This is now the office for Cumberland Island National Seashore.
St. Marys Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Though the specific date for construction has been lost, Orange Hall is believed to have had its origins as a much smaller structure (possibly incorporated into the present one) in the late 1820s. [I’m only using the 1830 date because that’s the present “accepted date” settled on by St. Marys. As a matter of full disclosure, I don’t believe it can be accurately assigned]. It was named for the sour orange trees which were once planted around the lawn. Oral tradition suggests it was built for Jane Wood Pratt (first wife of the Reverend Horace Pratt), by her father, John Wood. Mr. Wood was a Loyalist who fled Savannah during the Revolution and likely began building the house upon his return to America, circa 1826. John Wood and his daughter both died in 1829, which is why the date for the house is fixed around the time, according to research completed in 1973 for the nomination of the property to the National Register of Historic Places. The key to the history of the house as it is known today, however, can be traced to its purchase by James Smith from the Pratt estate in 1846. By 1856 when Smith sold it to Francis Adams, its tax value had risen sharply, indicating improvements which likely gave Orange Hall its present appearance.
One other note of historical significance: the house is said to have been the headquarters of the 9th Maine Regiment during raids in the area in early 1863. A regimental history of Company H of the 9th Maine by Lieutenant Aaron H. Chase mentions St. Marys but not Orange Hall. As many of the raids in this area were clandestine in nature, it is unclear what role the house actually played in these exercises. Like the date of the house, this bears further research.
Orange Hall is now a house museum and event space.
National Register of Historic Places
Heavy fog dominated the landscape when I arrived at Crooked River, so thick that it was nearly an hour before I was able to get a photograph.
The easiest access to the river is via Crooked River State Park, situated on Elliot’s Bluff, near St. Marys.
Ancient shell middens characterize many of the forests along the river. Oaks and palmettos are the dominant plants.
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) can be found in abundance in the forest understory in early March. It’s also known as firecracker plant.
Marshy banks are found below the high bluffs.
Twisted trunks and branches like the ones seen above are common along Crooked River.