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St. Simons: Village Area & Southeastern End

by Guerry Norwood

the-villageThe Village area of St. Simons, located at the southern end of the island at Mallery Street and Ocean Boulevard, is the best place to start your visit of the island. From here, one can visit the historic lighthouse, fish or crab off the pier, hold a picnic, start a bike tour of the island, walk the beach, browse one of the village shops, or eat in one of St. Simons’s finer restaurants. This part of the island is developed and busy; nonetheless, the natural setting is quite beautiful, with large Live Oaks shading the view of the shimmering St. Simons Sound and Jekyll Island beyond. Shrimp boats are seen trafficking between offshore shrimping grounds and their harbor in Brunswick. In many areas, homes perched practically on top of rip-rap rocks appear ready to fling themselves into the ocean. In other areas, dunes have been allowed to endure and support the fascinating plant and animal communities that populate the dynamic area between beach and forest.

The village got its start in the 1870s resort period, when vacationers traveled from the mainland on steamships. Most of the early historic buildings of St. Simons were destroyed by fire. The St. Simons Hotel was built in 1888 near Massengale Park, which was linked to the pier by mule-drawn trolley. The grand structure, large enough to host 300 guests, was destroyed by fire in December of 1898. The New St. Simons Hotel was built at the same location in 1910, but in 1916, it too burned. Nonetheless, St. Simons continued to be popular with vacationers, and four other hotels were established near the pier, including the Bellevue, which was renamed St. Simons Hotel.

bandstand-gazaboThe third St. Simons Hotel, located at the end of the pier, was replaced by the first Casino Building, which burned in 1934. The area started to develop more rapidly with the building of the causeway in 1924, and more visitors opted to become year-round residents. With a growing population, a village of small shops and businesses was able to flourish year-round by the 1950s, and by 1960, the resident population was 3,199. Today, the village is the focal point of commercial and tourist activities on the island. The St. Simons Visitor Center is located in the second Casino Building at the northern end of Neptune Park and offers a complete assortment of visitor facilities and information, including a library, restrooms, a theater playhouse, and an outdoor bandstand.

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