An Exploration of Cumberland Island

Historical Legacy

The legacies of the Greenes and the Carnegies fall to the other extreme. Roots reach deep for Dungeness, the dream home of Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene. He died before it was completed in 1803, but his wife Caty and family enjoyed the tabby mansion and sweeping estate grounds. Brother and partner of Andrew Carnegie, the Pittsburgh steel magnate, Thomas Carnegie purchased the grounds after failing at an attempt to buy property on Jekyll Island. Only ruins stand today, the building burnt to the ground-suspected arson in the 1950s. But the grand grounds and stately walls recall its better days while wild horses browse the lawn.

Plum Orchard Mansion — battered but beautiful and still standing — best captures the spirit of the turn-of-the-century industrialist family. Volunteer Joyce Seward — a legend herself, with more than 5,000 hours of volunteer time in the past few years — escorts us on a leisurely tour of the 125 room mansion, built for Carnegie's son George. Vaulted ceilings, unique wallpaper, and eclectic furnishings pepper the mansion, which is in dire need of repair."We received the buildings intact," said Joyce, "but there were no funds for maintenance. Keep that in mind if you will a building to the government!" Plans to renovate the 1898 mansion are in motion, but paint peels and wood rots until work gets under way. The Carnegie stamp on the island is permanent. Family members are laid to rest in a quiet forest, their unspoiled dunes, expansive savannas, and delicate maritime forests passed on to the National Park Service in 1971 for the enjoyment of the American public.

And enjoy it we do.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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