The Sea Island story is nothing short of a fabled and fascinating glimpse into America’s past. Sea Island Investments was founded in 1926 by Howard Coffin, founder of the Hudson Motor Company and designer of the Hudson Motor Car, the first automobile that could be mass-produced and sold for less than $1000. The visionary Coffin and his young cousin, A.W. Jones, worked to make Coffin’s dream of a seaside nirvana come true. In October 1928, The Cloister at Sea Island, designed in the signature Spanish Mediterranean-style of famed Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner, welcomed guests to enjoy old-world elegance. President Calvin Coolidge visited during the holdidays and posed for photos as he planted a saploing – the first of many oaks planted by Presidents, royalty, and other luminaries.
While The Cloister was under construction, Walter Travis, one of the most highly-regarded golf course architects of the time, oversaw the final touches of the Plantation Course. Situated on the historic site of Retreat Plantation on neighboring St. Simons Island, the course opened during the summer of 1927 and quickly gained popularity among aficionados of the game. In 1929, and again on St. Simons Island, British architects Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison sculpted Seaside, one of a handful of coastal links courses in North America.
The Cloister’s reputation as a sophisticated international resort continued to grow. Howard Coffin did not life to see his beloved Sea Island come to its fullest glory. He died in 1927, leaving Bill Jones to continue his legacy.
Kit Jones, wife of Bill, was a warm and welcoming hostess at the wedding of Sarah Churchill, held in the Jones’ home on Sea Island in 1949. Her exquisite sense of hospitality helped create a strong sense of community throughout Sea Island and beyond. Many guests were inspired to become regular visitors and even permanent residents in Sea Island’s cottage colony.
In 1966, Bill Jones, Jr. took the helm as President of Sea Island Company. Careful, controlled expansion included the addition of conference facilities, new guest houses, and additional accommodations. Bill Jones, Jr. also created the Junior Staff program, the first of its kind, for The Cloister to offer activities to youngsters so parents could enjoy the resort’s many diversions.
In 1992, Bill Jones III became president of Sea Island Company. Jones tasked two of the world’s greatest golf course architects, Rees Jones and Tom Fazio, to reinvent Sea Island golf. They masterfully transformed four beloved nine-hole courses into two new 18-hole courses – the classic Plantation and the brilliant Seaside.
The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, The Cloister’s sister property located on St. Simons Island, opened in 2001. The 40-room golf clubhouse has retained recognition as a AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star hotel since its opening.
In April 2006, The Cloister opened the doors to its main building, which underwent a three-year rebuild in addition to The Cloister Spa and Fitness Center, seaside Beach Club, tennis center, and yacht club. Designed in the Addison Mizner-style and with all the original grandeur intact, The Cloister’s exceptional accommodations top-tier dining will help ensure its place as a quintessential desintation for generations to come.