It’s one of America’s greatest rags-to-riches stories: two brothers, born into the utter poverty of lower-class Scotland in the mid-1800’s, immigrate to America and amass an inconceivable fortune all on their own. The Carnegie tale is a prime example of American industry at its finest, because in nineteenth century America, you didn’t exactly have to do everything by the book as long as you made billions.
That’s not to say that Andrew and Thomas Carnegie were purely driven by greed, after-all their name is emblazoned on buildings up and down the Northeast as a testament to their philanthropic spirit. From concert halls, to universities, to museums, the only thing the Carnegie’s liked more than making money, was putting their name on buildings, yet one of their most spectacular structures didn’t bear their name at all.
Toward the end of his all too short life Thomas, the younger of the two brothers purchased a vacation house on Cumberland Island, just off the coast of Georgia. Thomas was eight years Andrew’s junior and had spent his career assisting his brother with the daily operations of the family’s various corporations. Andrew was the idea man, while his brother did much of the grunt work, a role which helped make him both incredibly wealthy and incredibly tired. By his late-thirties, Thomas was ready to retire, and so he and his sizable family purchased “Dungeness Mansion” on Cumberland Island, a house with a history that rivaled that of the Carnegie’s themselves.