|St. Simons, Georgia|
|o Total||17.7 sq mi (45.8 km2)|
|o Land||15.9 sq mi (41.2 km2)|
|o Water||1.7 sq mi (4.4 km2)|
|Elevation||10 ft (3 m)|
|o Density||799.4/sq mi (308.7/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|o Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0322308|
St. Simons Island or simply "St. Simons" is a barrier island and census-designated place (CDP) located on St. Simons Island in Glynn County, Georgia, United States. The community and the island are interchangeable, known simply as "St. Simons Island", or locally as "The Island". St. Simons is part of the Brunswick, Georgia Metropolitan Statistical Area, and according to the 2010 census, the CDP had a population of 12,743.
Located on the southeast Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, St. Simons Island is both a seaside resort and residential community. It is the largest of Georgia's renowned Golden Isles (along with Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and privately owned Little St. Simons Island). Visitors are drawn to the Island for its warm climate, beaches, variety of outdoor activities, shops and restaurants, historical sites, and its natural environment.
In addition to its base of permanent residents, the island enjoys an influx of both visitors and part-time residents throughout the year. The 2010 Census notes that 26.8% of total housing units are for "seasonal, recreational, or occasional use". The vast majority of commercial and residential development is located on the southern half of the island. Much of the northern half remains marsh or woodland. A large tract of land in the northeast has been converted to a nature preserve containing trails, historical ruins, and undisturbed maritime forest. The tract, Cannon's Point Preserve, is open to the public on specified days and hours.
Originally inhabited by tribes of the Creek Nation, the area of South Georgia that includes St. Simons Island was contested by the Spaniards, English and French. After securing the Georgia colony, the English cultivated the land for rice and cotton plantations worked by large numbers of African slaves, who created the unique Gullah culture that survives to this day.
|St. Simons Island|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
St. Simons Island is part of a cluster of barrier islands and marsh hammocks between the Altamaha River delta to the north, and St. Simons Sound to the south. Sea Island forms the eastern edge of this cluster, with Little St. Simons on the north, and the marshes of Glynn plus the Intracoastal Waterway to the west.
St. Simons is located at  midway between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, and approximately 12 miles (19 km) east of Brunswick, Georgia, the sole municipality in Glynn County and the county government seat.(31.161250, -81.386875),
The Köppen Climate Classification System rates the climate of St. Simons Island as humid subtropical. Ocean breezes tend to moderate the island climate, as compared to the nearby mainland. Daytime mean highs in winter range from 61 to 68 °F (16 to 20 °C), with nighttime lows averaging 43 to 52 °F (6 to 11 °C). Summertime mean highs are 88 to 90 °F (31 to 32 °C), with average lows 73 to 75 °F (23 to 24 °C). Average rainfall is 45 inches per year. Rainfall is greatest in August and September, when passing afternoon thunderstorms are typical. Accumulation of snow/ice is extremely rare. The last recorded snow on St. Simons was in 1989. The island is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9a.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 17.7 square miles (46 km2), 15.9 square miles (41 km2) of which is land and 1.7 square miles (4.4 km2) of it (10 percent) is water.
On St. Simons Island, a diverse and complex ecology exists alongside residential and commercial development. The island shares many features common to the chain of sea islands along the southeastern U.S. coast...sandy beaches on the ocean side, marshes to the west and maritime forests inland. Despite centuries of agriculture and development, a canopy of live oaks and other hardwoods draped in Spanish moss continues to shade much of the island. The abundance of food provided by the marshes, estuaries and vegetation attracts a varied assortment of wildlife on land, sea and in the air.
Commonly sighted land and amphibious animals include white-tailed deer, marsh rabbits, raccoons, minks, alligators, armadillos, terrapins and frogs. Overhead, along the shore and in the marshes, an extensive variety of both native and migratory shorebirds can be seen year-round. Species include sandpipers, plovers, terns, gulls, herons, egrets, hawks, ospreys, cormorants, white ibis, brown pelicans, and the southern bald eagle.
The area surrounding St. Simons Island and the Altamaha River delta is an important stopover for migrating shorebirds traveling between South America and their spawning grounds in the Canadian arctic. As a result of all this avian activity, Gould's Inlet and East Beach on St. Simons Island is a designated stop on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail.
The waters off St. Simons Island are likewise home to a great variety of sea life, including dolphins, right whales, a wide diversity of gamefish, and the occasional manatee. On late spring and summer nights, loggerhead sea turtles arrive on the beach to lay their eggs. Nests are monitored and protected by area naturalists, and guided turtle walks are available. Shrimping is still important to the region, and shrimp boats are often seen just off the beaches.
