Hidden in Plain Sight

Hidden in Plain Sight

A new discovery adds to the old-world magic of Hollybourne Cottage


For decades, a team of contractors, preservationists, and volunteers has worked to restore Hollybourne Cottage, a grand Jacobethan-style home built on the western side of Jekyll Island in 1890 by prominent bridge engineer Charles Stewart Maurice. The team has uncovered many important relics in the 12,271-square foot space, including the family’s original dining room table. But it wasn’t until 15-year-old Lawrence “Braswell” Bryant toured the home in 2018 with his grandmother, Lisa Eldridge of Fourth Street Design (who worked on the home’s exterior rehabilitation), that one of the most remarkable discoveries was made.

“Braswell asked me about some drawings on the third floor,” recalls Taylor Davis, historic preservationist for the Jekyll Island Authority. Davis initially thought Bryant was referring to graffiti on that level—a heart that reads “Pam + Bobby, 1970.”

But what Bryant was looking at was dated 1902.

“I have to admit, I didn’t believe him,” Davis laughs.
“But there they were. We had walked past them 10,000 times.” 

The drawings, in graphite pencil, are two silhouettes signed by 14-year-old Emily Maurice and her presumed friend Alice Stickney, dated February 15, 1902. The outline of a shoe and a delicate hand also adorn the plaster wall, along with the lyrics of an 18th century French folk song, Au Clair de la Lune, handwritten in French.

“One of the girls would have been standing by the wall, with another outlining her silhouette,” Davis explains. While it seems possible the girls may have traced the silhouettes “by the light of the moon,” as the title of the song suggests, Davis believes the girls likely used kerosene lamps. The entire area of the drawing is approximately 4 feet wide by 30 inches high and located in a small alcove in the servant’s quarters.

“As a preservationist, I’m looking for lots of things, but I’m not always looking for pencil marks, and especially not at knee-height,” says Davis, who had been working as the lead preservationist at Hollybourne Cottage for about a year before the drawings were discovered. “It took someone around the girls’ age—Braswell—to see what we were missing.”

The drawings are a glimpse into the magical world of Hollybourne Cottage in its prime, when it was the center of club society. Maurice and his wife, Charlotte, often hosted elaborate dinner parties and events in the expansive space, designed by Maurice in the same way that he designed bridges, using wooden trusses and long steel tie-rods to support the second floor, allowing for large, open entertaining areas below. 

While little else is known about the drawings, it’s easy to imagine Emily, her seven siblings, and their friends playing upstairs during these grand events, or perhaps being cared for by servants, while music and laughter emanated from below.

Charlotte Touzalin and Emily Maurice on the steps of Hollybourne. Photo courtesy Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

According to Davis, the Maurices are the only family that was a founding member of the Jekyll Island Club who remained on the island until 1947, when the state of Georgia bought the island through eminent domain. The family vowed never to return to Jekyll after that, a promise kept by the family until 2017, when descendants
gathered at Hollybourne Cottage for the wedding of Holly Maurice McClure and Joe Martin.

“It was the family’s first taste of seeing what we had done,” says Davis. “They seemed to be excited about the ongoing preservation efforts of their family home.”

Hollybourne Cottage is open for tours. Davis says that while ongoing preservation projects in the house may limit accessibility to the third floor at times, visitors who are
interested in seeing the drawings may request to do so. 

This article first appeared in Volume 5 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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