Jekyll Island Club
Jekyll Island Club
|Location:||Jekyll Island, Georgia|
|Architectural style:||Queen Anne|
|Added to NRHP:||January 20, 1972|
|Designated NHLD:||June 2, 1978|
The Jekyll Island Club was a private club located on Jekyll Island, on the Georgia coastline. It was founded in 1886 when members of an incorporated hunting and recreational club purchased the island for $125,000 from John Eugune du Bignon. The original design of the Jekyll Island Clubhouse, with its easily identifiable turret, was completed in January 1888. The club thrived through the early 20th century with an exclusive limited membership consisting of many of the world's wealthiest families at the time, most notably the Morgans, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts. The club lasted 54 years, closing at the end of the 1942 season due to complications from World War II. In 1947, after 5 years of funding a staff to upkeep the lawn and cottages, the island was purchased from the club's remaining members for $675,000 during condemnation proceedings by the state of Georgia.
The State tried operating the club as a resort for some time, but this was not financially successful and the entire complex was closed by 1971. The complex was designated a historic landmark in 1978. It was restored and reopened as a luxury resort hotel in 1985.
The Founding of the Club
At the end of the plantation era of Jekyll Island, Newton Finney, John Eugene Dubignon’s brother-in-law, had big ideas for Jekyll Island. Finney had suggested to Dubignon the potential of selling the island to Northern businessmen as a winter resort. The two men received help from a New York backer to assist with the purchase of the entire island. By 1885, Dubignon was the sole owner of Jekyll.
During 1885, Newton Finney had also partnered with Oliver K. King who was an associate of Finney’s from New York. They brought together a group of men and petitioned the Glynn county courts, becoming incorporated as the “Jekyl Island Club” on December 9, 1885. They agreed to sell 100 shares of the Jekyll Island Club stock to 50 individuals at $600 a share.
Finney had no difficulty selling the shares. Six of the first seven shares went to the men who signed the charter petition: Finney, Dubignon, King, Richard L. Ogden, William B. D'Wolf, and Charles L. Schlatter. In all, Finney was able to find fifty-three individuals to join the Club, including such famous names as Henry Hyde, Marshall Field, John Pierpont Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, and William H. Vanderbilt.
By 1886, financial preparations were completed and Finney, as a representative of the newly formed Jekyll Island Club, was prepared to sign paperwork. On February 17, 1886 Newton Finney signed an official agreement with Dubignon, selling Jekyll Island to the Jekyll Island Club for $125,000.
On April 1, 1886, a meeting was held in New York to create the constitution and by-laws, and to nominate officers for the club. The first president was Lloyd Aspinwall, vice president was Judge Henry Elias Howland, treasurer was Franklin M. Ketchum, and Richard L. Ogden became secretary. These men faced the difficult task of turning the undeveloped property into a social club for the wealthy upper class of America.
Lloyd Aspinwall only served 5 months as the club president before he died suddenly. Henry Howland then took up the position as president of the Club.
Committees were formed to get the club off the ground. Charles A. Alexander of Chicago was chosen to design the clubhouse, and William Shaler Cleveland, a famous landscape architect, was chosen to design and lay out the grounds.
Ground was broken on the clubhouse building in mid-August 1886. After some setbacks the clubhouse was completed on November 1. The club officially opened its doors when the executive committee arrived for the 1888 season on January 21.
Several nationally important events took place on Jekyll Island during the Club era, including the first transcontinental telephone call made by Theodore N. Vail, president of AT&T, to Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas A. Watson and President Woodrow Wilson in 1915; and the development of the Aldrich Vreeland Act for the National Monetary Commission in 1908.
Recreation during the club era
When the club started out, hunting was a major recreational activity for both men and women. A gamekeeper was hired to keep the island well stocked with pheasants, turkeys, quail and deer.
All members were to report daily what they had killed and turn it over to the club. Wild game was a common sight on the menu of the clubhouse. A taxidermist shop was located within the club compound, specifically for mounting the prize game.
As the club grew, other recreations became popular. Golf eventually took over as the Club's dominant sport. The first course was located just to the north of the Club compound. Later, in the 1920s, an oceanside course was built. A portion of this historic golf course is still intact, and can be played.
