Ocean Plaza book project to commemorate Hotel Tybee. Author looking for old photos & stories.
All profits to support Tybee Post Theater.
Whenever given the chance Harry Spirides, owner & operator of the 205 room Ocean Plaza Beach Resort, proudly proclaims, “Hospitality has been served here at Ocean Plaza’s address for 123 years since the legendary Hotel Tybee first opened its doors to the public here in 1887.”
At one time Tybee Island’s Hotel Tybee was acclaimed as the “Finest resort between Atlantic City and Miami on the Atlantic Coast.” It set the standard for resorts in the United States and featured a lavishly appointed dining room, a saloon, a dancing pavilion, elevators, and an electricity generation plant to provide electric lighting to every room. It even had its own artesian waterworks which provided fresh water throughout the property. That hotel survived hurricanes, world wars, and the Great Depression. It was the island’s social hub during Tybee Island’s Golden Age in the roaring 1920s. It was originally built by a subsidiary of the Central of Georgia Railway Company. The first Hotel Tybee burned down in 1909, and the second Hotel Tybee opened on the same site in 1911. Most of the second Hotel Tybee was torn down by a previous owner in 1960.
To commemorate the rich and colorful history of the legendary Hotel Tybee Harry Spirides is currently conducting extensive historical research and writing a book to be published for the purpose of sharing with the general public for the first time ever the detailed history of the Hotel Tybee. To produce the most accurate historical record possible Harry Spirides is asking everyone to speak with their family members and friends about this project and to ask them to search their old photo albums, storage closets, and attics for photos and other memorabilia of the old Hotel Tybee to be contributed and featured in his book. Spirides is also interested in hearing from past Hotel Tybee visitors and guests to document memorable events which took place at the old Hotel Tybee. All contributors whose items are chosen to be featured in the book will receive credit in the book along with free copies of the completed book. When asked why he is writing this book Spirides replies, “I want to document the history of this grand old hotel before this information is lost forever, plus I think it could be an effective way to raise money for a good cause.”
Harry Spirides has pledged to donate ALL profits from his book to the ongoing restoration of historic Fort Screven’s Tybee Post Theater located on the north end of Tybee Island.
For those interested in contributing to the Hotel Tybee book research project, scanned Hotel Tybee photos and typewritten Hotel Tybee stories may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those without a computer may mail the items to Harry Spirides at the post office box listed at the end of this article. He will return your photos to you after he scans them into his computer.
The second Hotel Tybee (circa 1930s)
About the author
The Spirides family has operated landmark businesses in Tybee Island’s commercial district for the past 73 years since 1937. Some of these businesses include the legendary Tybrisa Pier & Pavilion, the Hotel Tybee, the world’s first Days Inn, Ocean Terrace Cottages, the Sands Motel, the Veranda Motel & Restaurant, and the modern day Ocean Plaza Beach Resort. The Spirides family has owned the Ocean Plaza Beach Resort property (previously known as the Veranda Motel) for the past 44 years. Harry Spirides as a child literally grew up at the Ocean Plaza Beach Resort, and he has worked there for the past 30 years. He has worked in every position in that hotel including busboy, dishwasher, maintenance man, front desk clerk, cook, waiter, janitor, telephone operator, landscape maintenance man, guest room attendant, reservationist, cashier, laundry attendant, swimming pool attendant, parking lot attendant, sales and marketing manager, front office manager, and restaurant manager. Harry Spirides’ most notable accomplishment at Ocean Plaza thus far has been the design, construction, and opening ten years ago of the multi-million dollar Dolphin Reef Oceanfront Restaurant and Sports Bar.
When asked what he likes most about working in the hospitality industry Spirides replies, “It is an absolute pleasure to serve people from all over the country and the world here at Ocean Plaza. Just last night I was speaking in our Dolphin Reef Oceanfront Restaurant with a couple from Portland, Oregon. Five minutes earlier I was talking with a gentleman from Chicago, Illinois, in our front lobby, and last week I spoke with a family from Germany who stayed with us all week. I consider it an honor that these people have traveled from so far away to stay with us while they visit the Tybee Island/Savannah area.”
Harry Spirides’ goal for the Ocean Plaza Beach Resort is an ambitious renovation of the entire hotel property in an attempt to make it look a lot like the second Hotel Tybee with its majestic Mediterranean Revival architecture, see inset photo.
Harry Spirides says the most challenging part of his job is retaining top quality front line employees and managers in such a highly seasonal business which many times require employee layoffs during the slow, off-season months. “To go from 100 employees in the summer to 40 employees in the winter is devastating for employee morale and employee retention, and this vicious cycle happens every year,” says Spirides. To level out the seasonality of the tourism industry on Tybee Island Spirides proposes to build a convention center at Ocean Plaza to attract groups of people to Tybee Island for multi-day meetings during the slow, off-season months. Tybee Island currently has no convention center other than the small existing conference center at Ocean Plaza which is too small to accommodate the larger Atlanta-based corporate, government, and association groups which are calling and being turned away on a daily basis due to Tybee Island’s lack of adequate meeting space. He believes all types of Tybee Island businesses from gift shops to restaurants to convenience stores to bars to art galleries would directly benefit from the people that conventions would bring to town. In addition, he says conventions would deposit significant sales tax, hotel occupancy tax, liquor tax, and parking revenues directly into government coffers. Harry Spirides would also like to find a way to partner with the City of Tybee Island to build a municipal parking garage at Ocean Plaza to accommodate the ever growing number of beach “day trippers” during the busy summer months in addition to the cars that future conventions would bring to town if a convention center is built.
Harry Spirides graduated High School from Benedictine Military School in Savannah. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hospitality Administration from Florida State University’s College of Business. He also holds a Master of Business Administration Degree from Mercer University’s Stetson School of Business & Economics.
Harry Spirides is a Military Veteran of the Global War on Terrorism. He served 3 years active duty and 8 years reserve duty in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Intelligence Officer and Maritime Law Enforcement Officer. He held a Top Secret-SCI national security clearance, and separated from the service with an Honorable Discharge in 2008.
Harry Spirides is married to Kerriann who is originally from Long Island, NY. He admires her “business savvy” which he believes she acquired during the ten years she worked as a store manager for the Limited Corporation. Harry and Kerriann live on Tybee Island and have two daughters.
Today Harry Spirides continues to oversee the family business on a daily basis. He leads with his family’s support, his disciplined work ethic that was ingrained in him by his father decades earlier, and his strong moral and religious values.
To mail old Hotel Tybee photos and stories or for more information, the below contact information is provided.
Attn: Hotel Tybee Book Project
P.O. Box 2449
Tybee Island, GA 31328-2449
Telephone: (912) 786-7777
Ocean Plaza Resort website: www.oceanplaza.com