Historic St. Andrews Beach
On March 6, 1948, Jekyll Island opened as a state park for the citizens of Georgia. However, the new public seashore was not available to everyone, at first. Because of segregation, African Americans could not visit many areas of Jekyll Island, including the beach.
In 1950, a group of African Americans from Brunswick requested that a portion of the island be made available for black people to enjoy. As a result, an area on the South End of Jekyll Island was reserved for African American use. It was named St. Andrews Beach.
St. Andrews Beach was the only public beach open to African Americans in Georgia and one of only a few such beaches on the East Coast.
On September 24, 1955, a Beach Pavilion opened at St. Andrews Beach for the African American community. This Beach Pavilion, known originally as the "Colored Beach House," had dressing rooms, a concession stand and a covered picnic area.
Shortly after the Beach Pavilion opened, the St. Andrews Beach Corporation formed to develop a notable black-owned beach resort. In 1959, the Dolphin Club and Motor Hotel opened for business. The Dolphin Club Lounge became a hot spot for music. Local dance bands regularly performed there, as well as top entertainers like Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, and Millie Jackson.
In 1960, Dr. J.
Clinton Wilkes invited the black Georgia Dental Society to meet on Jekyll Island, forcing the rapid construction of the St. Andrews Auditorium to hold the event. The auditorium featured family reunions, dances, and concerts, adding to the popularity of the historically black beach resort.
The Dolphin Club's heyday was short-lived. In 1964, social change swept across the country. The black community gained full access to amenities around the island for the first time due to a federal court order to integrate Jekyll's public facilities. The popularity of St. Andrews Beach faded as African Americans chose to visit recreational facilities on other areas of the island previously denied to them. The resort closed in 1966.
In 1968, the site became a Group Camp and Youth Center. The Georgia 4-H has operated the site since 1983, growing the camp into a year-round environmental education center.