Home. When I think of home, I think of places that have shaped my life. Home moves over the years – for some more than others. As a child, your home is chosen for you, and you attach yourself to that place for its comfort and familiarity. In stepping away from childhood, places where you make your own memories can be described as home.
For some people, a sense of home is created by the history of a place and the memories stored there from previous occupants. The Golden Isles is one such place where a rich history draws people wanting to hold onto a piece of the past.
Patty Deveau knows firsthand how you can fall in love with an old home.
“When we were looking for a second home on St. Simons, this was one of the first homes we looked at. My husband and I thought we would get a traditional cottage near the village – but we kept coming back to this one,” she says.
“This one” is the Strachan Carriage House (prounouced “strawn”) on St. Simons Island. Built by F.D.M. Strachan in 1910, the Carriage House is all that remains of Beach Lawn, the estate that he built on part of the former Retreat Plantation. The Strachan Family had built a shipping empire, connecting goods of the Golden Isles with the world. Believed to be Glynn County’s first millionaire, F.D.M. Strachan was a yachtsman — winner of the prestigious Astor Cup while a member of the New York Yacht Club — and was known as an early promoter of Brunswick and all the area had to offer.
Beach Lawn was later purchased by the Stuckey Family, of Stuckey Pecan Company; then passing onto the Edwards Family, of Edwards Pie Company. In 1986, Beach Lawn was relocated to Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, via a barge to make way for a new development on St. Simons. Now the Carriage House is the only remaining link on St. Simons.
The Carriage House was first converted into a living space in the late 1970s and was lovingly restored in the late 1990s, when it was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Carriage House is perhaps a misnomer for this unique home. The brick façade reminds you of Savannah row houses, while the poolside veranda evokes the Charleston single house style. The low coffered ceilings and brick and beadboard walls on the interior give you sense of life in Frederica in the 1760s.
The third floor is the architectural treat. With exposed beams and pine board walls, you feel like you have stepped aboard one of Strachan’s own ships leaving the Port of Brunswick. For those lucky enough to rent Strachan for a getaway or special occasion, the third floor has a small walk-out balcony that provides stunning views of the lighthouse and the St. Simons Sound.
“We both grew up in old houses, and we love sharing it with guests from all over the world,” Deveau says.
When many people think of historic homes in the Golden Isles, they immediately think of Jekyll Island. With 33 historic structures, the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District has a “cottage” for almost any taste or style. Each building has its own special charm and history.
Villa Ospo has become a favorite for many. Built in 1927 by Walter and Jean Jennings, the Spanish Eclectic home reminds visitors more of the Roaring Twenties rather than the traditional turn-of-the-century Queen Anne style of the Jekyll Island Club.
Gretchen Greminger, curator with the Jekyll Island Museum, has a fondness for this cottage.
“It is one of my favorite cottages, partially because I had the opportunity to enjoy an office space on the second floor for many years. But the home is really an interesting combination of approachable architecture with grandeur,” Greminger says. “Slightly smaller in scale than some of the other famous cottages, the central hall opens up into the astonishing Great Room. Features in the Great Room include beautiful exposed wooden beams that have been hand-painted in shades of gold, maroon, and green; wrought iron chandeliers; and a massive cast concrete (fireplace) mantel.”
Walter Jennings was president of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, and the Jennings Family visited many parts of the world in the early 1900s as avid travelers. You can find touches of their travels incorporated throughout Villa Ospo.
“Whimsy from their family trips that stands out as a personal touch to their home away from home. In the loggia of the courtyard are reminders of their adventures — a small blue relief of an Egyptian Pharaoh is above one door; and a tile featuring a hare, possibly Spanish, are just tucked away as their personal reminders of their adventures,” Greminger says.
Villa Ospo was rehabilitated by the Jekyll Island Authority in 1998, but it wasn’t until the landscape of the cottage was restored in 2001 that many people even began noticing this beautiful home.
Today, Villa Ospo is available for special events coordinated through the Jekyll Island Museum and provides one of the most unique locations for weddings and receptions on Jekyll Island.
For lovers of old homes, Brunswick is an ideal place to live. With diverse architectural styles, home sizes, and plenty of charm, the Historic Districts of Old Town and Windsor Park have plenty to offer spanning from the late 1860s through the early 1950s. Gothic, Italianate, Stick, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Prairie, Tudors, and many more sit along the oak-lined streets and overlook parks and squares throughout the city. These homes have seen the city through boom and bust, hurricanes and yellow fever, and have survived to become the muse for their owners today.
No. 8 Hanover Square is one of those muses. The stately Second Empire architecture is nestled on the southern side of Hanover Square. Built by Dr. William Berrien Burroughs around 1880, the house draws in passersby with its mansard roof and unique tower. Dr. Burroughs was a descendant of U.S. Senator John Berrien, who is the namesake of Berrien County.
Burroughs, a prominent figure in Brunswick, never lived in the home, having built it for the three Hazlehurst sisters of Waynesville — relatives of his wife, Eliza. The home stayed in the family until 1993, having passed to a nephew, Clyde Taylor Jr. Taylor, owner of Taylor Amusement Company, served as Mayor of Brunswick in the 1970s. His wife, Hildreth, was involved in starting the Brunswick Library.
Since 2000, Julie and Mike Martin have owned the home and lovingly restored the property in 2011.
“I grew up in an old home in Atlanta designed by Philip Schutze, but I didn’t start to love old houses until later in life,” Julie Martin says.“The craftsmanship, the detail, and the time it took to build this makes me appreciate the work more.”
Her interest in living in a historic home in Brunswick was spurred by a happy accident. Although she had lived on St. Simons since the mid-1990s, she had never visited the Old Town Historic District in Brunswick.
“One day, I had to drop something off at the old Glynn Middle School and got turned around. Oh my gosh, what a find!” she recalls.
Martin began looking for a home almost immediately. When she first found No. 8, she says she walked in and fell in love with it.
Since moving to Brunswick, Martin has become heavily involved in the city. She is a co-founder and executive director of Signature Squares, a nonprofit dedicated to the renovation and preservation of Brunswick’s 14 historic squares.
“As a Realtor who specializes in the Historic District, my appreciation and admiration for the true craftsmen who built during Brunswick’s early years continues to grow. Brunswick has a very rich assortment of historic homes mixed within both Old Town and New Town as well as other picket areas,” she says.
Since 2012, Martin has also served as a city commissioner. “It seems to be something about this house leads people into politics,” she says.
In the Golden Isles, we are surrounded by history. Sometimes we are drawn to these homes when we see a familiar architectural detail, a crazy pattern of cypress shingles, or a swing on a front porch. Sometimes, we fall in love with the stories of the others who have been in these homes before us, creating a strong bond and need to steward the home so others can enjoy what it has to offer.
For many of us, we just enjoy living in a home with a history.