Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven
With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven
Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,
Virginal shy lights,
Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn
So wrote Georgia poet Sidney Lanier in his best-known work, “The Marshes of Glynn.”
One of the four poems in “Hymns of the Marshes,” Lanier captured lyrically the coastal marshlands of Glynn County in his home state. A historic marker in Brunswick identifies Lanier’s Oak, a live oak tree where the poet often sat and looked out over the salt marshes. The plaque calls him “Georgia’s greatest poet.”
Whenever I go to the Georgia coast, the highlight for me is the trip there, not the beaches or the fried shrimp. Driving over the tall bridges connecting the mainland to the myriad islands and seeing miles of gently waving green shoots protruding from the brown water, capped with a white and blue sky, is among the most beautiful sights known to man.
Sidney Lanier knew it. So did the founders of the Jekyll Island Club Resort.
With our summer plans in ruins as a result of COVID-19, we took a quick trip to the club last month. It is a place I had long wanted to visit. Founded in 1886, it was once the “richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.”
The club — the building that today houses part of the hotel — was completed in 1888. Members included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Vanderbilts and Pulitzers.
Club membership represented one-sixth of the nation’s wealth at the time.
A few notable events took place there as well. The creation of the Federal Reserve system happened at the resort in 1910. Five years later, the first transcontinental phone call was between President Woodrow Wilson in Washington, Alexander Graham Bell in New York, Thomas Watson in San Francisco and AT&T President Theodore Newton Vail, who was at the Jekyll Island Club.
Architect Charles A. Alexander designed the main clubhouse, which incorporates Queen Anne-revival architecture elements, including a round tower, wraparound covered porch and painted balustrades.
With a few minor differences, the grounds are much as they were 134 years ago. Live oaks draped in Spanish moss surround the building and the many historic cottages. Much of its 240 acres has been preserved, a welcome change from the popular beach towns in Florida and South Carolina.
But the club is not on the beach, which may seem odd at first blush. Rather, it sits just above the inlet facing east.
Since 1947, Jekyll Island has been owned by the state, and the resort is open to the public.
Of course, Jekyll is in Glynn County.
Those are the same marshes made famous by Georgia’s greatest poet.