A Center of Finance and Government

Initially, the population of Brunswick grew slowly. The city came into its own in the 1880s as the port became a national forest products export leader, and businesses began to flourish along Newcastle Street.

When Oglethorpe National Bank was chartered in 1889, it built an imposing 3-story red brick building with a distinctive cupola on Jekyll Square West. In 1893, the bank failed during a national economic crisis, and much of the building was unused for years.

A major hurricane brought a 16’ storm surge into downtown Brunswick in 1898, flooding the old county courthouse and destroying valuable property records. Although the cupola of the former bank was blown away, the sturdy main structure remained intact, so the county purchased the building and moved all official business to Jekyll Square.

When a new courthouse was built in 1907, the Brunswick Bank and Trust Company purchased the building. At the time, the bank held the distinction of having the only revolving door in town.

A Growing City on the Move

This 1910 streetscape showing Jekyll Square features Brunswick’s favorite modes of transportation: the old fashioned horse-and-wagon, “modern” trolley cars and the new craze- an automobile. Automobiles would have had limited use at the time, as most streets were still unpaved.

Brunswick Bank & Trust later changed its name to American National Bank, and eventually sold the building to private investors when a new main office was built on Gloucester Street. The Victorian landmark structure provided plenty of challenges to profitability for the purchasers. Engineers could find no feasible way to add elevators to overcome the steep flights of stairs to the top two floors. The building needed major remodeling to appeal to tenants. The local property tax code burdened the new owners with payments on unusable interior square footage.

Their solution was to remove the upper two floors from the building and concentrate on making the ground floor “modern” to recoup some of their investment. The plans were kept very quiet; in fact, Brunswick citizens were shocked to find the demolition of the building completed so quickly. One business neighbor recalled, “It seemed like we went home one night with the old bank still there like always, and when we came to work the next morning, the top two floors were gone.”

Looking Good

Several generations of Brunswick gentlemen benefited from the talents of Howard E. Battle, of Floyd’s Barber Shop on the southeast corner of Jekyll Square West. Altman’s Feminine Attire, which sold everything from Girl Scout uniforms to ball gowns, later occupied that space, plus several adjacent buildings.

New Life in the Old Square

In 2008, the City of Brunswick and Signature Squares restored both Jekyll Square East and West. The focal point of Jekyll West is the fountain created from the base bowl of the original 1885 fountain in Hanover Square. The parks were dedicated on May 2, 2008.


Ocean Lodge # 214 F & AM, chartered in 1857, found a new home on Jekyll Square East when it moved from Hanover Square in 1885. The ladies of the Eastern Star worked for 14 years to raise money to build the landmark structure that still exists on the north side of this square today. Retail establishments occupied the ground floor; the Masons used the top floor. The second-story windows were shortened to offer more privacy, and a 30’ extension was added to the back of the structure in 1904.

The Masons of Brunswick have been always been dedicated to the service of their community, particularly during the city’s two major yellow fever outbreaks in 1876 and 1893. Members of Ocean Lodge #214 endangered their own lives to stay in the city and tend the sick, as hundreds of citizens evacuated to escape the disease.

The Hurricane of 1898

On October 3, 1898, an Atlantic hurricane hit the Georgia coast at high tide, bringing 135 mph winds and a tidal surge that put Brunswick’s downtown area under 16’ of water. At least 179 people in Glynn County lost their lives, primarily from drowning. Most buildings along Newcastle Street sustained some damage, including those near Jekyll Square.

A Place to Gather

The arrival of a traveling circus was an exciting event in smaller cities like Brunswick at the turn of the 20th century. A well-developed rail system allowed America’s favorite form of mass entertainment to bring more elaborate acts, exotic animals and larger tents to towns all over the country. Crowds gathered in Jekyll Square East to watch the circus opening parade of five elephants, gilded carriages and Native Americans in traditional attire, followed by numerous wagons full of other attractions.

Creating an Oasis

In its early days, Jekyll Square East was little more than an empty space between buildings along Newcastle Street. Retail shops on the north side of the square sold clothing, and later, fine jewelry and clocks. The south side once had a hotel and private residence in the 1870s, then a grocery store followed by an auto service station, popular restaurants and O’Quinn’s Mens Shop, the quintessential gentlemen’s clothier.

In 2008, Signature Squares of Brunswick landscaped both sides of the square. Jekyll Square East takes full advantage of a beautiful century-old southern live oak tree as its centerpiece, with ample bench seating and lush plantings in a symmetrical design.