation of slaves, the ship, Wanderer, sailed into the St. Andrews Sound south of Jekyll Island. On board were roughly 409 enslaved Africans, out of 487 initially boarded, who were illegally imported to the United States in one of the most sensational and controversial moments in Jekyll Island history. Henry and John DuBignon was implicated. Charges were brought against the crew and the ship’s owner, Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar of Savannah. They were all acquitted.

(Clementine Dubignon was the youngest of the enslaved Africans to survive the crossing. She was born aboard the Wanderer during the frightful voyage. Although John and Henry Dubignon were eventually acquitted for their part in the illegal slave trade, Clementine Dubignon’s very name was evidence of the family’s involvement.)

During the American Civil War, the Georgia coast as Union armies occupied much of the region from the early stages of the conflict. Residents fled, and when Union troops landed on Jekyll in 1862 the island was deserted, the DuBignon plantation in ruins. After the war, the DuBignon family returned and Henry, Christopher’s son, divided the island among his four children.

John Eugene duBignon in the late 1870s assumed ownership of part of the island, and subsequently purchased the remainder of Jekyll from his family. Forming a partnership with his brother-in-law and an investor, the three marketed the island as a winter retreat for wealthy businessmen and their families, using the Union Club in New York City as a model. They completed construction of a clubhouse in 1888, selling 53 shares for $600 each.

The Jekyll Island Club flourished during the Gilded Age and survived the Great Depression, which took its toll on the fortunes of many of its members mainly by opening up an “associate membership”. But in 1942, during World War II, the island was evacuated because of threats of of U-boats, and Jekyll Island Club closed its doors.

After the war, the Jekyll Island Club fell out of favor of the members who moved on to newer, posher, trendier retreats like Palm Beach, Florida.

In 1947, Governor Thompson pushed for the state of Georgia to acquire Jekyll Island for public use, and pay $675,000 – 20 cents per person. The proposition generated controversy, at a time when Georgia politics was in an uproar. They called Jekyll’s Island “Thompson’s Folly” and derided the proposal as a waste of money.

Thompson was challenged by State Senator Talmadge who derided the plan and defeated Thompson, but when Talmadge became governor, he supported the development of Jekyll Island by a private developer as “the people’s park”. It made going to island inexpensive, accessible, and preserved historic district.

The Jekyll Island Park Authority was created in 1950, as a self-sustaining entity with a 99 year lease (they charge $6 to come onto the island, and note the many improvements around the island paid for by the fee). Under the Authority, the Georgia beach was opened to black people before segregation was overturned.

Jekyll Island attracted tourists from around the country – guests were delighted at the chance to sleep where Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Morgans had slept. Rooms went for $1.50-$3 per person; for an extra $5, you could rent a living room, furnished with luxurious antiques. (Being “the people’s park,” there are still excellent values and a range of accommodations, even a campground, and even the Jekyll Island Club, the most luxurious on the island, has rates that are relatively good value for a grand resort.)

By legislative mandate, 65 percent of the island is and will remain in a mostly natural state.

Private developers returned to operate the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and develop the island, but only after the state promised to build a causeway.

Exploring Jekyll Island

Early on my first morning, I take a drive to explore the island. Everything is engulfed in a dense fog. I come upon a deer, a reminder that Jekyll Island was created as a private hunting camp © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Though a small island, it is remarkable how Jekyll Island is a microcosm of the state and nation’s history, and how it is a visible and living history today and how much there is to do.

The park is actually self-sufficient, operated by the Jekyll Island Authority: you pay $6/ day when you come on the island, but all around the island – from the fishing piers to the boardwalk, to the bike trails, you see how the fees are used.

One of the best ways to explore Jekyll Island and experience it, too, is biking, and is clearly one of the popular activities on the island – I borrow a bike from the hotel (all are one-speed beach bikes, even at the rental shop) and bike leisurely around the– from about 11 to 4:30 pm, a beautiful ride almost entirely on bike paths. The island has some 22 miles of bike paths (it takes about 17 to ring the island).

My path goes along the river, alongside sea marshes, through forests of live oak dripping with Spanish moss. When I return in the late afternoon, a deer crosses my path at this point of the trail.

I pass a small private airport, then the Horton House and DuBignon Cemetery, and the campground.

Horseback riding along the beach at Clam Creek © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

At one tip of the island I come to Clam Creek picnic area – a lovely area with fishing pier, beach, horseback riding.

I pass neighborhoods, churches, a fishing lake, a selection of hotels and motels, the largest stretch of beach.

I come to a section of beach shops, including a very modest grocery store, wine shop, and a short distance away is a place where there are wonderful playgrounds, mini golf, bike rentals, and a pizza/ice cream snack shop.

Continuing on, I come to the new convention center, with a magnificent setting right on the beach – new hotels are going up (one is the Westin, which is owned by partners from the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, and the other is Hyatt Place; Jekyll Island Club will have transportation to the convention center).

They also own the Jekyll Island Hampton Inn and Suites, which I come to, which is close to the South Dunes Picnic Area, also known as “Glory Beach,” because a battle sequence from the Civil War-era film, “Glory” was filmed there and the legacy is a boardwalk.

Not too much further along, along the southern end of the island in the St. Andrews picnic area is The Wanderer Memorial to one of the last slave ships to come to the United States, in 1858. The Wanderer Memorial includes a sculpture by artist Mario Schambon and three text panels describing this event, the sensational trial of the slave runners, and the fate and legacy of many of the enslaved Africans. It was dedicated as recently as 2008, on the 150th Anniversary of the ships landing. (There is a certain irony to the memorial to the end of slavery being next door to a beach used as the set to bring honor to the black Civil War regiment).

Still continuing around the island, I come to Summer Waves, a waterpark, and finally back to Jekyll Island Club hotel and the historic Jekyll Wharf.

What strikes you is how uncommercialized, unpretentious, ungaudy or overdone the island is because two-thirds is preserved from development. And yet, our visit to Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the island presented many improvements and new activities and attractions in only these past few years.

There are several lodging choices on the island – including a wonderful campground; Villas by the Sea (1-3 bedroom condominiums, more of a time-share (www.villasbythesearesort.com); Beachview Club (beachviewclub.com), Days Inn and Suites (daysinnjekyll.com), Hampton Inn and Suites (jekyllislandhamptoninn.com); Oceanside Inn and Suites (oceansideinnandsuites.com), and Quality Inn and Suites (jekyllislandquality.com)

But for elegant, albeit casual/understated elegance, for that quiet charm, that sense of place and connection to not just the history of this place, but America’s history, you cannot beat the Jekyll Island Club (jekyllclub.com). (See Jekyll Island Club Hotel enchants with timeless charm and slideshow)

For more information, contact the Jekyll Island Authority, 877-453-5955, jekyllisland.com.

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