Some of the most beautiful homes on St. Simons Island are located in the Village near the iconic fishing pier. Enjoying Southwesterly breezes in the morning and ocean breezes later in the day, this area of St. Simons has long been coveted by local islanders and enjoyed by generations of visitors.
The area just west of the pier down Butler Avenue and along the oceanfront is called the “King City” neighborhood. Today it is a collection of approximately 80 homes bordered by “The Grove” and “Golf Retreat” neighborhoods on either side. King City was originally developed in the late 1800s by my Great, Great Grandfather, Mallery King.
After serving as a Captain in the Civil War, Mallery King returned to St. Simons Island with his family. Mallery was the oldest surviving son of Thomas Butler King and Anna Matilda Page King, the owners of Retreat Plantation. Retreat was one of several original plantation settlements on the island, expanding from what is now the airport, to Gascoigne, and out to the Lighthouse, encompassing around one-fifth of the island.
After the war, St. Simons landowners faced difficult economic times. The Civil war had left the south in turmoil and the economy had moved away from cotton to timber instead as the new cash crop. As plantation life was dying out, Anson Dodge built a lumber mill at Gascoigne and Mallery King had a plan to develop land into home sites on St. Simons Island.
Avenue of the Oaks - by Selma Shelander
Mallery’s plan was to develop the property surrounding Retreat into one hundred and forty lots - 40 by 80 foot lots were laid out (see plat). These lots stretched from Floyd Street to Gould Street on the land between the lighthouse and Mallery’s home at Retreat. King also laid out a 200 by 200 foot lot on Mallery Street that was reserved for a hotel. Each smaller lot would be sold for $100. If cash was offered, the price would be $80 per lot. This subdivision, the first ever on St Simons, was called “King City” in 1890.
Early Plan of KING CITY neighborhood
In 1894, Mallery, while serving as a Commissioner for St. Simons Island, saw to it that the main public road on St. Simons stretching from the beaches to the lighthouse was paved with oyster shells. Although primitive, it was the first attempt to improve what were previously dirt trails. Also, during his term as commissioner, Mallery began naming the streets around the present village area. He used the names of his sisters, family members, friends and yes, even his own.
By 1895, more than one-third of the King City lots had been sold, bringing in over $3,450.00, which was a tidy sum in the post-war south. After Mallery’s death in 1895, those unsold parcels were passed along to his surviving family. One of his daughters, my Great Grandmother Frances King Aiken, along with her siblings, inherited the Retreat Plantation property.
The largest sale occurred in 1926 when the family sold Retreat plantation and much of the surrounding acreage to Howard Coffin and the Sea Island Company. In the late 1920’s, this became the Sea Island Golf Course. In the late 1990s, Sea Island developed the luxurious, 5-Diamond rated Sea Island Lodge, now delighting guests from around the world and hosting PGA tour events. Current visitors to the Lodge will see several ruins of the original buildings of Retreat still remaining on the grounds, including portions of the main house structure as well as the plantation’s hospital. King City and the surrounding neighborhoods are home to families that have enjoyed St. Simons for generations. Though mostly developed, there are currently several lots and homes for sale in King City. Visit my website at www.pageaiken.com to explore current real estate market data and utilize search tools. Sign up to receive my Sea Island or St. Simons Real Estate Newsletter. You can contact me at 912.258.6000 to find out more about St. Simons, Sea Island, and coastal real estate.