The People’s Paradise: Jekyll Island’s Diamond Jubilee

Seventy-five years ago, Georgia created a public land unlike any other


Illustration courtesy of the Jekyll Island Authority

On Jekyll Island, history runs deep beneath the driftwood-littered sand. Native American pottery fragments hail from the late Archaic period. Tabby ruins date back to the Colonial era. The winter residences of Rockefellers and Vanderbilts stand as Gilded Age relics. It’s safe to say “75th anniversary” is an undersell.

Photo courtesy of the Jekyll Island Authority

Still, 1947 was a game-changer for this Golden Isle: The state of Georgia purchased it from the elite but fading Jekyll Island Club, creating an island-sized state park where “the plain people of Georgia” could vacation and even live, but restricting development to one-third of the land. Today, Jekyll’s eclectic human footprint—a Victorian historic district, midcentury ranch houses, oceanfront hotels, and a 4-H camp—remains secondary to its wild beauty. This fall, Jekyll will celebrate its diamond jubilee with a special retrospective exhibition at Mosaic, the island’s history museum, and by staging old-school bands and a fireworks show at its annual Shrimp & Grits festival (November 2–4).