Tybee Island, Georgia: Wikis


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Tybee Island, Georgia
—  City  —
Location in Chatham County and the state of Georgia
Coordinates: 32°0′24″N 80°50′58″W / 32.00667°N 80.84944°W / 32.00667; -80.84944
Country United States
State Georgia
County Chatham
 - Total 2.7 sq mi (6.9 km2)
 - Land 2.6 sq mi (6.6 km2)
 - Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation 10 ft (3 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 3,392
 Density 1,256.3/sq mi (491.6/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 31328
Area code(s) 912
FIPS code 13-78036[1]
GNIS feature ID 0333294[2]

Tybee Island is an island and city in Chatham County, Georgia near the city of Savannah in the southeastern United States. It is the easternmost point in the state of Georgia. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 3,392. The island, which includes the city of the same name, had a population of 3,713. It is part of the Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Officially renamed "Savannah Beach" in a publicity move at the end of the 1950s, the city of Tybee Island has since reverted to its original name. (The name "Savannah Beach" nevertheless appears on official state maps as far back as 1952 and as recently as the mid-1970s).[3] The small island, which has long been a quiet getaway for the residents of Savannah, has become a popular vacation spot with tourists from outside the Savannah metropolitan area. Tybee Island is also home to the first of what became the Days Inn chain of hotels, the oft-photographed Tybee Island Light Station, and the Fort Screven Historic District.



Native Americans, using dugout canoes to navigate the waterways, hunted and camped in Georgia's coastal islands for thousands of years. The Euchee tribe likely inhabited the island in the years preceding the arrival of the first Spanish explorers in the area in the 1500s. "Tybee" is the Euchee word for "salt".

In 1520, the Spanish laid claim to what is now Tybee Island and named it Los Bajos. It was at the northern end of the Guale missionary province of Spanish Florida. During that time the island was frequented by pirates who used the island to hide from those who pursued them. Pirates later used the island’s inland waterways for a fresh water source. After the founding of South Carolina in 1670, warfare increased between the English and their pirate allies and the Spanish and their Native American allies. In 1702, James Moore of South Carolina led an invasion of Spanish Florida with an Indian army and a fleet of pirates. The invasion failed to take the capital of Florida, St. Augustine, but did destroy the Guale and Mocama missionary provinces. After another invasion of Spanish Florida by South Carolina in 1704, the Spanish retreated to St. Augustine and Pensacola; the Sea Islands were depopulated, allowing the establishment of new English settlements such as the colony of Georgia. In 1733 English settlers led by James Oglethorpe settled on Tybee Island before moving on to settle eventually in Savannah.



Tybee Island Light Station today

Tybee Island's strategic position near the mouth of the Savannah River has made the island's northern tip the ideal location for a lighthouse since Georgia's early settlement period. First built in the year 1736, the lighthouse was made of brick and wood, and stood 90 feet (27 m) tall, making it the highest structure in America at that time. The original lighthouse has been replaced several times. The second lighthouse was built in 1742 when beach erosion threated the first. Part of the third lighthouse at the site, built in 1773, still stands as the bottom 60 feet (18 m) of the present lighthouse. The top 94 feet (29 m) of the current lighthouse were added in 1867.[4]

Today, the Tybee Lighthouse is a popular tourist destination, having all of its support buildings on the 5-acre (20,000 m2) site historically preserved. The current black and white tower markings are a reversion to its fourth day mark, first used in 1916. The Tybee Island Light Station is one of just a handful of 18th century lighthouses still in operation in North America.

Tybee Island in the Civil War

Robert K. Sneden map showing Union batteries on Tybee Island.

During the American Civil War, the Union Army placed siege batteries along the north coast of Tybee Island that aided in their successful bombardment and capture of Fort Pulaski on April 10-11, 1862. This was the first significant use of rifled cannons against masonry fortifications and demonstrated that masonry fortifications were obsolete. Recently, the City of Tybee Island has taken action to commemorate Tybee's historic significance in the Civil War. In 2005, the city obtained a federal grant to acquire two tracts of land where Union soldiers launched their attack against Fort Pulaski. [5]

Fort Screven historic district

Fort Screven was first commissioned in 1899 and was named for Brigadier General James Screven, a Revolutionary War hero who was killed in action near Midway, Georgia, in 1778. The Fort served as a valuable part of coastal defense until it was decommissioned in 1947. Fort Screven is most notable for one of its former commanding officers, General of the Army George C. Marshall, later the architect of the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II. Very little remains of the original fort due to redevelopment of the area for housing. One of the most important remaining structures is the Tybee Post Theater which was constructed in 1930. It was one of the first theaters in Georgia to have sound features and was the highlight of recreational activities for the fort. Other remaining buildings include the recently restored guard house, the bakery (now a private home), and barracks (now apartments). The ruins of the beach fortifications are also extant, and of the six original batteries, Battery Garland (built in 1899) is accessible to the public. Battery Garland houses the Tybee Museum and several cannons and other military hardware are on display. Another remaining area is Officer's Row, an impressive group of original homes that had a sweeping an ocean view. One of these homes is now a bed and breakfast.

