Sunday, September 25, 2011

There is a Swimming Pool Below That Deck

Cumberland always has something going on.

A hot button issue at this moment was the release of the Former Reserved Properties Management Plan and Environmental Assessment (FRPMP) by the National Park Service (NPS). Released back in July with a 30 day public comment period,  thousands provided their insight towards the NPS's choice approach to the issue. The considered plan by the NPS is amazing considering that the proposed plan dealt with the management of five expired agreements which included seven properties or tracts that comprised approximately 50 acres of land; seven residential homes; and a number of smaller structures. The environmental assessment associated with the management plan analyzed the potential impacts to the human environment that resulted with two alternative courses of action. Those alternatives are: Alternative A - no action and Alternative B - allow a mixture of removal and adaptive re-use of structures.

The NPS prefers plan Alternative B. This plan will not impair park resources or values. Within the Alternative B plan, the NPS would preserve and protect the historic structures at The Grange, Beach Creek Dock House, and Stafford Beach House as required by applicable law and policy.

Click link below for the FRPMP details.

At this same time in America, preservationist are trying to come to grips with the importance of preserving truly ordinary kinds of structures. An issue that I would like to discuss is the historic Stafford Beach House. From the FRPMP report, the NPS list the structure as "potentially eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and List of Classified Structures". With this quote in the report, I feel that the NPS knows that the beach house is historic, but just how old is this structure?


Jump back to the original paragraph of the “30 day comment period”. There is a grassroots organization called Wild Cumberland (WC) dedicated to protecting the ecology, wilderness, and wildlife of Cumberland Island.

Their web site is here:

Wild Cumberland is a chapter of the famous group called Wilderness Watch. Not only does the Wilderness Watch have articles dealing with the recent activities of the FRPMP but Wild Cumberland, too. Located within Wild Cumberland's website are suggested comments for interested people that wanted to respond with comments to the NPS plan about the FRPMP.

The WC comments are located here:

A portion of the WC suggested comments is located below:

“However, I am concerned about the park’s plan to keep and maintain four additional retained estate houses for internal park use, including a structure within the original wilderness boundaries. None of the structures are historic.............”
I wonder how many people associated with Wilderness Watch and WC responded to the NPS in part with this structured suggested comment “None of the structures are historic”.

It is one of amazement as to the resources and manpower of lawyers and people of intellect at the disposal of WC. Considering that, in my opinion it is not fair for them to twist the facts. They will tell you what they want you to know, but you'll see below what I want to show you.

The Journey Begins:

The Stafford Beach House is located within an one acre tract approximately 250 yards from the beach on the western edge of the dune field at the interface with the maritime oak forest. Included within this tract is a small two sectioned beach bungalow with a large wooden deck and a detached small modern addition. The Stafford Beach Cottage tract came into the hands of the NPS in the year 2000.

It is a very detailed and complicated process for this blog to discuss as to how and who used estate properties. The official division of property on Cumberland Island by the heirs of Lucy C. Carnegie didn't take place until 1965.

The Stafford Beach Tract was “inherited” by Millicent Sprague Monks at the death of her mother “Lucy C. Carnegie Sprague Rice”, who was the sister of Nancy Carnegie Rockefeller, and the daughters of Andrew & Bertha Carnegie II, the son of Thomas and Lucy C. Carnegie.

“Just before I inherited the beach house..................not long before she died, mother told me that I would inherent a tract of land beside the small beach house on Cumberland Island. We added a kitchen, small bunk beds for the children, a room for ourselves, a small leaky pool and a deck. The beach house was the only house left intact and livable on the twenty miles of beach.”1

In January 1975 Millicent Monks retained a twenty-five-year right to the Stafford Beach House tract.  Mrs. Monks ended up conveying the property to her nephew and niece, Franklin W. Foster and Lucy Carnegie Sprague Foster.2

Include within the majority of the island, this division of the Stafford Beach House tract provided ownership of a part of Cumby Island that was, since 1783, held majority by just four families for 228 years.

Now to the Georgia Archives:

Last Saturday I was in Atlanta and I decided to take a detour to Morrow to view the Carnegie Family Estate Collection at the Georgia Archives. The goal of this venture - was the Stafford Beach House at least fifty years old. From the photo below, anyone can tell by just looking at the construction and details of the original section of the “shotgun styled” structure that she has a little bit of age to her.

The search did not take long. Included within this search, this is the only help that I will give to WC regarding documentation, I found a letter within a file folder.

File folder: 9-1-009
A typed letter dated: March 20, 1953
From: Norman T. Collett “Estate Manager”
To: Leo P. Larkin, Assistant Trust Officer,
Peoples First National Bank & Trust Company
Pittsburgh, 30. Pa.

Titled: Brief Report of Conditions on the Island
This report listed the conditions of buildings within the areas of Dungeness, Greyfield, Stafford, Chimneys, and Plum Orchard estates.

Under the listing of items for The Stafford Estate; Beach House: repairs made to the foundation and steps

Now, how old does a property have to be to qualify
for a National Register listing?
Properties eligible for listing in the National Register
are at least 50 years old.
The Stafford Beach House:
at least 1953 + 50 years = the year of 2003

WC may want to check out the Historical Map and Chart Collection at the Office of Coast Survey at:

I see a major change between 1925 & 1927 on the maps in the roads leading from the Stafford House to this area of the beach. Kinda a clue to start from here!

Located here, WC says,

“Keeping the Stafford Beach House as yet another overnight accommodation place needs justification. The EA section on “Historic Structures” provides no insight to its historical significance, and no one can seem to (or is willing to) provide a date of construction. I have requested that information several times. Increased activities there affect the ambiance at the near-by Stafford campground and beach.”

The Stafford Beach House is located a half mile from the campsite. 

Check out a previous blog post below for the historical significance of the Stafford Beach Cottage:

Since Cumby Island is such a concern to WC, they may want to consider in hiring an intern or an architectural historian and dig a little deeper, they will find it way before 1953!
1.  Monks, Millicent. Songs of Three Islands. New York: Atlas and Company, 2010. Print
2.  Dilsaver, Lary. Cumberland Island National Seashore A History of Conservation Conflict. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004. Print