By MARY STARR
In the South, tours of homes and gardens are a rite of spring, and St. Simons Island and Sea Island are no exceptions. For 66 years, the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) of Christ Church, Frederica have been hosting one the go-to home tour in the Golden Isles. From charming family homes to elegant estates and historic sites, the Christ Church Tour of Homes and Gardens provides tour-goers with a wide array of architectural and decorating styles to admire or capture in one’s mind’s eye for the future. (The mind’s eye is the only tool allowed — cameras are prohibited on the tour.)
The Musgrove Retreat and Conference Center, formerly known as Musgrove Plantation, has been featured on the tour every year except for one. Owned by the Brenn Foundation, this property along Village Creek is rich in history. It was built in 1938 by Nancy Reynolds Bagley, daughter of and heiress to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco fortune, and was the site of President Jimmy Carter’s first pre-inaugural cabinet meeting. The property is named after Mary Musgrove, called the “Pocahontas and Sacagawea of the South” for her peacekeeping efforts. The venue now hosts conferences about geopolitical, social and environmental concerns, but also is a special choice for weddings and family reunions. Six Low Country-style homes now dot the 300 acres of natural splendor. These days, the grandchildren of Nancy Susan Reynolds Bagley maintain the property.
John Hartland, who, in addition to his many other duties, takes care of Musgrove for the family, said the late Smith Bagley and his mother put the home on the tour at its beginning to remove some of the mystery surrounding it.
“(They) originally placed the home on the tour when the tour began so that individuals (in the community) who would never be able to go out to Musgrove, could see it,” he said.
Other historic sites include Christ Church Frederica, Christ Church Cemetery, St. Ignatius Chapel and the Wesley Memorial Gardens.
Proceeds from the tour benefit numerous area organizations that primarily benefit women and children. In 2018, $85,000 in proceeds from the tour and sales of the Christ Church cookbook was directed to 37 nonprofit groups.
Co-chairs Charlotte Graham and Susie Henning are hopeful for a successful tour and have some tips for how everyone, including the 400-plus volunteers, can have a great time, and they’ve provided a set of rules (the full versions of which are published in the annual tour brochure) to help people remain safe and enjoy the day.
How to have a tip-top tour
• The tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 16.
• Tour headquarters, or Tour Stop 11, is the Christ Church Frederica Parish Hall. Restrooms, refreshments and souvenirs will be available here.
• Tickets are $40 in advance at www.christchurchtourofhomes.org, or $50 on tour day.
• Don’t forget your wristband — it’s your ticket, and it also determines what time you board the bus at Gascoigne Bluff for the Sea Island homes.
• Sea Island stops require bus transportation. All other sites are accessible by personal vehicle, and parking assistance will be available.
• Wear comfortable clothes, but leave your high-heeled shoes, large bags, drinks and cameras at home. They’re not permitted.
• No photography is allowed.
• Restrooms will be available at Christ Church Parish Hall, Gascoigne Bluff, DeLoach Sotheby’s Realty and Restoration Imports.
• Brown bag lunches will be available for purchase at 351 Sea Island Road, St. Simons Island, for $10.
• No. 1 — This traditional home near the fourth hole of Sea Island’s Retreat Golf Course, is a good cover for the delights that wait inside. Filled with museum-quality art and antiques from around the world, each piece was personally selected by the owners. Finds include an opium box, a collection of Ethiopian silver crosses and a console from Bali. The owner has also created some of the furnishings in the home, and her taste is reflected in the open kitchen with its deluxe kitchen and quartz countertops. Kathy Guyton, Guyton Design Group, is the interior designer.
• No. 2 — The front door of this home doesn’t lead to the interior, but rather to a large courtyard with a raised pool surround. This newly constructed villa is a mixture of classic and contemporary, and it shows in the decor, which includes both modern art and antiques such a Chinoiserie table. The kitchen, with its La Cornue range and Glassos countertops, continue this contrast of old and new, which extends throughout the house, including the dining room, with its crystal chandelier that hangs among rustic wooden beams. The children’s space is whimsical, and tour-goers should keep watch for eye-catching pops of color throughout the house. Laurie Watson, of Mary-Bryan Peyer Designs, is the interior designer.
• No. 3 — This classic ranch house received a healthy dose of TLC and is now a popular vacation rental for visitors from around the world. Mid-century modern is the name of the game here, with its living room dressed in slouchy chic style. Filled with eclectic pieces, splashy art and oversized sofas, this home is designed for a relaxed lifestyle. Bryce Brock, of The Vine, is the interior designer and landscaper.
• No. 4 — St. Ignatius Chapel
• No. 5 — Gascoigne Bluff
• No. 6 — This home is the Addison Mizner-style classic Sea Island house — Mediterranean-inspired, and finished in light plaster, dark wood, tile floors, stone fireplaces and romantic balconies — it oozes Old World charm. Furnished in English and Country French antiques, and embellished with needlepoint, brocade, and silk, the house sets a formal tone. The mood, however, is lightened by delightful details throughout, including a powder room that is painted as a playful homage to Matisse. One must-see feature is the master suite, which its spa-like bath and efficiency kitchen. Nancy Stoddard, interior designer.
• No. 7 — Build in the 1950s, the current residents are only the third owners of this cottage, and have preserved its charm while updating it for today’s lifestyles. The result is a bright, open house of dark floors, white walls and splashes of color throughout. All fabrics are indoor-outdoor to allow for beach living, and tropical accents abound. Johnson Vann Interiors are the interior designers.
• No. 8 — This traditional Sea Island home provides a backdrop for the owner’s art collection, some of which was inherited from family members who lived for decades on Sea Island. One of the owners is an interior designer from New York, and her handiwork is visible throughout the house, which is decorated in the chic, but comfortable, style appropriate for the Georgia coast. Built in Colonial Revival style, the dimensions are grand, but the style is soothing. Outdoor amenities include a lush pool area and a grass volleyball court. Keough Stearns Interiors were the interior designers.
• No. 9 — Still on Sea Island, this mansion has been renovated to have an open-floor plan and every up-to-date feature imaginable, but still evokes a 1970s vibe, particularly in the kitchen with its bucket seats and pops of citron metal. Gray-washed oak floors and white walls provide the perfect backdrop for a palette of blues and corals that tie the main living areas together. Watch for televisions disguised as art, Art Deco accents and the zero-entry infinity pool. The bedrooms, with their luxurious touches are not to be missed. Karen Schoellkopf, of Maison Luxe, in Dallas, Texas, and Laurie Watson of Mary-Bryan Peyer Designs, were the interior designers.
• No. 10 — Musgrove Retreat and Conference Center
• No. 11 — Christ Church Parish Hall, Christ Church Cemetery and Wesley Gardens