July 07--The final piece of Jekyll Island's historic preservation puzzle is being put into place. The Skeet House, once sheltered by trees and out of sight, has been moved to the center of the historic district, piece by piece, and is being put back together with a little financial help.
What was in the planning stages for several years finally began last summer when the Jekyll Island Foundation started fundraising for the two-phase project, says foundation executive director Dion Davis.
Around $46,000 was raised for the first phase, thanks to preservation fees collected by the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the Beachview Club and the former Oceanside Inn and Suites, as well as contributions from generous donors.
"The first phase was to take it physically from the woods, inspecting every piece of wood and brick and deciding what's usable, bringing what's usable here, deciding what to do with parts that weren't usable," Davis said as she stood in front of the re-construction of the Skeet House next to DuBignon Cottage in the historic district. "About 50 percent of the material was reusable."
Surveying the structure, John Hunter, island director of historic resources and the Jekyll Island Museum, said he wishes more of the original materials could have been used, but the most important part was that the essence of the structure remains intact. "Once it's painted up and some of the key elements are put back in, like the doors, which are really spectacular, it will come to life," Hunter said. "It will preserve the story, which is another important part of this project."
That story dates back to the late 1920s and early 1930s when the Skeet House was built, Hunter says. As if it wasn't obvious from its name, the location served as a club house for the skeet and trap range for the Jekyll Island Club. It was like the "man cave" for the island, Davis and Hunter agreed.
"This was basically kind of a club house where they could sit by the fire, warm up, go out and shoot, chat, have a good time," Hunter said. "But after the club closed, like many of the facilities (left behind), it was just left to its own."
The building served as a first and short-term home of the Jekyll Island Arts Association in the 1960s, and then as a Boy Scout Hut for just as short of a time. The mid to late 1970s is the last time Hunter could find any record of the property being used or maintained.
It remained idle for some 40 years and buried in the woods of Jekyll Island.
Most recently, the Jekyll Island Authority and museum staff utilized it to help teach preservation students, but they wanted to bring it back to life.
It was the last historic structure outside of the historic district still standing, and the goal was to find a way to bring it into the existing district.
"We realized we're always in need of classroom and workshop space between the (Georgia Sea) Turtle Center and the museum, and we felt that if we located it centrally, it would be easy to get to from both locations. In times when it's not being used, we'll be able to open it up and have an exhibit on the walls that tells the hunting and sporting history of Jekyll Island," Hunter said.
Though the Jekyll Island Club began as a hunting club, Hunter says it's not a part of the island's history that is actively shared. With the Skeet House now along the path of the museum trolley tour, right by island shopping opportunities and historic buildings guests often visit, it's certain to become better known.
"Hunting and outdoor sports were really a major part of the whole story. eing able to centrally tell that story in one place will really add to our guests' experience," Hunter said.
Jekyll Island Foundation Executive Director Davis said phase one should be completed by the end of July and fundraising for phase two -- working on the inside and aesthetics of the structure -- is ongoing.
The foundation hopes to raise at least $70,000 for the project and would like to complete it by June 30, 2015, Davis said.
-- Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.
You can help
For information on how to donate, visit the Jekyll Island Foundation's web page on the Jekyll Island website, jekyllisland.com.
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