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Power Plant, Circa 1903

Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District
Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation 2008 Award Nomination, Rehabilitation Category

When Jekyll Island’s Power Plant was first built in 1903, it brought electricity to the island.  Today, it has energized the community in a whole new way.

Prior to this project, The Power Plant was one of five buildings within the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District that had not been placed into active use.  Constructed in 1903 by the George A. Williams Company, the 5250 square foot Power Plant housed the electrical generators for the Jekyll Island Club and its associated structures.  Even though the Power Plant is a brick structure, it exhibits the Greek Revival style.  The application of this style in brick utility buildings outlasted the trend as a residential style, and bridged the gap until other Classical revivals (such as Neoclassicism and Beaux-Arts) brought the Greek and Roman forms back into vogue.  Its simple lines were appropriate for a utility building and provided relatively easy ways to employ decorative bricklaying techniques, such as full height pilasters around the entire building and pediment, dentil cornice, frieze and architrave, while the temple plan was useful for a large open interior space in which to house machinery.powerplant2

After the purchase of Jekyll Island by the State of Georgia in 1947, the building was primarily used as a warehouse and then as a leased retail facility until 2001.  In order to adapt the Power Plant for compatible use, a number of intensive repairs need ed to be made to the building following the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties including, but not limited to: roof replacement, structural engineering, re-pointing masonry, wood repair/conservation and replacement, painting, electrical system replacement, HVAC design and Installation, plumbing installation, and landscaping.

When the preservation crew, exhibit design team, and aquarists completed their work on the building, the Power Plant became the new home of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, whose mission is to provide care for sick and injured sea turtles and to share the challenges sea turtles face with the public.  The community rallied around the project, making donations, assisting with fundraising events, buying personalized bricks for the “Walkway to Wonder,” and attending the popular summer Turtle Walks.

“We are all excited by the way the project has taken shape and the level of interest we have received from all around the state and all over the country,” said Cindy McDonald, the Director of the Jekyll Island Foundation, which has been instrumental in helping the Georgia Sea Turtle Center become a reality.

McDonald discovered that there is a lot of excitement from the public about having personal encounters with sick and injured sea turtles and helping them to thrive here.  There is also a great deal of support for saving another building in the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District, McDonald acknowledged.  McDonald said that the Jekyll Island Foundation initially determined that the Power Plant was the perfect space for the new Sea Turtle Center, because being considerate of the environment is what both the Jekyll Island Foundation and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center are all about.

The rehabilitation work was performed by Preservation Trades of Virginia.  These contractors replaced the roof in its entirety.  They had to completely dismantle sections of the failing southern side brick wall and reassemble the wall.  They also restored original doors and windows, and reproduced windows that had been removed from the building over the years.

GSTC_2 The Power Plant is now used as a combination of exhibit space, hospital, office, and gift shop, all rolled into one. We have a wonderful new educational facility on the island that will benefit the environment and the community.

The project has preserved a valuable historic structure and put it back into use.  It’s a win-win situation for us all.