At first, resort-building followed the railroads as they extended ever farther south. Already by the 1880s, Thomasville, twelve miles north of the Florida line in southwest Georgia, and historic St. Augustine were popular winter destinations. Other visitors traveled by steamboat to one of north Florida's many crystal clear springs, including Green Cove Springs, Silver Springs, and Wakulla Springs.
In 1885, railroad tycoon and former Standard Oil partner Henry Morrison Flagler moved Florida's resorts to a new level with his 540-room Ponce de León Hotel in St. Augustine. The first of three Flagler hotels in the city, the Ponce de León combined exotic Spanish Renaissance and Moorish architectural features with innovative concrete construction. Whisked south in their private cars on Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad, notables such as the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Morgans made St. Augustine their winter home. Although Flagler boasted that St. Augustine had become a southern Newport, this title more aptly described the exclusive Jekyll Island Club, seventy miles up the coast in Georgia.
Founded in 1886 by a group of millionaires who bought the entire island, the Jekyll Island Club was a closed social unit with a strictly limited membership. For almost sixty years, Jekyll Island played host to many of the nation's most influential financiers, industrialists, and politicians, many of whom built "cottages" of fifteen or twenty rooms on the island.