Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Plum Orchard Mansion: Treasure or Money-Pit?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Plum Orchard Mansion: Treasure or Money-Pit?

One of the things I miss about teaching the Georgia curricium for fifth grade is my unit called “The Rise of Big Business”. I enjoy talking about men such as Rockefeller, Morgan, and my favorite, Andrew Carnegie. I think what I like most about Carnegie is that he treated his wealth as he should. He lived well, but gave most of it away.

Members of the Carnegie family gave Georgia a tremendous gift in the 1970s when they deeded over a Carnegie mansion called Plum Orchard located on Cumberland Island to the National Park Service. They turned everything over in the mansion which measures 22,000 square feet and has 125 rooms including the furnishings.

Yes, it is clear the National Parks Service has had many resources to work with including original burlap wallpaper, hand-blown Edison lightbulbs, and original Tiffany lampshades, but the mansion has become a bit of a money pit as any “fixer-upper” from the turn of the century would. It seems termite damage has occurred in many of the support beams and parquet flooring, and rust is eating away at many of the support beams. Since home tours are scheduled to begin perhaps as early as this summer large groups could find themselves on quick trip to the dungeon-like maze of rooms in the basement level of the home if extra money is not expended to cure the termite and rust damage.

Give the National Parks Service their due, however. They are attempting to restore the home to its original colors including the bright yellow staircase railings that lead to the second floor. The original burlap wallpaper is being painstakingly cleaned in a job that is estimated will take a total of five months. Soon tourists will be able to view the newly cleaned wallpaper along with a handwritten note that says “Papered by Roy A.D. Pierre, August 30, 1904.”

Thomas Carnegie, the brother of Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, built a home on the island in 1884. His first choice was along Millionaire’s Row on Jekyll Island, but he was unable to do so. Later four more homes were built for his children including Plum Orchard Mansion. Some sites mention that Plum Orchard Mansion was built on the ruins of Dungeness, however, if you look at the map found here it can be determined that Dungeness and Plum Orchard are in different locations. The ruins seen here at Dungeness are the remains of the first house Carnegie built on Cumberland Island. The home burned in the 1950s, and was not rebuilt.

This site and this site give more historical data surrounding the island. An interesting timeline of the island dating back to 1513 (undocumented) can be found here

Prior to the Carnegie home at the Dungeness site there was another Dungeness there. Find out more about it over at History Is Elementary in my post titled Nathanael Greene: Adopted Southern Son.


ellie bee said...

what a cool post! I know so little about Georgia history--being an Alabama native--I really enjoy reading your spot and learning about this cool state! And I love tossing little crumbs of knowledge to my kids!

Oscar said...

Nice article. I had the pleasure to visit Cumberland back in Feburary and man was it worth the trip. The ruins of Dungeness really put the Carnegie wealth into perspective. I mean, who had a hydraulic elevator back in 1905 anyways?

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