The Salt Marsh Cottages in Moss Creek Plantation seem to cling to the edge of the wide marsh that spreads out from below their decks. With Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and Mackays Creek in the distance, the view alone must be worth millions. The cottages themselves, according to the people who live there, are also worth seeing.
The Salt Marsh Cottages are a Lowcountry architectural treasure. Built in 1979, the cottages have been recognized with a merit award by the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects for their floor plans and connection to the landscape. The architect Jakie Lee used geometric shapes, high ceilings, natural light and open floor plans to give these 1,100-square-foot units a spacious feel. The cottage exteriors, despite their sharp angles and bold shapes, are constructed of natural materials in natural colors that allow them to blend in without disappearing in the expansive marsh setting. Although the cottages were built in the '70s, their mid-century modern design and small footprint means they're still relevant today.
Jeff Eley, chairman of the Department of Historic Preservation at Savannah College of Art and Design, touched on the cottages' design in an article.
"In a world where we automatically express reverence for the buildings of the Colonial Era, the Victorian Age and even earlier 20th-century, it is important to understand that the Lowcountry possesses outstanding design from a more recent past," he wrote.
Eley, who owns one of the cottages, said that when he was looking for a vacation getaway, he liked the Salt Marsh Cottages because their beauty exists in their simplicity and for their sensitivity to the environment. The skylight and windows let in natural light and the view, which defines the experience of living there.
"Inside you feel like you're outside," Eley said, "which is something I enjoy immensely because it contrasts with the experience of living in downtown Savannah."
As the property manager, Danielle Aspinwall-Winter spends a lot of time walking the grounds and she said she's constantly struck by how well designed the community is. Each cottage has a private deck, most with marsh views, and a skylight at the peak of the pyramidal roof. The 42 units were built in clusters on only 5 acres of land. When she owned one of the cottages, Aspinwall-Winter said she lovingly referred to them as her African Village because they fit so seamlessly into the stunning landscape that surrounds them.
"There isn't anything like them in the area," Aspinwall-Winter said. "When I found them, I fell in love."
On April 12, the Salt Marsh Cottages will celebrate their 35th anniversary, and they've invited the community to come see what makes these cottages so special. The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bostwick Pavilion in Moss Creek. The event will feature information on the history and design. Several of the owners will open their cottages so visitors can tour the inside.
"We want people to know about us because everyone knows about Moss Creek, but most don't know about the Salt Marsh Cottages," said Carol Oleksiuk, the chair of the communication committee. "Even people in Moss Creek don't know about us."
Oleksiuk splits her time between her cottage and her home in the northeast. She said most of the cottage owners are part-time. The best part about owning a cottage, Oleksiuk said, is that the property is so well maintained according to the original vision.
"We lock our door when we leave and the place looks exactly the same when we return," said Oleksiuk. In fact, she said, they look the same as when Lee designed them 35 years ago.