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Celebrating the Harrington Community on St Simons Island

Celebrating the Harrington Community on St Simons IslandVacationers and those seeking permanent homes on St Simons real estate are enchanted by the dunes, the majestic trees along chuckling streams and rivers. They love the food at the mighty hotels, playing golf, boating and water fun.

If people look a little deeper, it’s to notice the famous builders who put up the homes in the island or the history of the food and music that was born here. What they don’t notice is that at the north end of the island, a historical place exists whose school almost bit the dust.

It is our pleasure to tell you about the Harrington Community and its history.

A Little History First

St Simons Island is a barrier island off the coast of Georgia and the second largest and most developed of the barrier islands.

When General James Oglethorpe founded Savannah, he built Fort Frederica on St Simons Island to protect Savannah and the Carolinas from the threat the Spanish posed at the time.  By the time the American Revolution happened, St Simons Island was deserted, its fortifications having done their duty and then abandoned.

Between that war and the Civil War, the island transformed. Hundreds of oak trees were cleared to establish farm lands and plantations. The oaks were used in shipbuilding, the most famous of which was the USS Constitution or Old Ironsides. Shops were opened and agriculture became big business due to the salty air (good for cotton and rice) and cheap labor in the form of slaves. St Simons Island cotton became famous.

The men went off to fight in the Civil War, again leaving the island empty as its women and children went to the mainland for safety. Well, not quite empty: freed slaves lived at the northern end of the island, while the southern end was occupied by Northern soldiers. After the war, the island never regained its status as an agricultural oasis, since its work force was gone. Business then centered on lumber, fishing and tourism.

The Harrington Community

Slipping back into history for a bit, the Harrington area was a land grant to Captain Raymond Demere. He had served with General Oglethorpe in Savannah, but before that, he served with Lord Harrington at the Battle of Gibraltar. He named the Harrington area after Lord Harrington.

Following the Civil War, this area at the northern end of the island was where freed slaves settled. They worked in fishing, in the mills, lumber, cooks, butlers, general labor, wait staff and housekeepers in the plantation houses.

It wasn’t until 1920, though, that they had their own school, donated by the owners of the plantations at that time. In 1920, the Harrington Graded School was established with grades one through seven.

The school was much more than a school, however. It hosted holiday gatherings, plays, pot-luck dinners, Christmas celebrations as well as appearances by Santa Claus. Upon segregation in the 1960s, the school closed down and in time became a ruin.

The late 20th century saw the Harrington community sold for subdividing. That’s when Friends of the Harrington School banded together to raise the money to save and renovate this priceless piece of history. The Friends hope the school can be finished and opened by February 2017.

There are lots more historic stories that St Simons Island can tell. Please contact us to learn more about it.

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