Historic St. Simons Island Georgia Tour
This driving tour (or extended walking tour) includes several museums, monuments, and historic landmarks on St. Simmons Island. The tour concludes at the Mildred Nix Huie Museum.
Located on the grounds of the Methodist retreat and conference center, Epworth by the Sea, the Arthur Moore Methodist Museum chronicles the history of the Methodist church and its founders Charles and John Wesley, who lived in England during the 18th century. Georgia history is also covered in the museum. It is named after Methodist Bishop Arthur James Moore, who founded the museum in 1966 (the property itself was bought in 1949). It also serves as the official repository for the Church's history, holding 6,000 books and other items. A highlight is the exhibit dedicated to closed Methodist churches. The museum displays a large number of nativities.
Adjacent to Epworth-by-the-Sea and the Methodist Conference Center, two of four original slave cabins built before 1833 on the Hamilton Plantation survive due to their sturdy material. Enslaved workers built the cabins from a mixture of lime, water, sand, and crushed oyster shells called tabby. Because they also had wooden doors and glass windows, it is believed that slaves who worked in the main house of the plantation lived in them, with two families per cabin, separated by a central fireplace. The plantation itself was not only the site of the state’s first naval base, but was also in an important location making it easily accessible by ships, leading to a large export of cotton from the area. Business also boomed with the timber industry on the plantation, passing through multiple owners before the property was ultimately deeded to the Cassina Garden Club in 1950, which now maintains the cabins.
Planted by Anna Paige King in 1826, the Avenue of Oaks is a historic grove that has stood for almost two centuries. The trees form a double row that now lead to the Sea Island Gold Club. The trees are a reminder of the island's importance to the shipbuilding industry in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Oak trees from St. Simmons were used in the construction of the USS Constitution, the frigate that was completed in 1794.
Completed in 1872, the 104-foot St. Simons Island Lighthouse is the second lighthouse constructed on this location. Reportedly, the only brick dwelling in Glynn County, Georgia prior to 1880, the keeper’s house is a unique example of romantic eclecticism in the southeast. On August 25, 1971, the keeper’s house was conveyed to the Glynn County Board of Commissioners through the Historic Surplus Property Program. The county then entered into a license agreement with the Coastal Georgia Historical Society who spent three years restoring the keeper’s house, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The nomination was revised in 1988 to include the lighthouse, an 1889-92 oil house, and site of the earlier lighthouse. In 2004 the lighthouse was deemed surplus by the Coast Guard, and ownership was transferred to the Coastal Georgia Historical Society under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.
East Beach Station, now the Maritime Center museum operated by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, was one of 45 Coast Guard stations built in the mid 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. It was designed in the Colonial Revival style, which the federal government commonly used for its buildings in the 1930s and 1940s. The museum details the World War II military history of the station and the ecology of the coastal islands off Georgia. The historical society operates two other nearby museums, the St. Simons Lighthouse and the A.W. Jones Heritage Center which is next to the lighthouse.
This marker commemorates a British colonial victory on July 7, 1742 over Spanish forces from Florida that preserved Georgia as a British colony. The battle of Bloody Marsh was part of an international struggle between two major empires: England and Spain. The two nations had been at war over the land from South Carolina to Florida for nearly two centuries in what is now known as the War of Jenkins' Ear. General James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founder, led a battalion of British troops, Native American guides, and colonial militia into Spanish Florida in 1740. The battalion launched an unsuccessful attacked of Spanish-held St. Augustine. Spanish forces retaliated two years later as St. Augustine’s governor led nearly 5,000 soldiers on an equally unsuccessful invasion of Georgia. Oglethorpe was able to defend Georgia in with less than a thousand men thanks to their defensive positions throughout a berm and a swamp on St. Simon’s Island overlooking the Frederica River. General Oglethorpe’s men repelled two Spanish attacks with minimal casualties.
A native Savannah, Georgia, Mildred Nix Huie (1906-2000) was a prominent author, historian, and artist in Georgia during the 20th century. The museum, located in the historic Mediterranean House, which was built in 1929, displays her artwork and also features an archive that houses books and other materials documenting local history. Mildred was a member of one of the first Girl Scouts (then named Girl Guides) and later graduated with a degree in Classical Education from the Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University). She worked as manager of WALB Radio between 1941-1953. She founded the Easter Seals of Southern Georgia, an accomplishment that earned her the Woman of the Year award in 1950. Along with two others, she also helped found the Albany Junior College, which is now Darton College, in 1963. She moved from Albany to St. Simons Island in 1965 where she focused her attention on creating art. She was particularly interested in painting and creating models of plantations in the surrounding region.