Who We Are…
At today’s DeSoto Beach Hotel, we strive to recreate for every guest that same experience that the old DeSoto Beach Club was to generations of travelers and Tybee Island, GA locals. The buildings and amenities at Tybee’s only beachfront hotel may have been renewed and updated, but our soul remains the same. The magnificent old hotel, all red Spanish tile and palm-lined gardens, was a landmark not just for the Island, but also for the whole Southern coast. Back when it was built in 1939, genteel guests of the original Hotel DeSoto Beach Club had it all. Of course, luxury accommodations were different back then: the Beach Club’s chief draws were air conditioning and bathrooms en suite amenities mostly unheard of in those days!
Today’s DeSoto Beach Hotel strikes a delicate balance, drawing the best from every era of the storied hotel and adding an exciting, modern spin. It’s not a playground for the superrich anymore, but our staff still works just as hard to kill ‘em with kindness and service. People don’t flock here from hundreds of miles around to dance on the shore like they did once, but fun is what a stay at the DeSoto is all about. And the islanders may not congregate in the lounge chatting like the 24/7 neighborhood news station they once were, but the place still drips with local character.
Over The Years…
The DeSoto Beach Hotel was named for the first European to explore the South; the very name is synonymous with the search for untold riches. The name had proved prescient; you don’t have to dig deep into the DeSoto’s past to find gems about the history of Tybee Island and the world around it. Back in 1939 when it was built, guests of the original Hotel DeSoto Beach Club were swathed in luxury. Waiters in black bowties shuttled about with cool refreshments atop silver trays for the elite clientele in from Savannah and beyond while rich terracotta floors were kept eternally spotless by a vigilant army of busboys in tuxedo shirts. The hotel was truly one of the poshest spots in the South, if not the whole country.
In those first days, the Beach Club was accessible only to guests of the Hotel DeSoto in Savannah. The Hotel and the Beach Club, as well as the General Oglethorpe Hotel on nearby Wilmington Island, were built, owned and operated by J.B. Pound. Pound was a local hotel magnate who used the favorable labor market conditions of the Great Depression to create not only the most beautiful, modern hotel possible with the most attentive service, but also many jobs. Many locals who could never afford to stay in such a place were nevertheless able to make a living building and staffing it. Two design influences inspired Pound’s vision for the Beach Club: Georgia’s Spanish past, and the sea. Hernando DeSoto, the hotel’s conquistador namesake, was the first European to explore Georgia. The Southern coast saw a revived interest in architectural elements from the days of old Spanish Florida. Combining those themes with a gentle nautical influence, the old DeSoto Beach Club was a uniquely beautiful structure. Even the outbreak of war in Europe never made Pound take his sights off making the grandest hotel possible.
The Beach Club’s heyday came in the postwar boom. During this time, the hotel changed ownership and became the Desoto Beach Hotel. (The locals would continue to call it the Beach Club, even after it was demolished decades later.) Not only did it open up to a decidedly less ritzy crowd—it also offered the only beachside dance floor on the Southern coast at a time when beach music became king. Famous shag dancing and amateur talent shows brought visitors from around the nation and the world. In the ‘60s, just as the Beach Club’s opening to the public had completed its transition from exclusive resort to hub of island life, the hotel changed ownership again. Both it and the General Oglethorpe were both bought out by businessmen with connections to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Wary locals suspected the new owners of further connections with less savory organizations. The actual goings-on in the Teamster-owned DeSoto Beach Hotel largely remain a mystery; for their part, the management kept poor records. That didn’t stop Tybee residents from speculating on the activities of the new owners or sharing wild stories of cash-stuffed briefcases changing hands on the airfield tarmac. (No evidence for rumors that Jimmy Hoffa—or some crucial piece of him—was buried on Tybee or at sea nearby.)
The DeSoto Beach Hotel Today
The new hotel, with its red tile roofs, porthole windows and ample vegetation, pays homage to the glory of the old one. It helps that we’re the only beachfront hotel on Tybee Island, and was voted Best Place to Stay for several years. But what’s really important to us is that we have worked to create a place that’s both a reference to the long book of Tybee history and the next chapter in it. We strive to continue to add great amenities to our Hotel and make the stay for all better and better. Look forward to seeing you.
The DeSoto Beach Bed & Breakfast
Located next door to the hotel, our beautiful Bed and Breakfast has 4 different rooms to offer for your staying pleasure. Purchased in 2005, the house still stands much like it did when it was built in 1936. It sits just 3 homes back from the beach, offering the closest Bed and Breakfast stay to the ocean. With sleeping quarters for 2 – 7 people, our Bed and Breakfast hosts a wine and cheese reception every evening as well as a full, hot cooked breakfast each morning.
The DeSoto Beach Terraces
The DeSoto Beach Terraces were acquired in February, 2011. This magnificant beach house is located just one house back from the shore and offers wonderful views of the Atlantic from each level. With easy access to the beach, the amenities of the hotel, and the wonderful mid-island location, there is no better place to kick back and relax with the family or friends.