Like most barrier islands, St. Simons Island beaches are constantly shifting as tides, wind and storms move tons of sand annually. Along with umbrellas and folding chairs, beach-goers can encounter fast-moving ghost crabs, sand dollars, giant horseshoe crabs, and moving conch shells powered by resident hermit crabs. Sea oats and morning glories cover the dunes along East Beach. Jumping mullet and tiny bait fish populate the inshore waters. Dolphin sightings are common, particularly off the island's south coast.
The St. Simons Land Trust is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to land preservation on St. Simons Island. Funded by community membership, government grants and local fund-raisers, the Land Trust seeks to acquire and/or preserve land on the island in order to maintain its character and appearance, and to educate the public on the importance and benefits of land conservation. Founded in 2000, the Land Trust had approximately 780 acres (320 hectares) of land under its protection by 2014.
In September, 2012, following an 18-month fund-raising effort, the St. Simons Land Trust acquired a 608-acre tract of undeveloped land in the northeast portion of the island. The acreage includes maritime forest, salt marsh, tidal creek and river shore line, as well as ancient shell middens and remains of the John Couper plantation of the early 19th century.
The Preserve is open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays for hiking, bicycling, bird-watching and picnicking. The Preserve also features a launch site for kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, and an observation tower at the north end.
As of the census of 2010, there were 12,743 people, 6,117 households, and 3,637 families residing in the CDP, occupying a land area of 15.94 square miles (41.3 square kilometres). The population density was 799.4 people per square mile (308.7/km²). There were 9,931 housing units at an average density of 623.0 per square mile (240.6/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 94.8 percent White, 2.8 percent African American, 0.1 percent Native American, 1.0 percent Asian, 1.53 percent from other races, and 0.7 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.2 percent of the population.
There were 6,117 households out of which 19.9 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0 percent were married couples living together, 7.5 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.5 percent were non-families. 34.2 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.06 and the average family size was 2.63.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 16.4 percent under the age of 18, 4.2 percent from 18 to 24, 19.4 percent from 25 to 44, 35.1 percent from 45 to 64, and 25.0 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51.9 years. For every 100 females there were 85.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $77,694, and the median income for a family was $104,044. Males had a median income of $52,536 versus $39,881 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $50,043. About 1.9 percent of families and 3.7 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.4 percent of those under age 18 and 2.9 percent of those age 65 or over.
Just north of the village on St. Simons Island off Mallery Street is a park of oak trees named St. Simons Park. On the southern edge of the oaks, along a narrow lane, is a low earthen mound where 30 Native Americans are buried. The men, women and children interred there lived in a settlement on the site two centuries before the first European contact.
The first inhabitants of St. Simons were the Mocama, who lived there during fishing season about 2,000 BC. It is not known what they called themselves. The much later historic tribe, who encountered the Europeans, became known as the Timucuan. The tribe and its people persist. Arising from the prehistoric Mississippian culture that flourished over much of the Southeast, the eastern Timucuan had a territory ranging along the coastal plain of southeast Georgia and northern Florida. Their complex and loose confederacy was made up of seven distinct tribal groups that spoke at least five dialects of the Timucuan language.
During the early Spanish colonial period, St. Simons Island was the northern boundary of the tribal and Spanish mission province known as Mocama, which extended southward to the St. Johns River in present-day Florida. Its name was taken from that of the dialect of the people. The town of Guadalquini was located on the south end of the island at the site of the present-day lighthouse. The Spanish applied the town's name to the island as well.
Fort Frederica, now Fort Frederica National Monument, was built beginning in 1736 as the military headquarters of the Province of Georgia during the early English colonial period. It served as a buffer against Spanish incursion from Florida.
Nearby is the site of the Battle of Gully Hole Creek and Battle of Bloody Marsh, where on July 7, 1742, the British ambushed Spanish troops marching single file through the marsh and routed them from the island. This marked the end of the Spanish efforts to invade Georgia during the War of Jenkins' Ear.
It has been preserved in the 20th century and identified as a national historic site largely by the efforts of Margaret Davis Cates, a local resident who contributed much to historic preservation. She helped raise more than $100,000 in 1941 to buy the site of the fort and conduct stabilization and some preservation. It was designated as a National Monument in 1947.
