Poet Doms (Symbiosis, 2008, etc.), in his nonfiction debut, traces how Georgia’s Jekyll Island, once a playground for the rich, was transformed into a state park.
The author states early on that this book aims to rectify the fact that most histories of Jekyll Island only cover its time as an “exclusive and private club” for the wealthy, before 1942. His book starts in 1945, when a state commission was appointed that soon selected Jekyll Island as the future site of a state park. As the chronology moves toward the present day, Doms lays out the complicated history of “Georgia’s Jewel” and the “continuous battle between the state park recreational side and the resort side.” The campaign to turn the island into a public park caused a slew of problems—from difficulties involving the toll for Jekyll Creek Bridge to possible governmental corruption. Doms also highlights race-related issues related to the construction of the Jekyll Island infrastructure; African-American prisoners provided most of the labor, and individual construction sites were segregated by race. The book continues its account up to 2015, when new renovations were still taking place on the island. Overall, Doms successfully illustrates the idyllic island’s heavy history. Nevertheless, the author makes his affection for the location clear as well as his high hopes for the island’s future. This is a very thorough account of the island’s later years, but readers who are unfamiliar with its earlier “Millionaires Club” era may find themselves at a disadvantage. Indeed, the intended audience for this book isn’t very clear; the prose style is a bit dry for a general audience, dwelling on numbers and finer details, but the book doesn’t read as traditionally academic, either. Also, some facts about general Georgian history, such as its governors’ political stances, are uncited.
A detailed but confusingly constructed history.