Role in the history of the Federal Reserve
Jekyll Island was the location of a meeting in November 1910 in which draft legislation was written to create the U.S. Federal Reserve. Following the Panic of 1907, banking reform became a major issue in the United States. Senator Nelson Aldrich (R-RI), chairman of the National Monetary Commission, went to Europe for almost two years to study that continent's banking systems. Upon his return, he brought together many of the country's leading financiers to Jekyll Island to discuss monetary policy and the banking system, an event which was the impetus for the creation of the Federal Reserve.
On the evening of November 22, 1910, Sen. Aldrich and A.P. Andrews (Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury Department), Paul Warburg (a naturalized German representing Kuhn, Loeb & Co.), Frank A. Vanderlip (president of the National City Bank of New York), Henry P. Davison (senior partner of J. P. Morgan Company), Charles D. Norton (president of the Morgan-dominated First National Bank of New York), and Benjamin Strong (representing J. P. Morgan), together representing about one fourth the world's wealth at the time, left Hoboken, New Jersey on a train in complete secrecy, dropping their last names in favor of first names, or code names, so no one would discover who they all were. The excuse for such powerful representatives and wealth was to go on a duck hunting trip on Jekyll Island.
Picture a party of the nation’s greatest bankers stealing out of New York on a private railroad car under cover of darkness, stealthily riding hundreds of miles South, embarking on a mysterious launch, sneaking onto an island deserted by all but a few servants, living there a full week under such rigid secrecy that the names of not one of them was once mentioned, lest the servants learn the identity and disclose to the world this strangest, most secret expedition in the history of American finance. I am not romancing; I am giving to the world, for the first time, the real story of how the famous Aldrich currency report, the foundation of our new currency system, was written... The utmost secrecy was enjoined upon all. The public must not glean a hint of what was to be done. Senator Aldrich notified each one to go quietly into a private car of which the railroad had received orders to draw up on an unfrequented platform. Off the party set. New York’s ubiquitous reporters had been foiled... Nelson (Aldrich) had confided to Henry, Frank, Paul and Piatt that he was to keep them locked up at Jekyll Island, out of the rest of the world, until they had evolved and compiled a scientific currency system for the United States, the real birth of the present Federal Reserve System, the plan done on Jekyll Island in the conference with Paul, Frank and Henry... Warburg is the link that binds the Aldrich system and the present system together. He more than any one man has made the system possible as a working reality.
Decline and closure of the club
The Great Depression in 1929 caused great changes on Jekyll Island. This depression touched even the very wealthy across the country and membership in an exclusive club became an extravagance. Membership dropped slowly through the 1930s as the depression continued.
With the financial situation of the club worsening, the executive committee decided to create a new level of club membership in 1933. A more affordable level of membership, the Associate membership was designed to fit the needs, and pocketbook, of anyone. It was an attempt to draw in new and younger people as well as to draw more members back to the clubhouse. This new membership did revitalize the club membership roster, although only for a brief period.
World War II was the final blow to the life of the Jekyll Island Club. The club opened as usual for the 1942 season. However, by the beginning of March it was announced there would be an early close to the season due to the club’s financial situation and the strain the war had on the labor situation. The 1942 season would turn out to be the final season for the Jekyll Island Club.
There was hope by the president that the Club might be reopened after the war with renewed interest. However, in 1946 the state of Georgia entered the picture. The Revenue Commissioner, M. E. Thompson, wanted to purchase one of Georgia's barrier islands and open it to the public as a state park. Finally, on June 2, 1947, the state purchased the island through a condemnation order for $675,000 (or approximately $5,563,416 in 2003 dollars).
The club was turned into a public resort by the state, but closed by 1971, a financial failure. It was made a historic landmark in 1978 and restored and reopened as the Radisson Jekyll Island Club Hotel in 1985. Radisson ceased managing the hotel some years later, and it currently operates as the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.
