Tybrisa

“Light on the Past”

with Sarah Pearson Jones

Sarah Jones

Today’s Tybrisa Street (known by the locals as 16th Street) was named after the old pier and pavilion that was built on Tybee following the hurricanes of 1881, 1883, 1886, and 1889. After these hurricanes the majority of businesses moved to the south end of the island due to the damages that occurred on the north end.

In 1900, to encourage people to come to the island, The Central of Georgia Railroad built a large, public pavilion called “Tybrisa.” This pavilion was the largest on Tybee and featured verandas with rocking chairs, a bandstand, men’s and women’s bathhouses, a dining room, a café, and a bar.  All of this was located directly behind the pavilion on 16th Street making this area the center of Tybee for the next 60 years.

Because Tybrisa was less expensive than some of the other locations on Tybee including exclusive  hotels nearby, it became the most popular with “day trippers” who had to watch the money they spent. Up until the 1920s, the young people visiting Tybee Island were very proper.  However, during the Roaring 20s, this all changed and evenings out became more carefree. Every night there were dances held at the pavilion.  The most popular way to travel was still by rail, even though there were groups that would pool their money for gas so that they didn’t have to rush to catch the last train. With its crystal ball that would reflect light off its glass panels, the Tybrisa Pavilion was by far the  most popular spot to go dancing on Tybee.

Of course with a popular place like Tybrisa people had to get to the pier and the walkway that led from the train to The Strand was traveled by most people coming to the island.  So many people chose this way to get to the beach that it became known as “the entrance to the ocean.”  Eventually the walkway became 16th Street.

16th Street developed quickly due to the high volume of people moving through the area.  All kinds of eateries, hotels and boardinghouses popped up in the area to serve them.  Despite two devastating fires that occurred in 1931, Tybee had high hopes of building even bigger and better than before. To accommodate as many travelers to the island as possible Tybee Road was eventually hard-surfaced from 14th through 18th streets, and from the railroad to the Strand. This included parking for 3,000 automobiles, 1,000 of which would have an ocean view parking space.  At the opening of the 1932 season Tybee was the only resort north of Florida that offered ocean-front parking.

Between the years of 1932 and 1937 many new businesses opened on Tybee. By 1937, many of the lots previously destroyed by the two fires had been built upon again, creating a new commercial center for Tybee. This one had strict fire codes and many of the buildings were built out of concrete block. A bus station and new post office were added at south end, and Chu’s Department Store was built. This rebuilding helped “Savannah’s Beach” maintain a year-round community and develop a stronger population.

In 1967 one of the defining features of Tybee Island, the Tybrisa Pavilion, burned down under suspicious circumstances. Unfortunately, due to unchecked growth during the following decades and a lack of planning or control of the growth, The Strand and the South End district of Tybee Island became a shadow of its former glory.

Recently the City of Tybee Island and its citizens have been working  hard to make 16th Street, or “Tybrisa Street” as it is known today, a wonderful example of how a community can reclaim is heritage and re-energize its citizens and economy.

Until next month,
Sarah

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Comments

6 Responses to “Tybrisa”
  1. Martha West says:

    Great Article! I look forward to reading more like it.

  2. Robert W says:

    I know the Pavilion burned down 1967. From my dads pics it was December, but do you know the day?

  3. Editor says:

    No Robert, but perhaps Mike Hosti would know. That was my freshman year at Georgia Southern, and all I remember is that it happened in December. I’d just spent the weekend after Thanksgiving with a girl friend who rented a small apartment off 18th Street. We walked over to 16th to buy light bulbs at Chu’s, then over to the pavilion. It was closed. We headed down to the beach, but the wind was quite strong and cold, so we didn’t stay long. What a shock it was to learn that it had burned and would not reopen. I spent many summer vacations on Tybee as a child, and knew Tybrisa Pavilion and the old pier very well.

  4. bobby wilson says:

    I have a picture of tybrisa that no one else has seen and I would like someone to take a look at it to see if it has any value

  5. char says:

    My research indicated the fire was in May, not December….it’s been a long time since I read that and don’t remember my source.

  6. Editor says:

    You know, you might be right after all, Char. I’ve been talking to Mike Hosti, again, and he says it might have been in the spring of 1967 when they were sprucing things up to reopen. At the time this article was written in 2010, its author might have been more familiar with the history of the lighthouse and other island landmarks, and was relying upon what had been previously written. All I know for certain is that the area was closed down when my friend and I walked down there in November, and soon thereafter learning that it had burned. Thanks so much for the comment!

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