Dawn of the Condo

Dawn of the Condo

Sans Souci construction

One of the nation’s first condominiums is still a genteel retreat

By Jeanée Ledoux

The French name means “worry-free.” That’s just how the early owners of Sans Souci, including the banker J. P. Morgan, intended to spend their winter getaways on Jekyll Island. In 1896, members of the Jekyll Island Club completed the apartment building, characterized by stately turrets and moss-colored cedar shingles, at a time when their exclusive organization owned Georgia’s smallest barrier isle.

Sans Souci was originally divided into six units and is considered, along with the Rembrandt building in Manhattan, to be one of the nation’s first condominiums. The associates broke ground 100 yards from the bustling Jekyll Island Clubhouse, where they relished rounds of billiards and meals cooked by a French chef. In their private condos, they valued views of oyster-rich waters and above all, it seems, some peace and quiet. “They didn’t want kids running around the hallways,” says Taylor Davis, a historic preservationist with the Jekyll Island Authority, so they turned away potential buyers with young children.

The owners visited their vacation homes throughout the Depression, but they were forced to abandon them during World War II, when the Atlantic coast was being patrolled for foreign submarine activity. Sans Souci, still stocked with fine oil paintings and imported carpets, sat mostly vacant until 1986, when two friends embarked on a historically accurate renovation as part of a hotel venture.

Today, Sans Souci is a twenty-four-room property operated by the Jekyll Island Club Resort, which continues to preserve original features such as leaded glass windows, a winding oak staircase, and the octagonal skylight above it. Now anyone can enjoy this time capsule built by millionaires. Guests can even—gasp!—bring their children.

This article first appeared in Volume 3 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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