Archive for the ‘Activities on Cumberland Island’ Category

Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum Better Than Ever

September 27th, 2017 by Mary

Cumberland Island Museum Entrance on Osborne Street

The Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum (CINS), which is located in the historic district of St. Marys, Georgia, reopened their doors in July 2017 after being closed for nearly nine months. Hurricane Matthew caused flooding to the park’s mainland museum in October 2016. Although there was minimal damage to the exhibits, the storm prompted a major overhaul of the entire first floor of the building. New and returning visitors are greeted with new flooring, reconfigured exhibits and new artifacts in the main gallery, plus the newly restored and expanded Carriage Room.

Painting of the Stafford Plantation

 

 

The museum showcases the island’s 4,000 years of human history which began with the Timucuan Indians and later included Spanish missionaries, British settlers, early American patriots and enslaved African Americans. When the industrial revolution swept the country, wealthy families like the Carnegies sought solace on the island both as land owners and vacationers. Now visitors to the museum will find wonderful treasures like the fully-restored statue of the god Mercury which once stood on the lawn at Plum Orchard, antique carriages, steamer trunks, fine china and period clothing, all belonging to the Carnegie family members who lived and played on their island paradise. One of the most influential female family members was Lucy Coleman Carnegie, wife of Thomas Carnegie – a strong woman who fought for women’s rights by choosing to enter through doors that read “Gentlemen Only”. One such barrier she broke through was at the New York Yacht Club, where she became the first female member in 1894. She commandeered her own steam yacht named “Dungeness”, which was usually moored at Cumberland Island. One of the family mansions on the island was also named “Dungeness”, the magnificent ruins of which still remain and are one of the main attractions for visitors to the island. 

Statue of Mercury originally stood at Plum Orchard

The other part of the main floor houses an exhibit about the War of 1812. One of the final battles of the war was fought in St. Marys at Point Peter. The exhibit goes into detail about that battle and the impact it had on the town. Visitors can watch a short film on how the battle played out.

The next phase of renovations to the museum will be in the back hallway. One wall will showcase hanging displays, the other will feature artwork. Seven pieces of art were recently sent off for restoration. Another piece that had originally hung in Plum Orchard and was originally slated to go back to the mansion after restoration will now likely be on display at the museum due to needing a climate-controlled environment.

A trip to the CINS is a delight for visitors to St. Marys who are planning a day trip or camping on Cumberland Island. It gives people a great sense of appreciation for the pioneers who settled on the island and gave us such a wonderful rich history that remains encapsulated on our neighboring Cumberland Island. Even if you have visited the museum in the past, it is a delight to return and see what’s new! The museum is open 7 days a week, from 1-4 pm, and admission is free for all.

Lucy Carnegie's Carriage

Lucy Carnegie’s Carriage

Gown worn by one the the Carnegie women, now on display in the Main Gallery.

Gown worn by one of the Carnegie women

Miniature of Plum Orchard Mansion 

Exhibits about Timucuan Indians

 

 

Find Your Park at Cumberland Island

February 4th, 2016 by Mary

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Last week I blogged about the Find Your Park initiative from the National Park Service – this week I want to expand on that by giving you an overview of St. Marys’ neighboring park, Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Accessible only by water transportation, whether you take the Cumberland Island ferry or your own seafaring vessel, Cumberland Island is more than 36,000 acres of almost completely undeveloped wilderness – 9,800 acres of the land is Congressionally designated Wilderness. It is the largest and southernmost barrier island off the coast of Georgia, protecting the mainland from the harshest effects of coastal storms. The west side of the island is bordered by the Cumberland River and Cumberland Sound, both part of the Intracoastal Waterway, and to the east is the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. All sorts of wildlife call Cumberland Island home – from wild horses grazing on the grounds of the Dungeness ruins to ghost crabs hiding in their holes along the beach to shorebirds cruising above the salt marshes. The island also houses numerous ecosystems – the saltwater marshes on the western shore, the maritime forests that cover the island’s interior, or the pristine beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.

