Lens-Artists Challenge #168: Seen Better Days

Ruins of Retreat Hospital and tree, Sea Island, GA

I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less and less an issue, and what you are becomes the point.

Susan Sarandon
Sign: Ruins of Retreat Hospital

It’s not unusual for one of us to pull over while driving country roads to take a closer look at an abandoned barn, rusting farm implements, or anything that looks like something time forgot. But Tina’s topic for this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge: Seen Better Days immediately reminded us of a place we came upon unexpectedly on St. Simons Island, Georgia, near the Sea Island Golf Club: the remains of the Retreat Plantation hospital. In its day, the hospital and its 10 rooms served the slaves of the plantation.

The remaining structure has indeed seen better days. The structure itself is tentative. Moss grows along once-creamy walls, and bricks stand for now, but for how long? Ferns emerge from cracks in the walls, and massive trees add a bit of elegance as they provide contrast to the aging structure.

Interior, Retreat Hospital ruins, Sea Island, GA
Ferns and trees provide a living contrast to the crumbling, aging walls.

These decaying, crumbling walls reveal the elements of construction — tabby, it’s called — a mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand and water. It was a common concoction used effectively in coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. And, as you can see, it endures (albeit not sturdily) for many years.

Tabby construction, Retreat Hospital, Sea Island, GA
Exposed tabby construction at the hospital on Retreat Plantation

We wish these walls could talk and answer the questions Who was there? For how long? For what illnesses?

Window at Retreat Hospital ruins, Sea Island, GA
Aging tabby construction and a window to the world from the slave hospital at Retreat Plantation, Sea Island, GA

But for now, it’s at least a comfort knowing that the remains are available for all to see, thanks to preservationists with vision.

Interior walls, Retreat Hospital ruins, Sea Island GA
Interior of the Hospital at Retreat Plantation near Sea Island Golf Course

If you survive long enough, you’re revered — rather like an old building.

Katherine Hepburn

If you’d like to see more entries for Tina’s challenge, head to her site and check out the photography.

Travel during your better days,

Rusha & Bert

35 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #168: Seen Better Days

  1. Tina Schell

    What a perfect place for this week’s challenge Rusha. I’ve been to St. Simons and played the golf courses but never heard of this place. Would love to visit it one of these days!! Loved your post.

  2. Toonsarah

    Oh this is perfect for the theme! Yes, it’s seen better days, and it must have so many stories to tell if only it could talk. Although I’m betting there was something in the atmosphere as you explored that hinted of its past – I can see it in your photos!

  3. kzmcb

    I’m heartened to think that some plantations had hospitals for their main workforce. Imagine if factories and major industry did the same, now!

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