Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

The Rest of the Story

Thursday April 17, 2013
Walkabout Camp and RV Park
Woodbine, GA


Cumberland Island Part II

Taking up right where I left off in my first post on our tour of Cumberland Island, (read it here for continuity) we’re now finished visiting the Settlement.



Roy turns our van around and we head back down the road to catch the stops we didn’t visit on the way up. The first of these is the site of the old dock which brought people to the hotel which was here at the turn of the 20th century. The railroad ran to Brunswick but couldn’t get across the low country of Georgia so from Brunswick you took a steamboat to this dock up on a high bluff. Then a single track rail car pulled by a mule took you to the hotel on the ocean side and the next day another steamboat took you to Fernandina Beach Florida where you could pick up the railroad again to Miami or Flagler’s hotels in St. Augustine.


None of that is here anymore but Roy has pictures of what it was in its hey day.














Today it is cool and very windy on the bluffs overlooking the water.  We can tell from being here that we probably won’t walk out on the beach at the end of the tour.  Too windy.  The cool air and the wind are keeping the bugs at bay though so that’s nice.  And on the main road in the interior of the island, it is quite pleasant.  So many trees are a real protection from these howling winds.







We are back on the road when we have to stop for a couple of horses.  They seem in no hurry at all to let us pass.  But that’s OK since everyone wants to take pictures of them. 







The big stop for the afternoon is at Plum Orchard.



Our next stop is Plum Orchard  a 20,000 foot Georgian mansion  built in 1898 by Lucy Carnegie for her eldest son William and his wife as a wedding present.  The estate is located in the middle of the western shore of the island, 8 miles from Sea Camp in case you want to make the walk up for the tour.  The resident volunteer caretakers, who live in the home, give the tour.  Be sure to check at either the Visitor Center on the Main Land or the Ranger’s Station at Sea Camp to make sure it is being given on the day you are there.  IF you are up to a 16 mile round trip hike.  Or you can rent a bike at the Ranger’s station.

Lucy Carnegie is another of the “strong women” of Cumberland Island along with Katie Greene both of whom continued on, after the deaths of their husbands,  with the running of their husbands’ businesses and the building of homes on the island.  Lucy did not put any of the homes she built on the island for her children in their names.  They all remained in her name until her death in January of 1916.



But first, lunch.

This home is impressively located adjacent to a tidal river amid massive live oak trees.  Our group spreads out on the grounds which have numerous picnic tables for lunch before Roy takes us into the house for the tour.  David wants to sit on the side porch of the house but decides it is too windy.  I pick a spot off of that end of the house, next to the river and under the oaks.  I prefer a table if available, he doesn’t









What a gorgeous setting.   The salt marsh in one direction.  In the other, the oak trees are magnificent draped in spanish moss with their low arching branches sweeping the ground.  Thanks to all the rain, bright green resurrection fern decorates their limbs.   There are wild horses grazing on the lawns.





















We gather at 1:40 to go into the mansion.





Lucy’s son George Carnegie died in 1921 and when his wife remarried many of the household furnishings from Plum Orchard were auctioned off.  The house was subsequently lived in by one of the youngest Carnegie daughter’s heirs and her doctor husband who had an office in the former hall where he took care of the medical needs of the island during the time they were in residence which was only 6 months of the year like all of the Carnegie family. 

The artistic architectural detailing of the house on the original center section is reminiscent of the mansions of Newport RI which we visited this past summer although I don’t think the Carnegies had a home there.  The wings of the house on each side were added later.











The house was furnished after the auction with items from the Dungeness mansion which the heirs had decided not to continue to maintain.  What a shame.  Dungeness was the home of Lucy and Thomas Carnegie, the first house built, and the one in which the children summered.










I am really amazed that they agreed to allow their summer childhood home to fall into ruins. 


Dungeness was located on the southern end of the island and its ruins are not part of the this tour.  You can easily walk there from the first boat landing which we did on our first trip to the island.  Tours are scheduled daily. Take a look at it then and now.






I guess they were spending their money on their own homes.





Step inside Plum Orchard’s front hall where Tiffany lamps hang over the original oak parquet floors and you step back into the Gilded Age. There’s original hand-painted water lily wallpaper in the library; built-in oak drawers labeled for ammo in the gun room.

The main entrance hall of Plum Orchard was lavishly decorated. It was designed to impress the many guests that they entertained, often for extended periods.

The Dungeness pieces shown previously are located here and give it the look of an old English manor house.  And indeed the Carnegies have a gun room and were marksmen.