Cumberland Island is a nature lover’s paradise – there are 50 miles of hiking trails that meander all over the island and numerous sites for camping, whether you camp at the primitive sites in the Wilderness or at the developed sites with restroom facilities. Bikes are available for rent and can be used on the main road – expect a bumpy ride! If you prefer a more leisurely adventure, explore the 17 miles of white sand beaches while collecting shells and shark teeth that the tide has brought in. The Lands & Legacies van tour is an excellent way to experience the full scope of the island in a day – you are driven by a knowledgeable guide up the single main road to the north end of the island, a 16 1/2 mile journey from Sea Camp Ranger Dock. Along the way you stop at the Settlement, which once was home to African American workers; the First African Baptist Church, where John F. Kennedy, Jr. was married; and Plum Orchard, a fine mansion that once belonged to the Carnegie family at the turn of the twentieth century. These standing structures are evidence of past development on the island. There is another example that is no longer standing – the ruins of the Dungeness mansion, which are on the south end of the island. The first Dungeness was built in the late 1700s; another was built on the same site in 1884 but burned down nearly 80 years later, and since then the ruins have remained undisturbed.

In 1971, most of the owned land on Cumberland Island was given to the National Park Foundation, and the next year it was designated as a National Seashore. Since then, the NPS has endeavored to preserve the island for future generations to enjoy. Only 300 visitors are allowed on the island each day – this includes both campers already on the island and daily passengers on the ferry. Maybe Cumberland Island can be your park, whether you’re a fan of the outdoors or a history buff – there’s something for everyone on this wild piece of paradise. If you’d like more information, visit the Cumberland Island section of our website or the NPS Cumberland Island page.

 

 

Find Your Park

January 27th, 2016 by Mary

 

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2016 marks the National Park Service’s Centennial, and to commemorate the occasion, the NPS has launched a new campaign called “Find Your Park.” The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to personally connect with national parks, wildlife refuges, public land areas, and even National Park Service programs. To get started, potential park visitors can visit the Find Your Park website; they can search for a park based on the experience they would like to have, by location, or through others’ experiences, conveyed through videos from people who are a major part of this initiative, such as Bill Nye, former First Lady Laura Bush, and current First Lady Michelle Obama.

Once people have found “their” park, they are encouraged to share their story. They can upload a photo, video, artwork, or whatever they feel best reflects their experience to the Find Your Park website under “Share Your Park”. For those active on social media, they can share posts on Twitter or Instagram and use #findyourpark to tag their posts.  Users even have the chance to win some amazing prizes – currently there is a video contest running in conjunction with Mashable.com and Playlist Live Orlando, with more contests to come.

The last step is for people to get involved with their chosen park, and the “Support Your Park” section has numerous suggestions – one can join the National Park Foundation or a local Friends Group, make a monetary contribution, or search for a volunteer opportunity.  There are over 400 national parks alone in the United States, so there is no shortage of possibilities.

Want to take part in this campaign? There are two nationally-managed areas right in our backyard for you to discover – first, Cumberland Island National Seashore is a 45-minute ferry ride away from downtown St. Marys. An unspoiled piece of wilderness, Cumberland Island has been preserved and maintained by the National Park Service since the 1970s. The island is rich in beauty as well as history. Visitors can walk on the beach, observe wild horses, explore the ruins of Dungeness Mansion, or take the Lands and Legacies van tour to the north end of the island. The Cumberland Island Visitor Center as well as the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum are in downtown St. Marys and are great places to visit to further enhance your experience. Wild Cumberland and the Georgia Conservancy are two nonprofit groups heavily involved in the continued preservation of the island, if you are looking to volunteer.

The second nearby area is the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, with the Main Entrance located an hour to the west of us in Folkston, GA. Experience the “Land of the Trembling Earth” by hiking the numerous trails, climbing up the observation tower at the end of the Chesser Island Boardwalk, or taking a guided boat ride through the swamp. The Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center is a terrific source of information and education, and for any volunteer opportunities, you can contact the Okefenokee Wildlife League, the official Friends Group for the Refuge.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and find a park near you!

 

Orange Hall – A Beautiful Antebellum Home

July 29th, 2014 by Seth

 orange hall

As you drive into St. Marys you will pass a beautiful white house with big Greek columns and a wide staircase leading up to the porch. This home, Orange Hall, is a favorite among both locals and visitors alike. Prized in the antebellum era, Orange Hall’s size and Greek architecture was unprecedented here in Historic St Marys. Architecture aside, the most dominate feature was the number of large sour orange trees which encircled the property during the early years of its life – providing the name Orange Hall.

