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Fort Screven, an U.S. Army fort active from 1898-1945, was situated on the north end of Tybee Island and is now a national historic district. Tybee Island Inn is located in the Fort Screven Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1902 and originally served as the day room of the Fort Screven hospital, formerly next door. Constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the construction pieces for the building were milled off-site, coded with Roman numerals and transported via barge to the island for assembly.
The hospital buildings, including what is now Tybee Island Inn, were constructed with basements (unusual for island property) and linked with tunnels to be used as bomb shelters in the event that the Fort Screven was attacked. Part of one of the tunnels has been excavated and is in the Captain’s Quarters guest room. The door to the tunnel was once the entrance to the Shipwatch Lounge; the meeting place for over 60 years of a former Tybee Island landmark called the DeSoto Hotel. Built in the 30s, the DeSoto fell prey to progress and its demolition by developers remains the source of heated emotional debate about the future of Tybee.
Other old Tybee collectibles include the clown cart ride from the former island amusement park. We restored and donated another of the clown carts to the Tybee Island Museum and it now can be seen in their amusement park room.
Although altered through the years, the Inn has many original features such as the tin front and back porch roofs and heart pine flooring in the living and dining areas, back porch and gathering room. The Inn used to have high ceilings with tin ceiling tiles in all of the rooms. The ceilings were covered in the sixties by previous owners during the first major renovation. In the kitchen and the Savannah Beach rooms, a portion of the original tin ceiling has been uncovered and restored.
The red sidewalks in the front of the Inn once linked all of the buildings in Fort Screven. The magnificent live oaks that grace the entrance to the Inn are estimated to be 150 years old. Live oaks retain their leaves year round. Spanish moss thrives on the limbs of the live oaks. It does not damage the trees.
The lovely home behind the Inn used to be the fort morgue. It has been restored and is now a charming residence. And, the home next door was where the doctor at Fort Screven once resided. There have been no reported stories of ghosts.