Were something to happen to this house, it could not be restored as the beautiful woodwork is American Chestnut.


In the original section is the front hall, the dining room, and parlor/library. The gallery and drawing room/music room are in the wings on the first floor.







Decorum must be preserved.

Even here on the wilds of Cumberland Island at the turn of the 20th century you were called to dinner by a bell.  One ring meant 30 minutes to dress for dinner, always a formal occasion.  Sounds like Downton Abbey.  In fact the entire place reminded me a bit of it especially the butler’s pantry and linen closets.










I love that these Tiffany lamps are in the turtle shell pattern.







All the drawers in this chestnut cabinet held different types of ammunition.



The later inhabitant , a doctor, used the left wing hall as his office and this was his apothecary for mixing whatever sorts of potions and salves he used.






We climb the stairs to the second level.

On the second floor, the tour goes to bedrooms, bathrooms, walk-through closets, and dressing rooms. It was a long walk to the closet in the morning.  The  house has 106 rooms including the servants quarters and 18 bathrooms.  This is at the turn of the 20th century for a house used only 6 or fewer months per year.  How the rich do live.







I love the wooden paddled stand up fans too.  This one was in the nursery.






It’s a mighty long upstairs hallway from the center section looking to the far wing. 

Bedrooms and bathrooms galore in this area.  This section of the hallway shows the original color of the original wallpaper.  Probably preserved behind a painting.  I actually like the weathered paper better myself






And where is the servants’ area?  It’s behind and above.


When we go “behind” on the second floor, Roy points out the crystal doorknob on one side and the glass knob on the servants’ side.   Also note the different paint.  This was so that if a guest opened an incorrect door he would know immediately that this was not the section of the house he wanted.   The picture there is of the door to the apartment lived in by the volunteer tour guides.   Sounds like a job I’d like.  But what to do with Winnona?

Also behind, is the elevator which was put in when the house was originally built but never used until the later years of William Carnegie’s illness when he was in a wheel chair.  The Otis elevator is operated by artesian well water and is the only one of its kind still in existence.

The third floor is not open.  It was the servants’ rooms.







Also behind is the extensive linen closet.  Beautiful woodwork. LOTS of linens.




Then, the tour returns to the lower floor to see the kitchen, plating room, and wine cellar. The kitchen is currently undergoing renovation so we could only see the plating room and wine cellar.




Remember now this is 1898.

Our final stop was to the recreation rooms which contain an indoor pool with changing rooms and an indoor squash court for use during inclement weather.  The court picture was taken from the viewing gallery above.






Presenting….the Carnegies.


Before we leave Plum Orchard I thought perhaps you’d like to see Thomas and Lucy and their 9 children.  We owe Lucy, in particular, a debt for tying up the acreage on Plum Orchard until her last child died in the 60’s so that it was not spoiled or developed prior to that time and was therefore available to be “saved” unlike either Jekyll or Hilton Head.

Thomas and LucyP1080426



The family after Thomas’ death.  Lucy is in the middle leaning on the stonework.P1080425



The day is winding down as we head to our last stop.

Our day is almost over as we head back down the road toward our last stop at the Stafford Cemetery.  All along the road both going up and coming back we have seen these pens.  The park service is attempting to trap the wild hogs which are tearing up the island.  There are 6 hunts a year but a wild sow can have 3 litters of a dozen piglets each in a single year.  The odds are staggering against getting these destructive non native animals off the island.








Along the side of the road we come across this young colt and its mother.  Too cute!




There are a few fields maintained by rights holders some of whom have put private air strips on them.  The horses like these for grazing obviously but once the rights are regained by the park service the fields will not be maintained.  Today, their red grasses and wildflowers are very pretty.






We are not the only visitors at the Stafford Cemetery.





Like the Stafford House, the Stafford Graveyard is surrounded by a tabby fence.




Robert Stafford’s grave is the large stone on the right.  His mother and father are the flat stones on the ground.  His children are not buried here although it is rumored that Elizabeth Bernardey – Zebette - who returned to the island from Connecticut where he sent her and their 6 children prior to the civil war, is buried in an unmarked grave next to him.




The wild horses really are everywhere.  We have seen them them along the road and at each stop we’ve made including here.  They are curious and will approach you if you stand still long enough. But they are wild horses and it is best not to put your hand out to them.







We arrive back at the visitor center in time for the 4:00 program on horseshoe crabs designed to round up the troops for the ferry loading at 4:30.





The conditions for today are posted on the wall in the center and it confirms the windy conditions.   I’d love to have one of their tide clocks.  I have room in Winnona.  Hear that Santa??






