Cumberland Island is one of the barrier islands along the coast of Georgia and has long been a playground for the rich and famous. James Oglethorpe, reported to be one of the founders of Georgia, built a hunting lodge there in 1736 and named it “Dungeness”. The next “Dungeness” was built on the island by Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene who acquired 11,000 acres of the island’s land in exchange for a bad debt. His widow, reputed to be a beauty who enjoyed the social scene, built a four-story tabby mansion over a Timuouan (native Indian) shell mound and delighted in entertaining her friends there. During the War of 1812, the British occupied the island and used this house as their headquarters.
Henry Lee III (a.k.a. Lighthouse Harry Lee and father of Robert E. Lee) stayed at the house in his later years until his death and was buried there in the family graveyard. During the U. S. Civil War, the house was abandoned and was later burned in 1868.
During the 1880’s, Thomas M. Carnegie, brother of Andrew Carnegie, purchased this property and began building a 54-room Queen Anne style mansion on Greene’s original site. However, the mansion and accompanying buildings were not finished until after Carnegie’s death in 1886. His wife, Lucy, continued living at “Dungeness” mansion and built other estates for her children resulting in 90% ownership of the island by members of the Carnegie family.
The Carnegies vacated “Dungeness” in 1925 and the mansion stood vacant. In 1959 the Dungeness mansion was destroyed by fire. Many in this seashore community say the cause was arson. It remains a mystery. The ruins of the mansion and its accompanying buildings and property are now preserved by the National Park Service as part of Cumberland Island National Seashore.