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Hollybourne Cottage – Jekyll Island Historic District

Hollybourne Cottage - Jekyll Island Historic District
Hollybourne Cottage

The Maurice family built Hollybourne in 1890, making it one of the first privately-owned homes of the Club era. And the Maurices were the last family to leave, after having lost their home to the state. Charles Stewart Maurice was a bridge builder, so he incorporated some bridge-building techniques in the house. Unique for the era, Hollybourne has very large rooms on the ground floor without columns. Instead, the construction uses trusses. Traditional tabby uses a combination of lime, water, sand, ash, and oyster shells. The lime comes from burning oyster shells. Maurice modified the traditional tabby formula with the then new Portland cement to make it stronger. But he wound up weakening the house by leaving the tabby wooden forms in the walls, which caused rot.

Since the Club members were from the North, they used northern architects who designed the homes with basements. With the high water table, that meant most of these basements were wet. Hollybourne, however, remained dry and to this day requires no sump pump. Renovators theorize that as a bridge builder, Maurice understood water management. In the basement, you can also see pillars with a bridge design that distributes the weight of the home, as well as long beams running along the ceiling for support. You’ll also find the original laundry room.

The Maurices employed a year round staff, and they paid them relatively well. They even provided a pension once they moved away despite their having a “moderate” income compared to many of the other Club members.

Hollybourne Tours

Hollybourne is only open for tours during May, in celebration of National Preservation Month. Although they are guided tours, they allow for exploration of the main floor, second and third floors, and the basement. You’ll see built-in seating areas, such as window seats, throughout the house. The kitchen has the original hood from the stove and a large floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinet. Much of the original oak hardwood floors is intact, though there is very little original furniture. Objecting to the state’s forced takeover of their property, the Maurices collected most of their furniture and disbursed it to friends and neighbors in the area.

You can see the long beams of wood and steel used for support and the trusses that run the length of the three-story home.  The ground floor has three very large rooms: a foyer, a living room, and a dining room.  We estimate that each is around 42′ x 45′, and all are big open areas.  So it is a great venue for weddings.  Although the rooms were big, the two photos in the entryway show they were very eclectically furnished with a couple of nice pieces next to modest wicker chairs.

From outside the home, you can see the Jacobean style architecture, a subset of Tudor. An outside porch, rebuilt to the original plans, graces the side of the cottage. A circular drive led to a landing in the front, high enough for passengers to disembark from carriages.

Hollybourne Restoration

As a National Historic Landmark District, the Jekyll Historic District is one of the largest ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States. All Hollybourne restoration work comes from volunteer labor, although the Jekyll Island Authority provides materials. Even when completed, the project will leave unfinished areas as a demonstration of restoration techniques.

The Maurice Family

The Maurice family’s primary residence was in Pennsylvania. Charlotte Maurice hosted many teas and dinners at Hollybourne, and she kept a diary of what selections each guest didn’t appear to like so to be sure not to serve it to him or her again. Unfortunately, the early club members drained their sewage directly into the Jekyll River. As a result, Charlotte contracted typhoid fever from eating contaminated oysters and died in 1909. After Charles Maurice died in 1924, two of their daughters continued to live in Hollybourne. Except for 1894 and 1895 when yellow fever plagued the area, the Maurices went to Jekyll each winter until the State of Georgia forced them out through eminent domain in the 1940’s. So they were the only family to be part of the Club from its beginning to its dissolution.

The Maurice daughters, Marian and Margaret, tried to fight Georgia’s takeover of the island, and when they lost, they unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a long-term lease. After their eviction, the Maurices were the only family to claim their furniture. They did so not because they wanted to move it but because they didn’t want the state to have it. Then they vowed never to set foot in Georgia again. True to their word, when they acquired a home in Florida, they drove out of their way through Alabama, and they even refused to fly over the state.

Haunted House

Some rumors claim that Hollybourne is the most haunted place on Jekyll, with claims that the Maurice daughters would not permit any reconstruction to start or finish. There are some completed renovations, however, and the ghosts would have broken their vow if they returned to Jekyll for a haunting. People claim there is a ghost of a little girl. So perhaps Peg Maurice came to haunt the home as a child, prior to her promise to stay away.

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