History of the Cassina Site
Gascoigne Bluff, ideally situated on the southwest side of St. Simons Island along the bluff overlooking the Frederica River, has the history of Coastal Georgia in microcosm: Indian occupation, Spanish settlement and exploration, British settlement, the Plantation era, the Civil War, the lumber industry and today, tourism.
In 1733, James Edward Oglethorpe founded the Colony of Georgia in Savannah. Later, in 1736, he established Fort Frederica to defend the colony against a Spanish invasion. The Spanish were forced to withdraw after the decisive British victory at the Battle of Bloody Marsh.
Gascoigne Bluff was named for Captain James Gascoigne, commander of the British sloop “Hawk” who escorted General Oglethorpe safely to St. Simons Island. The Bluff became a storehouse for marine supplies, ship repair facilities and, in effect, was Georgia’s first naval base.
Hamilton Plantation was developed in 1793 by James Hamilton into one of the largest cotton plantations on St. Simons Island. The tabby slave cabins were built in the early 1800s to house some of the enslaved who lived and worked on Hamilton Plantation. The cabins, constructed as “duplexes” to accommodate two slave families in each cabin, were made of tabby, had a central wall and fireplace open to each unit, and were built by the plantation slaves. The foundation ruins of six other slave cabins have been discovered in line with the two remaining intact cabins to form one long row of slave cabins that originally existed along the Frederica River on the Bluff. Following the Civil War, the structures were used for mill offices and other purposes as the area became active in the production and shipping of lumber. Known as “Mill Days,” the period from the early 1870s through the first decade of the 20th century saw the old plantation land converted into lumber mills and wharfs. As the “Mill Days” came to a close, uses for the cabins waned. One cabin remained a residence of a former slave until her death, and the other was abandoned and left to ruin.
Cassina completely restored the two remaining cabins to their original structures.