In the 1730s St. Simons served as a sometime home to John Wesley, the young minister of the colony at Savannah. He later returned to England, where in 1738 he founded the evangelical movement of Methodism within the Anglican Church. Wesley performed missionary work at St. Simons while he was still in the Anglican Church, but he was despondent about failing to bring about conversions. (He wrote that the local inhabitants had more tortures from their environment than he could describe for Hell). In the 1730s John Wesley's brother Charles Wesley also did missionary work on St. Simons. In the late eighteenth century, Methodist preachers traveled throughout Georgia as part of the Great Awakening, a religious revival movement led by Methodists and Baptists. They converted African-American slaves as well as British and European colonists.
On April 5, 1987, fifty-five members from St. Simons United Methodist Church were commissioned, with Bishop Frank Robertson as first pastor, to begin a new church on the north end of St. Simons Island. This was where John and Charles Wesley had preached and ministered to the people at Fort Frederica. The new church was named Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica.
In 1778 Colonel Samuel Elbert was in command of Georgia's Continental Army and Navy. On 15 April he learned that four British vessels (the naval vessels HMS Galatea and HMS Hinchinbrook, and the hired vessels Rebecca, and Hatter) from East Florida were sailing in St. Simons Sound. Elbert commanded about 360 troops from the Georgia Continental Battalions at Fort Howe to march to Darien, Georgia. There they boarded three Georgia Navy galleys: Washington, commanded by Captain John Hardy; Lee, commanded by Captain John Cutler Braddock; and Bulloch, commanded by Captain Archibald Hatcher.
On 18 April they entered Frederica River and anchored about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Fort Frederica. The next day the galleys attacked the British vessels. The Colonial ships were armed with heavier cannon than the British and the galleys also had a shallow draft and could be rowed. When the wind died down, the British ships had difficulty maneuvering in the restricted waters of the river and sound. Two of the British ships ran aground and the crews escaped to their other ships. The battle showed how effective the galleys could be in restricted waters over ships designed for the open sea. The victory in the Frederica Naval Action boosted the morale of the colonials in Georgia.
During the plantation era, Saint Simons became a center of cotton production known for its long fiber Sea Island Cotton. Nearly the entire island was cleared of trees to make way for several large cotton plantations. These were worked by African slaves and their descendants. The plantations of this and other Sea Islands were large, and often the owners stayed on the mainland in Darien and other towns, especially during the summers. This season was considered bad for diseases of the lowlands. A concentration of Africans on these islands led to the development of the Gullah people, preserving more remnants of West African ethnic groups than in areas of the Upper South, where African-American slaves were held in smaller groups and interacted more with whites. The Gullah language and culture has survived into the 21st century, although much disrupted through the 20th.
One of the last slave ships to bring slaves from Africa docked at St. Simons Island, but the slaves rose up against their captors and took control of the ship. At a site now known as Igbo Landing, they threw themselves off the boat into the water and drowned themselves rather than submit to slavery. An original slave cabin still stands at the intersection of Demere Rd. and Frederica Rd. at the roundabout.
During the early stages of the war, Confederate troops occupied St. Simons Island to protect its strategic location at the entrance to Brunswick harbor. However, in 1862, General Robert E. Lee ordered an evacuation of the island in order to relocate the soldiers for the defense of Savannah. Before departing, they destroyed the lighthouse to prevent its use as a navigation aid by Union naval forces. Most property owners and their former slaves then retreated inland, and the Union army occupied the island for the remainder of the war.
Postwar, the island plantations were in ruins, and landowners found it financially unfeasible to cultivate cotton or rice. Most moved inland to pursue other occupations, and the island's economy remained dormant for several years. Former slaves established a community in the center of the island known as Harrington.
Saint Simons' first exports of lumber occurred after the Naval Act of 1794, when timber harvested from two thousand Southern live oak trees from Gascoigne Bluff was used to build the USS Constitution and five other frigates (see six original United States frigates). The USS Constitution is known as "Old Ironsides", as cannonballs bounced off its hard live oak planking.
