Tag Archives: US 17: The Coastal Highway in Georgia

Live Oaks of Broadfield Plantation, Glynn County

The grove of Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) marking the entrance to Hofwyl House and its dependencies at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation is one of the great natural public spaces on the Georgia coast.

While the structures are a significant resource, the real attraction for many are the oaks located all over the property. Individually, the trees are objects of awe and wonder; collectively, they’re a natural cathedral.

As is common with many Live Oaks on the coast, some specimens appear to have been uprooted.

These giants are miraculous in their curious ability to grow this way, often living and prospering for centuries.

Spanish Moss is the natural ornament most associated with the Live Oak, and it’s especially abundant here.

There’s also lots of Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides).

Some of these trees are estimated to be between 500-800 years old.

Two are members of the Louisiana Live Oak Society Tree Registry, which documents significant specimens throughout the Southeast.

National Register of Historic Places

Gable Front House, Spring Bluff

This vernacular house form, once quite common, is endangered today on the coast. Though it was a widespread utilitarian form, in Coastal Georgia it’s often found in historic Geechee-Gullah communities. Similar examples survive on Sapelo Island, among other Black communities.

Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff

Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church is an historic congregation, but other than its association with a tragic unsolved murder case, I haven’t been able to locate any of its history. It’s one of several important early Black churches near the Satilla River in Camden County.I determined it’s an old congregation due to the historic cemetery.

Though the congregation has not allowed itself to be defined by a well-known tragedy, and has thrived in fact, Rising Daughter has been known to the outside world for the events of 11 March 1985. At a missionary meeting on that date, a white man interrupted the proceedings and senselessly shot and killed Deacon Harold Swain and his wife Thelma inside the church, with no apparent motive. Witnesses noted that the intruder pointed to Harold Swain and specifically asked to speak to him. As Mr. Swain walked toward the entryway to speak to man, his wife followed. She was shot once and Mr. Swain was shot four times. The only real evidence was a pair of glasses left by the shooter at the scene, and a composite sketch made by descriptions from some of the ladies who were in the church for the meeting. No one was arrested for nearly 15 years.

A new investigator came on the scene in 1998 and his focus turned to Dennis Perry, who was arrested and ultimately convicted of the crime in 2000, an election year. Perry had been an early suspect, based on an identification made from the composite sketch and the presumably false testimony of a woman (now deceased) who collected a reward, unbeknownst to jurors at the time. Fast forward to 2020, and Dennis Perry has been exonerated, thanks to the work of the Georgia Innocence Project and irrefutable DNA evidence. Today, he is a free man.

A possible DNA match is being investigated by those who have reopened the case and hopefully justice will finally be done, most importantly for the loved ones of the Swain family.

Rising Daughter Cemetery

Rising Daughter Cemetery has quite a few important vernacular monuments, including two of the Madonna monuments detailed here. A few random examples are documented below.

Butler Baker (23 March 1906-11 December 1970)
David Scott (22 March 1895-15 August 1958)
Bertha Ann Hampton (20 May 1952-17 September 1952). The headstones of the two Hampton children feature a cross made from readily available bathroom tile. A nice touch is the pink tile for the daughter and the blue tile for the son.
Michael E. Hampton (5 July 1952-18 July 1958)
Sylvia Scott (6 January 1860-27 March 1938)
Ester Flagg (9 December 1915-1 July 1943). The name on the headstone is “Easter”.

Crawfish Monument, 2009, Woodbine

This whimsical crawfish sculpture was crafted by Camden County educator Carlos G. Jones, Jr., in 2009 for the annual Woodbine Crawfish Festival and is located at the Satilla River Waterfront Park.

Hobo’s Grave, Woodbine

Hoboes were ubiquitous characters in the American landscape of the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries. They were often depicted as bums and were the bane of the railroad police at various times, but many were simply vagabonds who had fallen on hard times and ostensibly began their journeys in search of work. Local legend holds that one such hobo, Campbell Johnston (24 January 1874-15 December 1905), fell from a train one night and died at this site. Local officials took care of his burial and his headstone was donated by the Woodmen of the World. It seems odd that such a character would have been afforded this memorial, and therefore, his story would be fascinating to track down.

The gravesite is located within the Satilla River Waterfront Park.

Craftsman Cottage, Woodbine

Steffens Restaurant, 1948, Kingsland

Steffens Restaurant has been a Kingsland and Highway 17 landmark since it first opened in 1948. Trellis Crews writes: I owned & operated Steffens Restaurant from August 23, 1989 until December 31, 2007. This is the original location which is about 4 miles from the Florida line. As a note of interest I worked there as a waitress in the late 60’s before the interstate I 95 came through & in the 80’s (a fire shut it down in the 70’s) with the previous owners Darrell & Willie Mae Dyal who purchased it from the Steffens family 23 years earlier. It retains much of the charm of the roadside diners that once thrived along the Coast Highway when it was the main route to Florida on the Eastern Seaboard.

The restaurant is almost always busy, attracting both locals and road trippers.

Shotgun House, Kingsland

General Store, St. Marys

Though the architecture of this structure would suggest it was a general store, it is possible that it has served another purpose at some point. I hope to identify it soon.

U. S. Picric Acid Plant Ruins, Circa 1917, Brunswick

Jim Morrison graffiti, U. S. Picric Acid Plant, Brunswick

Known as “The Factory that Never Was”, this place looks more like something one would encounter under a freeway in New York or Los Angeles than in Coastal Georgia.

As America entered World War I in 1917, construction began on a factory at the site with the purpose of manufacturing picric acid, then vital to the manufacture of explosives.

It was to employ 5000 during the construction process and 6000 during operation and promised an economic boom for the community.

But the signing of the Versailles Treaty on 11 November 1918 put an end to the war and an end to the U. S. Picric Acid Plant in Brunswick.

Construction was halted immediately and the site was abandoned, just a month shy of completion.

It’s been suggested that the remains seen here were multi-level, built for the separation of chemicals used in the process.

Over the years large sections were demolished and this is all that remains, to my knowledge.

A partial chimney, visible from I-95, was also part of the operation. (Not pictured).

I understand that another section remains nearby in the woods, overgrown to the point of obliteration, but I’m not looking for them so I cannot confirm either way.