Reverend Horace Southworth Pratt, a Presbyterian minister, and his father-in-law, John Wood, purchased the property in 1826. Pratt arrived in St. Marys around 1820 to help start a church. Before construction of the home began, Pratt’s wife died.  Pratt remained in St. Marys and remarried a few years later. In 1839, Pratt, a Yale and Princeton graduate, took a position as a professor at the University of Alabama and left Orange Hall behind. General Duncan Lamont Clinch is thought to have been lived there when Pratt left for Alabama. Pratt may have had intentions of returning to Orange Hall, but he would not have the opportunity because he passed away in 1940.

This would lead to the first change in ownership, and more would follow over the years. The property was then sold in public auction in 1846 to James Monigin Smith. Here is the list of known owners over the years:

1846 – James Mongin Smith

1862 – Francis Adams

1869 – Silas Fordham

1911 – Joel Lee Sweat

1919 – James Howard Becker

1933 – S.C. Townsend – converted upper floors to apartments

1951 – St Marys Kraft Corporation – bought to house paper mill employees for 10 years

1965 – City of St. Marys

Rising two stories above ground, Orange Hall sits atop a lower level basement – housing an old dining hall, servants’ quarters, wine cellar, and kitchen. The main floor boasts a music room parlor, study, tiffany dining room, and front parlor, as well as two original chandeliers from the Becker family, residents in the 1920’s. These chandeliers are the only items that have been left behind by owners of the home over the years. However, the chandeliers are not the only pieces of Orange Hall’s history to see here on this floor.

The original Italian marble fireplaces adorn the parlors. These fireplaces are just 2 of 12 located in the house. The second floor is made up of four bedrooms – the Horsehair room, the Children’s room, the Jacquard/Duvall Room, and the Peg-bed room.

Orange Hall was recorded in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. To preserve the historical significance of the property, the exterior was recently renovated. The house has been restored to look just the way that it did when it was built. As you walk up the front steps on to the expansive porch, you can look to your right and see the First Presbyterian Church. This is the same view that Pratt saw as he climbed those steps back in the 1830’s.

Orange Hall Fireplace and Room

Cumberland Island Lands and Legacies Tour

August 8th, 2013 by Mary

After seven years of planning, The Lands & Legacies tour began August 2011 and has been a must do for Cumberland Island visitors ever since. This much sought after tour takes a limited number of people a day, 16 miles each way – that they would otherwise have to bike or walk, to the north end of this captivating island.  For $15/adult and $12/senior or child – in addition to the ferry fee, day-trippers and campers the like are able to tour historic sites such as, the extravagant Plum Orchard Mansion, the First African Baptist Church (where John F. Kennedy Jr. & Carolyn Bessette were married) and learn about the wilderness and wildlife that live and grow on the island, as well as its intricate human history.

Your tour begins shortly after an enjoyable 45-minute ferry ride on the Cumberland Queen leaving from the St Marys waterfront at 9am and arriving to the Sea Camp dock, the second dock on Cumberland Island. This is where you will meet with your National Park Service ranger/tour guide and load onto a white, 10 passenger, air conditioned van. From there you will embark on a 5-6 hour journey on the rugged unpaved “Main Road”, awe struck with the islands never ending beauty. As your tour continues, be sure to keep an eye out for wild horses, hogs, turkeys and many other forms of wildlife that inhabit the island.

After breaking for lunch, your tour guide takes you through the enchanting Plum Orchard Mansion. Walk through those beautiful white, double doors and you are suddenly taken back to the early 1900’s – greeted by a room so warm and welcoming, you already feel at home. This 22,000 square foot mansion is southern comfort at its best. From dining room to bedrooms and basement to indoor pool, you won’t want to miss a beat.

As the Cumberland Island van tour draws to an end, you are taken back to the Sea Camp dock. If the tour ends early enough, you then have an opportunity to venture to the beach for the remainder of your day on the island or just a mile down the road to Dungeness. Dungeness was another Carnegie mansion, it was burned to the ground in 1959, but the ruins and grounds are just as eye catching. The brick chimneys and stone skeleton still stands as a glimpse into the past of the grandeur that once was Dungeness. Just a short walk away is the Dungeness Dock, where you will catch your 4:45pm ferry back to the St. Marys waterfront – don’t miss the ferry because that’s the last one until morning.