List of members
During the club's inception, a limit of 100 members was imposed to ensure the club's exclusiveness. During the financially difficult Great Depression period, the club began referring to its members as founders and created the new Associate Membership. This membership was purchased at a lower price, but with all of the benefits that the founders enjoyed, and limited to a total of 150.
|John J. Albright||1890-1931|
|Nelson W. Aldrich||American politician, daughter Abby married John D. Rockefeller Jr.||1912-1915|
|George Fisher Baker||1901-1931|
|John Eugene du Bignon||1886-1896|
|Cornelius Newton Bliss||1886-1911|
|Cornelius Newton Bliss Jr.||1912-1921|
|Matthew Chaloner Durfee Borden||The "Calico King", owner of the American Printing Company||1892-1912|
|Frederick Gilbert Bourne||President of the Singer Manufacturing Company between 1889 and 1905.||1901-1919|
|Robert Elbert Bourne||1926-1929|
|Charles S. Brown||1924-1935|
|McEvers Bayard Brown||1886-1926|
|John Claflin||1886-1912, 1921-1938|
|Charles Richard Crane||Eldest son of plumbing parts mogul, Chicago manufacturer, Richard T. Crane||1916-1924|
|Florence Higinbotham Crane||1919-1940|
|Richard T. Crane||Founder of R.T. Crane & Bro., a Chicago-based manufacturer of valves and pipes that would later become an aerospace and plumbing manufacturer.||1911-1931|
|Robert Fulton Cutting||1923-1934|
|William Bayard Cutting||1886-1912|
|Charles M. Daniels||1924-1932|
|John Eugene du Bignon||1886-1896|
|Duncan Steuart Ellsworth||1895-1908|
|Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank||1886-1903|
|Walton Ferguson, Jr.||1902-1906|
|Newton Sobieski Finney||1886-1897|
|Frank H. Goodyear||1902-1907|
|Frank H. Goodyear Jr.||1916-1930|
|George Jay Gould I||1895-1916|
|Edward S. Harkness||Philanthropist and one of four sons of Stephen V. Harkness, a harness-maker who invested in the forerunner of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller's oil company||1911-1923|
|James J. Hill||1888-1916|
|Bayard C. Hoppin||1925-1931|
|Gerard B. Hoppin||1923-1938|
|Dr. Walter James||1917-1927|
|Morris Ketchum Jesup||1888-1908|
|John Stewart Kennedy||1898-1909|
|Thomas W. Lamont|
|Cornelius "Connie" Lee||1919-1947|
|Pierre Lorillard IV||1886-1886, 1888-1891|
|Valentine Everit Macy||1909-1927|
|Charles Stewart Maurice||1886-1924|
|Cyrus Hall McCormick, Jr.||1891-1936|
|J. P. Morgan, Jr.||1913-1943|
|William Fellowes Morgan||1925-1934|
|Rev. Charles H. Parkhurst||1894-1909|
|Henry Kirke Porter||1891-1921|
|Grant B. Schley||1903-1917|
|Dr. Frederick Shattuck||1912-1929|
|George Frederick Shrady, Sr.||1904-1907|
|Frederick Snow||1915-1918, 1925-1929|
|George Baker St. George||1925-1933|
|Theodore Newton Vail||1912-1920|
|William Kissam Vanderbilt||1886-1902|
|William Warren Vaughn||1919-1931|
Associate Members: (This class of membership was adopted in 1933)
|William Truman Aldrich||1933-?|
|John Foster Dulles||1933-?|
|David Sinton Ingalls||?|
|George Herbert Walker||1933-?|
|A.J. Drexel Paul||1927-1933|
- 1886–1887 — Lloyd Aspinwall
- 1887–1896 — Henry Howland
- 1897–1914 — Charles Lanier
- 1914–1919 — Frederick Bourne
- 1919–1927 — Dr. Walter James
- 1927–1933 — Walter Jennings
- 1933–1938 — J.P. Morgan, Jr.
- 1938–1942 — Bernon Prentice
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Jekyll Island". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
- Hutto, Richard Jay (2006). Their Gilded Cage: The Jekyll Island Club Members. Macon, Georgia: Henchard Press, Ltd.,. ISBN 978-0-9770912-2-5.
- McCash, William Barton and June Hall McCash (1989). The Jekyll Island Club: Southern Haven for America's Millionaires. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-1070-0.
- Griffin, G. Edward (1998). The Creature from Jekyll Island : A Second Look at the Federal Reserve. American Media. ISBN 0-912986-21-2.
- Bagwell, Tyler E. (2001). Images of America: Jekyll Island - A State Park. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 6–8. ISBN 0-7385-0572-2.
- Bagwell, Tyler E.; The Jekyll Island Museum (1998). Images of America: The Jekyll Island Club. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-1796-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jekyll Island Club Historic District|
- The Jekyll Island Museum - The Jekyll Island Museum
- Jekyll Island Club Hotel - official website
- New York Times - 1994 article about the restored hotel