The boat leaves on time from Sea Camp dock, we take our same spot. 

It stops and picks up folks at the Dungeness dock but there are fewer people going back on the late boat than came over this morning.  Some must have left on the mid day boat and others are camping and staying over night.   We have the booth all to ourselves.  All the easier to stretch out for a nap.

Except for the law enforcement rangers who live on the island, interpretive park rangers ride to and from the island each day.  They are huddled up outside on the non windy side at the back of the boat.  I guess they are about talked out for today.  






Our time on the island and the tour turned out to be just as terrific as we thought.  We’re really glad we were able to go since rain and more rain is predicted for tomorrow and Saturday.   This will definitely not be our  last trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore.  What a treasure!


  1. I think that was the best $60 you spent this month :) What a great tour! Someday we might take this tour and if so, it will be because of you :) Thanks!

  2. That looks like a very deep indoor pool. I think my air card would have a heart attack if I tried to publish 78 pictures in a blog post. :O

  3. What a wonderful day! You saw a lot more than I remember on the island. We didn’t take a tour—we kind of hoofed it on our own. We did enjoy the ruins and the horses running on the beach. Amazing the opulence of those days. Jekyll’s “cottages” are interesting, but unfortunately, it didn’t remain as untouched as Cumberland. Still, we enjoyed Jekyll and as crowded as St. Simons can be, we enjoyed our time spent on that island as well.

  4. Holy Moly! What a day you had! Word of the day: Opulence!

    Virtual hugs,


  5. The photo of the dining room table, chairs and buffet startled me! That is the same designs we had as I was growing up and was there when I got married. I can remember having to dust in all spaces that had been carved out.

    What a cool tour and all those wild horses. The houses....ehhh. I love my home on wheels.

  6. What a wonderful tour. We lived less than 400 miles from there in Pensacola and always wanted to go but work and life got in the way. If we ever get back at least we know we need to plan well in advance.

  7. Interesting to tour these Grandiose homes but I'll stick with my RV too. Sure was a good tour. Gotta love Park Rangers that know their stuff.

  8. Wow! What a great tour thru your blog. We'll definitely put this on our "to see" list when we're in the area some day. Thanks.

  9. Glad it all worked out and you were able to get on the tour, leave the bugs at home and take us along;o)) Really love the wild horses and the magnificient Live Oaks!! Looks like your new camera is a winner...great photos!!!

  10. Sometimes you do one of these tours and it turns out to be just meh ... this one was worth the price of admission.

  11. What an amazing place, great virtual tour for your readers. I think it's better than Downton Abbey! :c)

  12. Wow! I missed put. Reminds me of the biltmore. What lavishness. Interesting wallpaper and beautiful wood. I wish I'd been there too! Fantastic virtual tour through!

  13. Wow what a tour..... That must have been a marathon to put this post together!! It makes me happy to think how little time it takes to clean my little home up.... Can you imagine the hours the staff would need to clean that beautiful monster. I could lose things in there for centuries!! Great tour!

  14. That is one for the books, such a great place! I'm sure we'll go there at some point!

  15. I loved this tour. I find these houses that the rich lived in to be very interesting. We loved Biltmore and this one looks very similar.

    You managed to capture the live oaks very well. I can never quite get them to come out like I see them, but you did good here!

    I guess Judy must have counted your pictures so after reading her comment, and thinking there couldn't have been that many pictures, I went back and started to count. I lost count so I guess we'll have to trust her count of 78 photos!

    I like all the pics because you use them to show what you are talking about and I appreciate the visuals to go along with the story.

    Love the horses. We have tried to go there twice, but the weather didn't cooperate either time. Thanks for the wonderful tour.

  16. That was all worth waiting for!! Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed description.

  17. wow… looks cool and windy BUT still very pretty ~ free roaming horses? how cool is that… look at his/her face … aw…

    How interesting is the elevator… operated by water! I never.

    Nothing wrong your memory either… lots of information ..

  18. LOVE reading all of your posts, especially the ones from Cumberland. We too took the tour with "Ranger Roy" and loved every minute of it. Cumberland is truly a magical place!

  19. I can't imagine it being any more magical in person than you have managed to capture in your photos and narrative. What a great treasure, thanks so much for sharing.

  20. I am with David. Lunch on the porch of Plum Orchard seems like a grand idea. What a place. I had no idea about the magic of Cumberland Island. The pastoral scenes with the grand oaks and wild horses should be framed. Gorgeous photos.


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