Taking the Lands & Legacies Tour is just one way to experience Cumberland Island National Seashore and its vast natural beauty and history. If you are interested in exploring the island by foot or van tour, reservations are strongly recommended – to make a reservation call 912-882-4335, Monday – Friday between the hours of 10am – 4pm. For more information on Cumberland Island, camping, and tours please visit: www.nps.gov/cuis

 

Cumberland Island Guided Van Tours

August 7th, 2011 by Mckenzie

First African Baptist Church

 The National Park Service has announced they will be starting the guided van tours on Cumberland Island National Seashore. Starting August 11th, they will take visitors on a 16-1/2 mile long tour of the island, stopping at places like the First African Baptist Church, where John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette were married, and Plum Orchard, a mansion with 106 rooms built in the 1800’s. This tour lets you see all the island sites in a single day without walking, but it is a very physically demanding trip as the main road is a dirt road with washboard surfaces in many areas.

Visitors who are taking the “Land and Legacy” tour will spend about 45 minutes or longer at Plum Orchard depending on other stops. Plum Orchard was built by the Carnegie family in the late 1800’s and the  mansion was donated by the family to the National Park Service in 1971.  The mansion still remains in good condition in part due to the volunteers helping to maintain it.  The visitors will be given a tour of the mansion from the spacious bathrooms with unique fixtures, the beautiful Tiffany glass pieces, the lovely wallpaper to other antiques spread throughout the home. The indoor swimming pool and elevator are especially interesting to see because they are original and ahead of their time.
 
The First African Baptist Church became popular with the outside world when JFK Jr. and Carolyn got married there in September 1996. With the Kennedy wedding  being only 20 minutes of the church’s history though, it is interesting to see what else has happened there. During the 1890’s the Settlement was established for African American workers.  The little church sits on the northern end of the island about 17 miles from the Sea Camp dock which is where the tour begins.
 
The Park Service recommends that visitors should bring their own food and drinks in a small bag or backpack as you will be gone for 6 hours. Restrooms stops will be made but will be limited. The tours will be $15 for adults and $12 for Seniors and Children – these costs are in addition to the ferry ride and the park entrance fee.  The Cumberland Island van tours will leave Sea Camp at 9:45am, just after the first ferry docks, and be given rain or shine. To make your reservations for the Cumberland Island ferry or the van tours, please call 912-882-4335, Monday- Friday 10am to 4pm. This truly is a great way to see Cumberland Island National Seashore. Come prepared for a wonderful adventure! 
 
For more information on the ” Lands and Legacies Tour” go to  http://www.nps.gov/cuis/planyourvisit/land-and-legacies-tours.htm.

Cumberland Island Campsites

July 3rd, 2011 by Mckenzie

One of the great camp sites on Cumberland Island

Camping is a great outdoor activity for anyone. The wild horses and gorgeous beach lines make for an amazing camping trip.

Cumberland Island National Seashore has many campsites.  Sea camp is the one developed campground with showers and bathrooms, and the rest are backcountry campsites.  Stafford beach is a primitive campground right near the beach. Brickhill Bluff is a lovely backcountry camp site. It overlooks the marsh and has amazing sunset views.

Reservations are required to camp on Cumberland Island. Trail maps are provided. For more information, contact the National Park Service, 912-882-4336.

White Deer On Cumberland Island

June 29th, 2011 by Mary

White Deer on Cumberland Island

Terry & Betty Ann from Tennessee are wonderful guests that stay with us every year before they head to Cumberland Island to camp for a few nights. They also stay one night coming off the island for a good night’s rest, hot shower and dinner out before heading home.

Terry enjoys hiking and photographing on Cumberland Island and he was able to capture this great shot of a small white deer napping and waiting for its mother to return.

A Wedding Celebration at Spencer House Inn

June 19th, 2011 by Seth

Daphne and Guy Happily Married in the Park

Daphne & Guy were married in the beautiful Howard Gilman Memorial Park. Their simple wedding, with the St. Marys River serving as a beautiful backdrop, turned out to be just right.

We wish Daphne & Guy well!

Take a Tour of the Plum Orchard Mansion

June 2nd, 2011 by Seth

The Plum Orchard Mansion

This Classical Revival style mansion on Cumberland Island was completed in 1898 for George Carnegie as a wedding gift from his mother. When she spoke with the architects who were designing Plum Orchard, she told them that she envisioned a “simple house.” However, Plum Orchard is nothing short of magnificent.

Tours of this wonderful home are offered on the 2nd & 4th Sunday of each month. You will be able to see how the Carnegie’s spent their time on Cumberland Island, how they entertained, how they relaxed, and how they have influenced the area’s rich history. You may even see one of Cumberland Island’s many wild horses on the lawn.

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