The second phase of lumber production on the island began in the late 1870s, when mills were constructed in the area surrounding Gascoigne Bluff. The mills supported a vibrant community that lasted until just after the turn of the twentieth century. During this time, lumber from St. Simons was shipped to New York City for use in construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
In contrast to the post-Civil War era, the decline of lumber did not open a new period of economic hardship; for a new industry was taking hold on St. Simons Island. From as early as the 1870s, summer cottages were being constructed on the south end of the island, and a small village was forming to serve them. Construction of the pier in 1887 brought visitors by boat from Brunswick and south Georgia. The Hotel St. Simons, on the present site of Massengale Park, opened in 1888. About a decade later, two hotels were built near the pier. The arrival of the automobile and the opening of the Torras Causeway in 1924 insured the continued growth of tourism on St. Simons, the only one of the Golden Isles not privately held. New hotels were built. Roads were constructed, and tourism became the dominant force in the Island's economy.
On April 8, 1942, World War II became a reality to residents of St. Simons Island, when a German U-boat sank two oil tankers in the middle of the night. The blasts shattered windows as far away as Brunswick, and unsubstantiated rumors spread about German soldiers landing on the beaches. Security measures were tightened after the sinkings, and anti-submarine patrols from Glynco Naval Air Station in Brunswick ultimately ended the U-boat threat. During the war, McKinnon Airport became Naval Air Station St. Simons, home to the Navy Radar Training School. The King and Prince Hotel, built in 1941, was used as a training facility and radar station. It was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
During the postwar years, as resort and vacation travel increased, permanent residential development began to take place on St. Simons Island as well as surrounding mainland communities. The island's population grew from 1,706 in 1950 to 13,381 by 2000.
Visitors have been coming to St. Simons Island since the late 19th century, at first by boat, disembarking at the pier on its south shore, and later by car via the F. J. Torras Causeway. In 1938, the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport opened, serving general aviation. Commercial air travelers arrive via the nearby Brunswick Golden Isles Airport (BQK). Three island marinas accommodate pleasure boaters.
Today, the island is marketed as one of Georgia's "Golden Isles," and visitation occurs throughout the year, but is heaviest in the spring and summer months. Accommodations consist primarily of hotels and private rental homes and condominium apartments, both along the beach and inland. Transportation is provided via taxis and vehicle rentals, including golf carts. Bicycle rentals are also available.
Visitors come to St. Simons Island for its beaches and scenic vistas, water sports, fishing, sailing, golf, historical sites, and laid back lifestyle. The PGA Tour's RSM Classic (formerly McGladrey Classic), is held annually in November at the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island.
Ecotourists come to enjoy the natural surroundings, bird-watching, and Cannon's Point Preserve. Hiking and bicycling are popular year-round activities. St. Simons Island is also a magnet for photographers and painters. Its selection of scenic and historic venues, such as the St. Simons Lighthouse and Christ Church have made the island a popular wedding site.
As a travel destination, St. Simons Island has received recommendations from a number of travel publications and websites, including Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure, Smithsonian Magazine, Coastal Living, Country Living, and TripAdvisor.
The climate on St. Simons Island is conducive to a variety of outdoor sports and activities year-round. Golfing is one of the most popular, with seven golf courses on the island. Public tennis courts are located at Epworth Park and Mallery Park, each with lines marked for pickleball, a fast growing paddle sport. Several island resorts also offer tennis facilities.
Eight public parks are located on the island, with picnic tables, sports fields, and playgrounds. Demere Park features a skate park, and Gascoigne Park offers a disc golf course and a waterfront picnic area. The Neptune Park Fun Zone, on the south end of the island, near the Pier Village, includes a public swimming pool, miniature golf, two playgrounds, picnic tables, and restrooms. The adjacent St. Simons Casino Building hosts weddings, parties, meetings, and is home to the St. Simons Library.
There are beach access points all along the island's Atlantic shoreline, but the most popular are Coast Guard Beach and Massengale Park. Both have restrooms and ADA accessible beach access. Massengale Park also includes picnic tables and a playground.
Hikers, walkers and bikers can enjoy the St. Simons Island-wide Trail System that stretches from the Village area to East Beach and Hampton Point at the north end. Other options include the Alice Richards Botanical Trail in Frederica Park, the John Gilbert Nature Trail just off Frederica Road, the Southeast Georgia Health System Fitness Trail near Gascoigne Bluff, and Cannon's Point Preserve (appropriate clothing and provisions for a wilderness area are recommended). Additional outdoor activities include kayaking, paddleboarding, and horseback riding. Boating and sailing excursions are also available.
