Surf Song's history begins, perhaps, with a military era known as the Endicott period. The Endicott period followed the civil war from 1885 to 1905, when the war department was concerned about the state of America's coastal defenses. The administration agreed to invest $127 million in new and existing coastal forts. Improvements generally consisted of state-of-the-art concrete batteries and new "disappearing" rifled canons. Many existing forts were updated, such as Fort Sumter. However, many new forts were created as well, including Tybee's Fort Screven, or Florida's Fort Dade.
Construction along the coasts began in earnest in the last half of the 1890s. Along with the strategic construction of the actual batteries and guns, the Army also had the responsibility of building all the things to support a fort: mess halls, enlisted men's quarters, jails, bowling alleys, and -yes- Officers' quarters. This responsibility fell to a group within the army known as the Quartermasters - a sort of precursor to the army corps of engineers. The Quartermasters developed plans for several new forts, many with their own Officer's Row. Plans were developed for each building, and reused as the army saw fit. Ironically, the US war machine normally dedicated to destruction, was also now tasked with building beautiful, comfortable coastal homes for its important officers. While it is possible, or even likely, that a duplicate Surf Song was built, we are not aware of one (not even on Tybee). Many buildings in Fort Screven are labeled as being built circa 1898. However, it is our belief that the Officer's Quarters building that became Surf Song, was actually constructed in the year 1900 or 1901.
There is a legend that the Army had to install tin ceilings at the behest of the officers wives, after mortar fire shook the houses so roughly that plaster fell from the ceilings. While a great story, that we ourselves are guilty of indulging, the truth is that the tin ceilings are likely original. The Quartermasters routinely used pressed-tin ceilings in their officers quarters designs. However, there is some historical evidence for the tale in James Mack Adams, "Images of America, Tybee Island". Adams states that Fort Screven's 8inch guns, "often rattled windows and knocked items off shelves in nearby buildings".
The military's $127 million dollar plan for coastal fortification was rendered obsolete, by an unsuspecting pair of brothers from North Carolina. In 1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright first took to the sky in Kitty Hawk. Only 8 years later, the technology of flight had been commandeered for military use, and the first aerial bomb was dropped. Traditional concrete embankments were virtually useless against aircraft, which could simply fly over batteries. Virtually all the forts manufactured during the Endicott period were eventually closed and abandoned, including Fort Screven.
After World War I, Fort Screven's canons were dismantled and sent to France to fight the NAZIs. After World War II, the fort was closed altogether. The Army sold the land and structures to the city of Tybee for $200,000. Tybee later auctioned off parcels of land to private ownership. The building that would become Surf Song was used as private family home for several years. Around 1985, it was first converted to a bed and breakfast and was rechristened "Savannah Beach Inn".
Surf Song offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the character and beauty of a historic home with updated beach fun furnishings. The home was built in the late 1890’s for one of the senior officers at Fort Screven. In all there were 11 homes on “Officer’s Row” of which 9 still remain. The homes are an impressive sight all with Victorian styling and large porches sitting atop a large earthen berm created by the army engineers to protect the homes from potential flooding due to tropical storms or hurricanes. Much of the home's original charm has been retained including fireplaces, tin ceilings, pocket doors and other wood trim.
The house is one block from the beach and has a park with great walking or running trails immediately behind the home.
The house underwent an extensive renovation in 2013 honoring the history of the house but adding a beach flair. You will enjoy a mix of old and new decorating elements and will certainly appreciate the amenities like an en suite bathroom with every bedroom. The beds and bedding are also new and first rate which should help you get some rest after a day of fun on the beach.
Another addition in 2013 was the private swimming pool. A great place to cool off and when you get out of the water the ocean breezes are normally great as the pool is also on top of the earthen berm. Beyond all the great things the house offers, we also strive to offer great service with an outstanding breakfast and a staff focused on making your time on Tybee or in Savannah truly enjoyable.