Gentility permeates this place.
The hallways’ Oriental rugs are small, most no larger than seven by nine feet, save the runners. The furniture’s original to the home, a 1901 wedding gift for Margaret Carnegie Ricketson. Many of the prints, paintings and memorabilia date from her time here.
In a deep-stained, pine-paneled library, fireplace embers burn slowly. Hundreds of books line one wall, while an early 20th-century yacht cannon rests, mute in a deep sill. A portrait of Margaret, white in her wedding dress, presides.
But the best that the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, Ga. offers is the gift of freedom. There are paths to walk, bikes to ride, kayaks to paddle and ruins to explore. All, without a schedule – except the bar that opens (on the honor code) at 6 P.M. Dinner’s at 7:30 sharp, an event unto itself.
Lunch, packed in a picnic basket tagged with each guest’s name, can be taken anywhere on the estate’s 300 acres. There’s a one-mile ramble through an alee of live oaks slathered in grey-green Spanish moss. It opens up first to a Sahara-like desert of dunes, and then to the Atlantic, a rusted round buoy washed up on its beach.
You’ll find no television, radio or wifi here – and the quiet is tonic. You will find the scents of red bay (more pungent and sweeter than bay leaves) and citrus trees in bloom. And wild horses – 125 of them – colts, stallions and mares at foal.
There are the ruins of Dungeness, the 37,000 square-foot, Gilded Age summer home of the Carnegies, where Rockefellers, Astors and Mellons once frolicked. In the days before income tax and the Great Depression, 300 servants worked mightily to satisfy their whims. Abandoned in 1925, it burned in 1959.
Today, Margaret Carnegie Ricketson’s Greyfield is an inn that serves a clientele like no other. Sweatshirts from Princeton, Harvard and Boston College abound. On this island, after all, John F. Kennedy Jr. chose to marry Carolyn Bessette – in a tiny, ancient, African-American church.
It’s true: Gentility permeates this place.
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