Neptune Park includes the Neptune Park Fun Zone and is in the "village" area and adjacent to the pier. Neptune Park was named after Neptune Small, a former slave of Retreat Plantation owner Henry King. King and his brothers fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War and Small went off with King. At the Battle of Fredericksburg (in Virginia), King was killed by the U.S. Army. When night fell and King had not returned, Small went to look for him. He found his body and personally brought it back to St. Simons for burial (at Christ Church). The King family gave Neptune Small 8 acres of their plantation, part of which is now Neptune Park.
A wide variety of creative artists are drawn to St. Simons Island as both residents and visitors. Painters and photographers work to capture the scenic landscape, and their work is on display in several island galleries. Glynn Visual Arts is a non-profit organization serving local artists with exhibits, festivals, and classes in several media including painting and drawing, pottery, photography, mixed media, jewelry, and many others. The Literary Guild of St. Simons Island supports writers with literary and cultural events. A non-profit theater group, The Island Players, schedules productions in the Pier Village Casino Theatre. Craft shows are held throughout the year in Postell Park in front of the Casino Building at the Pier Village.
There is a vibrant music scene on St. Simons Island, with local bands and musicians appearing in several venues, including summertime concerts on the oceanfront lawn by the Lighthouse, and classical music concerts sponsored by the Island Concert Association.
Island history and culture are preserved in a number of local museums and sites:
Novelist Eugenia Price visited St. Simons Island as she was driving from Chicago to Jacksonville in 1961. Fascinated by the island, she spent the next few years doing research that eventually resulted in three novels known as the "St. Simons Trilogy." She lived on St. Simons from 1965 until her death in 1996.
After the Civil War, a number of former African-American slaves remained on St. Simons Island, subsisting on whatever they could harvest from their gardens and the surrounding waters. Many later found jobs with the lumber mills starting in the 1870s. They attended the First African Baptist Church, construction of which was completed in 1869 by former slaves of the St. Simons Island plantations. Regular services are still held today at the original site on Frederica Road, which has been diligently cared for and renovated through the years.
In October 2000, at the First African Baptist Church, a group of island residents and property owners formed the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition to protect and preserve the history and heritage of African-Americans on St. Simons Island. Today, the Coalition conducts tours of historic sites and produces the annual Georgia Sea Islands Festival to celebrate traditional African-American music, food, and crafts. More recently the Coalition, together with Friends of Harrington School has organized a successful fund-raising effort to restore the historic Harrington School House, which was originally built in the 1920s to serve the island's African-American children.
Opened in 2008, the A.W. Jones Heritage Center at 610 Beachview Drive is the headquarters facility for the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. The 10,000 sq. ft. building contains an entrance gallery featuring exhibits, an executive board room, gift shop, a 1,400 sq. ft. event hall available for rent, a research library, and the Society's vast collection of objects, artifacts and archival materials from hundreds of years of coastal Georgia history.
Dedicated in June 1966, the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum and Library is located on the grounds of Epworth By The Sea. It houses a collection of books and historical artifacts related to the early history of St. Simons Island and John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Movement, who arrived on the island with General James Oglethorpe. The Moore Museum is the official repository of the archives of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, and is open to the public Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
Originally planted in 1850 by Anne Page King as the carriage entrance to Retreat Plantation, two rows of live oaks currently grace the entry to Sea Island Golf Club at the south end of St. Simons Island on Retreat Avenue, off Kings Way. Visitors can view the oaks by driving toward the entrance to the Golf Club, then circling back.
At the Battle of Bloody Marsh on July 7, 1742, an outnumbered force of British soldiers ambushed and defeated Spanish troops, halting a planned attack on Fort Frederica. Markers and information panels at this outdoor observation site explain the battle, which permanently ended Spain's claims to the Georgia territory. Located off Old Demere Road, the site is managed by the National Park Service as a unit of Fort Frederica National Monument.
A 600-acre wilderness tract on the northeast corner of St. Simons Island, Cannon's Point is the last remaining undisturbed maritime forest on the island. Owned by the St. Simons Land Trust, the Preserve includes salt marsh, tidal creek, and river shoreline, as well as 4,000-year-old shell middens and ruins of a 17th-century plantation house and slave quarters. The Nature Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the property to insure its preservation for future generations. The Preserve is open to the public during specified days and hours. Visitors are advised to wear clothing appropriate for a wilderness outing, and bring bug spray.
Located on Gascoigne Bluff, Hamilton Plantation was one of the most prosperous plantations on St. Simons Island, growing high quality Sea Island cotton. Of the several slave cabins built on the plantation, two remain today. These slave cabins were constructed of tabby, which is a concrete-like mixture of lime, sand, water and oyster shells. Owned and operated by the Cassina Garden Club, the cabins are open to the public on Wednesdays in June, July and August. Private tours can be arranged at other times.
