|The Reynolds mansion, a progression: 1. Sallie Spalding's sketch 1958 2. Post Civil War ruins 1900 3. Hunting lodge 1912 4. Today 2013 (Source for photos 1-3 here)|
Today, the grounds are shaded by ancient live oaks, sunlight filtering through the Spanish moss to cast shadows on the manicured landscaping. The often photographed sunken pool was full on our visit, with the two giant Spanish water jars and Carrara marble statues present, but alligators thankfully absent. We passed under four huge Ionic columns (the original house had six) and across the front piazza through enormous doors into the great hall, from where rooms split off in all directions.
|The dining room|
The left wing contains the library, complete with many volumes from Mr. Reynolds' private collection.
Continuing beyond the hall and its ornate fireplace is the pool room, which originally was a “sun parlor” and now is again, as the pool is not operational and is covered by a faded carpet. Formerly the marble swimming pool was tiled with emerald green and blue, and at the end was a fountain which sprayed water over a statue of a bathing girl. Using a little imagination I could imagine how it looked in its heyday, light streaming in through the many windows and greenhouse-style roof, with the marble sculptures looking down on the swimmers…
We wandered down a spiral staircase and emerged in the lounge, which opens into the rec room. Nautically themed, there is a boat-bar at one end, but the eye-catching feature is the bowling alley. Modern-day guests can play billiards and table tennis.
On the second floor are the living quarters. One suite was occupied by President and Mrs. Coolidge on their visit to Sapelo in 1928, and the adjoining bedroom was the president’s office with a private line directly to the White House. Together, the Mansion can accommodate up to 29 guests in 13 bedrooms; for more information on rates and availability, check the Georgia DNR website.
Our time in the mansion was soon up, and we stepped out to the terrace for a few moments while awaiting the rest of our group. It was easy to imagine facing the ocean from this location; the island is actually “moving” south, so sand is eroding at the north end and being deposited at the south, meaning the beach is no longer visible from the house. Ocean view or not, the mansion and grounds have fueled my dreams of Southern teas and debutante balls. As we continued our tour, I imagined the silence returning to the grounds, the alligators free to reclaim their vigil over this grand old dame of the South.
More on Sapelo Island:
An Introduction, Nanny Goat Beach and the Hog Hammock community
The Sapelo Island lighthouse
A short history of the island
Your guide to visiting Sapelo Island