It can be easy to forget a state’s history when you are surrounded by modern conveniences and contemporary buildings. However, in Georgia, there are still many structures that serve as a daily reminder of the rich history the state has. And this unique home is one of them.
The Horton House, as it is called today, is known as the first home to be built on Jekyll Island, the southernmost island of the Golden Isles. It is the oldest standing tabby home. But it also offers visitors a deeper, hauntingly beautiful connection to the past.
This simple looking, squat house was constructed by Major William Horton, second in command of General James Oglethorpe’s regiment. He was given the rights to the island by the trustees of the colony of Georgia in 1738.
As a beer enthusiast, Horton also added a warehouse to the property and farmed the land, producing hops and barley. He built the first brewery in the state just down the road from his home and used his crops to create his own beer. I’m sure his troops were thankful to be under him as he graciously shared his ale with them.
Interestingly, the house was built out of a unique material: tabby. This was a material created by burning oyster shells until they became lime. This was then mixed with equal parts sand and water. Once the mixture was ready, it would be poured into forms to create one large piece. After it was dried, each wall was erected to form the house.
Eventually, the house was attacked by the Spanish who were not happy about the English settlers. However, the foundational structure made it through a fire during a Spanish raid.
In 1790, the DuBignon family moved in. French officer Poulain DuBignon rebuilt the house using the incredibly sturdy, tabby walls as a guide. The family lived there until they all passed some time in the mid-1800s. Visitors can see their graves in the family cemetery just across the street.
The house is left to go to ruin as years go by. Then in 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased by a group of wealthy families to use at their leisure. Rich and influential families such as the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Cranes were members of the Jekyll Island Club and had built “cottages” on the island.
Today, the island and the Horton House are owned by the state. The home is available to tour every day and includes many plaques with interesting facts throughout.
The home has been preserved through a grant from the National Park Service and was awarded an Excellence in Preservation award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.