In 1808 the State of Georgia gave 100 acres (40 hectares) of land on St. Simons to be used for an Episcopal church and its support. Called Christ Church, Frederica, the structure was finished in 1820. During the Civil War, invading Union troops commandeered the small building to stable horses and virtually destroyed it. The church was restored in 1884 by lumber magnate Anson Phelps Dodge, who became the new Church's first rector. Located at 6329 Frederica Road, just south of Fort Frederica National Monument, this historic building is home to an active Episcopal congregation. The adjacent cemetery contains gravesites dating as far back as 1803.
Epworth By The Sea is a 100-acre conference and retreat center owned by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Located at Gascoigne Bluff, the property includes six motels, 12 family apartments, and 13 youth cabins, along with auditoriums, classrooms and meeting rooms. There are four dining rooms and a pre-school/nursery building with fenced playground. An in-season swimming pool, athletic field, covered basketball courts, tennis courts, bicycle rentals and fishing piers provide activities for all ages. Lovely Lane Chapel, constructed in 1880, hosts Sunday services and is available for weddings.
Fort Frederica was established in 1736 by British General James Oglethorpe to defend the southern border of his Georgia colony. The facility was both a fortress and a small town, located on the Frederica River. In 1742, troops from the fort defeated invading Spanish forces at the Battle of Bloody Marsh, which turned out to be decisive in ending Spanish influence and securing the Georgia colony under British rule. By mid-century the troops were withdrawn and the colonists abandoned the town, which then fell into disrepair. In 1945, Fort Frederica was established as a national monument, and is currently operated by the National Park Service.
For almost the entire history of St. Simons Island, Gascoigne Bluff has been a focal point. Long before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans lived and camped on the site. The Spanish also built a mission on or near the area. When General Oglethorpe and the British arrived in 1736, they established a naval facility at the bluff, and granted 500 acres (200 hectares) of its land to Captain James Gascoigne, of the sloop-of-war Hawk, and the name persists to this day. In 1794, lumber from the area was used in construction of the frigate, "Old Ironsides." During the antebellum period of cotton farming, the bluff was the site of Hamilton plantation, of which two slave cabins remain standing today. In the late 19th century, lumber mills thrived at the scene. Today, the bluff is occupied by Epworth By The Sea, and Gascoigne Bluff Park at its southern end, with picnic tables, rest rooms, and a fishing pier.
In 1880, Norman W. Dodge built St. James Union Church at Gascoigne Bluff to serve the lumber mill community. After the mills shut down, the building was deconsecrated in the 1920s and became a social hall. When the Methodists acquired the property in 1949, they renamed it Lovely Lane Chapel. The chapel is currently open to the public for Sunday Worship Service as well as wedding ceremonies. 100 Arthur J. Moore Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522.
The Maritime Center is a museum operated by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society at the former Coast Guard Station located at East Beach on St. Simons Island. The original station was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, and decommissioned in 1995. The facility contains exhibits related to the ecology and military history of the area, including a U-boat sinking of two cargo ships just off the coast in 1942. The center is open to the public 7 days/week.
The original St. Simons Lighthouse, built in 1811, was destroyed by Confederate troops in 1861 to prevent its use by Union sailors. Rebuilt in 1872, it continues to operate today, owned by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society and maintained by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The adjacent keeper's residence Is now a museum operated by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, featuring lighthouse exhibits and a restored keeper's dwelling. Visitors may climb the 129 steps to the observatory for panoramic views of the ocean, nearby islands and the mainland.
The primary housing units on St. Simons Island are single-family homes and condominiums. Prices vary with market trends, but housing is generally available in a wide range of prices, depending on location. In 2010, according to the U.S. Census, there were 9,931 housing units on the island, 6,117 of which were occupied either by the owners (74%) or renters (26%); and 2,662 were held for "seasonal, recreational, or occasional use." Most of the remainder were for rent (6%) or for sale (4%).
Tourism is the primary economic driver in the St. Simons Island economy. Major industries include hospitality, food services and retail, along with service businesses and the professions. The largest employers are the Sea Island Company, King & Prince Resort and Rich Products Consumer Brands Division.
St. Simons Island is part of the Glynn County School District. There are two public schools on the Island: Oglethorpe Point Elementary and St. Simons Elementary, both serving grades PK to 5.
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