Cottage 119: a tribute to Sea Island history

Home once owned by island architect carries $2.86M list price

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Cottage 119 may have a quaint title, but it represents a rich history and carries a multimillion-dollar price tag.

This 4,000-square-foot "cottage" is situated on Georgia’s 1,200-acre Sea Island — a resort destination and one of 13 barrier islands known as the Golden Isles that string the coastline just off mainland Georgia.


220 W. 5th St., Sea Island, Ga. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Built in 1951 by Sea Island’s principle architect, W. Montgomery "Gummy" Anderson, for himself and his family, Cottage 119 features some unique decor, notably a kitchen wallpapered with New Yorker covers dating from as early as 1935 and spanning through the ’50s. (The Andersons personally cut out the covers and put them up.)

A live oak-shaded, low-slung, ranch-style home, Cottage 119 was owned by the Anderson family until 2003, when it was purchased by the Bean family.

Elizabeth "Beth" Bean and her husband immaculately restored Cottage 119 as an homage to the magic they felt as patrons of Sea Island during its enchanted heyday as a destination resort for Southeast professionals. She began visiting the island with her family in the ’60s when she was 5 or 6.

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After studying the original onionskin blueprints, the Beans reopened the home’s two screened porches that had been enclosed, removed a garage, and opened the living room’s vaulted ceiling back up.

They furnished it with accurate, well-built 1950s-era furniture from eBay. "It’s like walking into George Jetson’s home," said Bean.

Bean, 50, lives with her husband in Manhattan now, but they started out in Atlanta; they planned to retire in this home, 220 W 5th St., Sea Island, Ga., when the time came, but now the home’s for sale, listed with Sotheby’s at $2.86 million.

The home features quarter-sawn heartwood pine flooring, stainless steel kitchen cabinetry and ceiling-height windows that swing completely open into special slots notched in the eaves. The windows were designed to freshen the home with the cool Atlantic breeze.

The screened, cypress-paneled porches each lead to flagstone terraces. The terrace at the front of the house was built for dancing. You would dance and then come to the porch for a drink or to take a break, remembers Bean.

Bean recalls fondly the leisurely routine when the island’s social center and heart, the old Cloister Hotel, was rocking in its heyday: cocktails at 6 p.m., dinner at 8 p.m., coat-and-tie bingo at 9 p.m.

The hotel kept a list of all people visiting at the island, so you knew who to call on, and, among many other island rituals, there was a formal Sunday night dinner, remembers Bean.

Visiting Sea Island was like going to camp, said Bean, with the beach on one side, marsh on the other of the narrow 3-mile-wide island, and friends all around. "You would hear a hoot owl before sleeping."

The home, restored to its Golden Age prime, recalls those Sea Island days when there were small houses on large lots; when a Jeep-drawn "train" would carry visitors to search for seashells on the south end of the island; and when there were outdoor dinners on the island’s north side with an open bonfire, Gospel singers, cheese grits and fried catfish.

Sea Island, explains Bean, was the vacation destination for the Southern elite: the lawyer from Atlanta, the oilman from Dallas, the banker from Charlotte. By all accounts, it was a special, family-oriented place.

But Sea Island has not been sheltered from the housing crash and subsequent economic falloutĀ  — the island’s owning/managing family underwent a 2010 bankruptcy, which followed some major changes at the island, including the tear-down and rebuild of the iconic 1937-built Cloister Hotel in 2004.

The island has taken on an upscale, five-star resort character, with some rooms in the new hotel going for $800 a night, said Bean, among other changes.

Since the Jones family, which for three generations had owned, developed and managed the island, ceded control to large investors in 2010, the special family atmosphere Bean and others recalled has faded.

She became emotional, her eyes tearing up, as she perused photographs of the original Cloister Hotel from a blog post reminiscing the Sea Island of old.

Bean said she hopes someone from the Southeast buys the home who can enjoy its restored bygone-era charm and experience some of the island’s special character preserved within its walls.

"My heart and soul is in that house," she said. "You can tell when you walk in."


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