The resort period

In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, residents in large, polluted cities frequently sought out remote beaches for summertime getaways. Clear, saltwater breezes were believed to be remedies for various ailments, including asthma and certain allergies. Steamships began carrying patients and tourists to Tybee Island just after the Civil War. In 1887, the Central of Georgia Railroad completed a line to Tybee Island, opening the island to a wave of summer tourists. The railroad built the Tybrisa Pavilion in 1891, and by the end of the decade, several hundred summer cottages dotted the island.[6]

In the 1920s, U.S. Route 80 was completed, connecting Tybee Island via road with the mainland. The Tybrisa Pavilion became a popular stop for Big Band tours, and development pushed toward the island's southern tip. By 1940, the island had four hotels, including the Desoto Hotel and Hotel Tybee, and numerous smaller lodges. The Tybrisa Pavilion burned in 1967, and was replaced by the Tybee Pier and Pavilion in 1996.[7]

The Tybee Bomb

On February 5, 1958, a U.S. Air Force B-47 Stratojet from Homestead Air Force Base, Florida jettisoned a nuclear weapon (specifically, a Mark 15 hydrogen bomb) off the coast of Tybee Island while conducting training exercises with a USAF F-86 Sabrejet. The two aircraft collided, with the pilot of the fighter ejecting and the crew of the bomber making an emergency landing at nearby Hunter Air Force Base. The lost weapon, known popularly as the "Tybee Bomb", remained a security concern for several years, although the Air Force claims the bomb lacks a nuclear capsule and doesn't pose a serious threat.[8] In 2004, retired United States Air force Lieutenant Colonel Derek Duke took part in a private search for the bomb. According to an article in the Savannah Morning News, Duke concluded that there were “high levels of radiation and unusual magnetometer readings” at a specific point in Wassaw Sound, just off the Tybee coast. [1] Duke concluded, from these readings, that the bomb might be present “at a point just off the southern tip of Little Tybee,” [2] an undeveloped barrier island near Tybee Island. In response, the Air Force launched a nine-month search for the Tybee bomb in 2004. The search team specifically investigated the area of Wassaw Sound in which Duke had located high radiation levels. The Air Force reported to the media in 2005 that the source of the high radiation is likely to be monazite, a sand which is naturally high in radiation. The Savannah Morning News headline ran “Duke Found Dirt.” [3]


The view south from atop the Tybee Lighthouse

Tybee Island is located at 32°0′24″N 80°50′58″W / 32.00667°N 80.84944°W / 32.00667; -80.84944 (32.006672, -80.849374)[9]. The island is the northeastern-most of Georgia's Barrier Islands, which comprise the outer section of the state's Lower Coastal Plain region. Like the other Barrier Islands, Tybee consists of a sandy beach on its eastern shore and a tidal salt marsh on its western shore. The interior consists of a maritime forest (the density of which has been reduced by development) and freshwater sloughs.[10]

The Savannah River empties into the Atlantic Ocean just north of Tybee Island, placing the island in a historically strategic location. To the west, the marsh-lined Lazaretto Creek splits the island off from McQueens Island (the two-mile (3 km) stretch between the main western shore of Tybee Island and Lazaretto Creek is mostly marshland). Tybee Creek flows along the south shore of Tybee Island and joins the Atlantic at the island's southeastern tip. Little Tybee Island, which consists mostly of protected wetlands, lies across Tybee Creek to the southwest. The size of the sandy beach at the southern tip of Tybee Island varies considerably in response to tidal changes.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.674 miles (4.303 km). Of this, 2.5575 miles (4.1159 km) is land and 0.1161 miles (0.1868 km), or 4.344%, is water. The entire island (as distinguished from the city of the same name) has a land area of 21.871 square miles (56.65 km2).


The Tybee Island pier's annual fireworks show

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 3,392 people, 1,568 households, and 901 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,326.3 people per square mile (511.6/km²). There were 2,696 housing units at an average density of 1,054.2/sq mi (406.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.93% White, 1.89% African American, 0.56% Native American, 0.85% Asian, 0.06% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.27% of the population.

There were 1,568 households out of which 15.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.5% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.5% were non-families. 33.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.62.

In the city the population was spread out with 13.8% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 35.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $49,741, and the median income for a family was $58,462. Males had a median income of $45,833 versus $30,694 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,406. About 5.3% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.2% of those under age 18 and 3.1% of those age 65 or over.

See also

Photo gallery


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. http://geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ GeorgiaInfo - Carl Vinson Institute of Government
  4. ^ "Tybee Island Beach Management Plan." Page 3. Retrieved: 9 September 2008.
  5. ^ Mary Landers, City wants to buy two Civil War battery sites. Retrieved: 22 January 2009.
  6. ^ "Tybee Island Beach Management Plan." Retrieved: 9 September 2008.
  7. ^ Tybee Island Pier & Pavilion." Retrieved: 9 September 2008.
  8. ^ Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation AGency, "Air Force Search & Recovery Assessment of the 1958 Savannah GA-B47 Accident." 12 April 2001. Retrieved: 11 September 2008.
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  10. ^ Adrienn Mendonca, "Tybee Island." New Georgia Encyclopedia, 3 June 2005. Retrieved: 9 September 2008.

External links


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