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Harris Neck Historical Structures - Georgia

Joe Kegley | E-Mail | Updated 07-01-2011

Harris Neck Army Airfield Building - Joe Kegley

Harris Neck Army Airfield Building, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge - Joe Kegley

This is an addendum to the main Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge article. The land occupied by the refuge has a long and varied history. My intent is not to elaborate on the history but give a brief introduction and display images of the remaining historical structures visible within the refuge.

A synopsis of the history of Harris Neck would not be complete without its Native American legacy. Lewis Larson's introduction to "The Georgia and South Carolina expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore" mentions that he observed a shell midden in the northeastern quadrant of Harris Neck stretching from Thomas Landing to the south for almost two and a half miles. Lewis excavated a small area southeast of the Lorillard-Livingston home site and discovered Spanish majolica and olive jar shards. He also uncovered six aboriginal house floors consistent with the coastal Mission Period. In the early 1980's Carolina Archaeological Services and Southeastern Archaeological Services carried out limited excavations in the Gould Landing area and discovered ceramics representing various aboriginal periods.

From the mid 1700's through the Civil War, the land was worked as a plantation and changed ownership a few times. After the Civil War the land owner sub-divided parts of the plantation. Some of these parcels were distributed/sold to former slaves or their descendants. In the late 1880's the tobacco manufacturer Pierre Lorillard purchased 30 acres of the plantation property. Miss Lily Allien (later Mrs. Livingston), reputed to be Lorillard's mistress, built a large home on this property at Thomas Landing. In 1942 the US Government condemned the land for the construction of an army airbase. The Lorillard-Livingston served as the officers club. After World War II the airbase was given to McIntosh County with the understanding it would be used as an airport. Due to local government corruption and mismanagement, the federal government seized the property years later. In 1962 the property was given to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to manage.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge map

This map shows the location of the remaining historical structures. Note that some trails such as the east side of Woody Pond are closed depending on season, in this case due to wading bird nesting activity during the late spring and summer.

Harris Neck Army Airfield

The planes and the people are gone, as are most of the buildings. But there are some remains. The most obvious remnants are the runways and taxiways. These are easily recognized from satellite and aerial imagery as well as from the ground. Wildlife Drive slices through the middle of the former airbase and from your vehicle you can see the long expanses of asphalt broken by scrub and trees.

There are three remaining brick buildings from the former airbase; all three are utilized by the refuge. The largest is a red brick building beside the refuge office. This building is easily viewed from Wildlife Drive. Two smaller brick building are located farther behind the refuge office. Note that all three building are in an "employee only" area and you will need to get permission to approach for a closer look. Although I'm not sure you would want to, they're just brick buildings.

One of the more interesting structures is what looks to be an ammunition bunker. The bunker has very thick concrete walls and an exceptionally thick concrete roof. The sides have earthwork piled against them for added integrity. It appears the refuge is using the bunker to store lumber.

Another interesting artifact is an old chimney which I have seen referred to as the trash incinerator chimney. The chimney is visible from Wildlife Drive and is approximately 3/4 mile on the left before the exit.

Other remains not pictured include various concrete slabs from past buildings. These are located mainly on the east side of the airfield. In addition you can also find various metal hardware scatter about the area.

Harris Neck Army Airfield Bunker - Joe Kegley

Harris Neck Army Airfield Bunker, Robert Kemmerlin modeling for scale, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge - Joe Kegley

Deer remains on taxiway at Harris Neck - Joe Kegley

Deer remains on taxiway at Harris Neck - Joe Kegley

Harris Neck Army Airfield Runway - Joe Kegley

One of the three Harris Neck Army Airfield Runways - Joe Kegley


Guard Shack Foundation  - Joe Kegley

Guard Shack Foundation at Harris Neck NWR - Joe Kegley

Trash Incenerator at Harris Neck NWR - Joe Kegley

Trash Incenerator at Harris Neck - Joe Kegley


Concrete support, note the brick foundation in the background  - Joe Kegley

Concrete support, note brick foundation in the background - Joe Kegley

Concrete support?, Harris Neck NWR - Joe Kegley

Concrete support?, Harris Neck NWR - Joe Kegley


One of two smaller brick buildings - Joe Kegley

One of two smaller brick buildings behind the refuge office - Joe Kegley

Lorillard Estate

Like the airbase, few remnants of the Lorillard-Livingston estate remain. The deteriorated building was sold at auction when Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1962. The three existing artifacts include a decorative fountain, a wading pool, and a swimming pool. The estate grounds can be found off of the Thomas Landing Loop Road. You'll know you're in the right area when you come to an interpretive sign discussing Thomas Landing. The trail behind the sign takes you to the remains. Note that the sign makes note of "two decorative pools". My interpretation is that one of the pools is a wading pool and the other a swimming pool. What I call the "swimming pool" has been filled in, probably because of safety concerns, and is overgrown with vegetation and somewhat hard to find. Look for it at the sharp right angle corner of the trail before you get to the fountain.

Lorillard Estate Wading Pool with Robert Kemmerlin for scale - Joe Kegley

Lorillard Estate Wading Pool with Robert Kemmerlin for scale - Joe Kegley

Armadillos were very numerous on the estate grounds - Joe Kegley

Armadillos were very numerous on the estate grounds - Joe Kegley

Lorillard Estate Swimming Pool - Joe Kegley

Lorillard Estate Swimming Pool - Joe Kegley


Lorillard Estate Fountain - Joe Kegley

Lorillard Estate Fountain - Joe Kegley

Surrounding vicinity - Smallest Church in the USA

Just for fun I thought I'd include the "Smallest Church in the USA". The church is not on refuge property, it is located about one mile from I-95 on the way to the refuge. The church was built in 1949 by Mrs. Agnes Harper and is open to the public. A few folks have even gotten married there. The interior has seating for 12 people.

Smallest Church in the USA - Joe Kegley

Smallest Church in the USA - Joe Kegley

Smallest Church in the USA interior - Joe Kegley

Smallest Church in the USA interior - Joe Kegley


Location and Points of Interest

Directions: From I-95 in Georgia, take Exit 67 and head south on Hwy 17 for one mile. Take a left onto Harris Neck Rd and drive approximately 6.5 miles. The entrance for Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge will be on your left.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (Google interactive map)

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Additional Information

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