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La Tai Inn

Fripp Island Coastal Homes for sale

Kilgore recognized that the island needed an inn, a place for lodging with a fine restaurant. However; he did not have the capital required for such an undertaking. Thus he brought together ten investors and created a separate corporation, Resort Lodging Incorporated.  He promised to donate the land in return for the new corporation building and operating the inn. In addition to himself, the investors included Ray Berry, Bill Turbeville and Van Newman, three of his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers, who built many of the early houses on Fripp.

Before construction could begin on the inn, the ground had to be elevated. To oversee this endeavor Kilgore hired Bob Sutton, A Georgia native who for many years had been superintendent and engineer for a large Great Lakes dredging company. Sutton combined the tasks of dredging the tidal creek and providing fill for the inn’s construction.  A large pipe across Tarpon Boulevard carried the dredged sand to the intended site for the inn. Kilgore had hoped to locate the marina on backside of the inn, but after much dredging the water at low tide was still too shallow for a marina. Yet the land on which the inn was to be built had been significantly reased. Construction began in 1967 on a million dollar motor inn with sixty rooms for overnight guests. The grand opening took place on March 15, 1968.

Kilgore gave the inn the name La Tai Inn, which he said meant sand and sea in Polynesian. The early promotional fliers advertised it as a luxury inn with a heated swimming pool, excellent fishing, an uncrowned beach, charter boats, bicycle and horse trails, golf and tennis on an enchanted island. The inn had a sloping shingle roof, pale yellow exterior walls and bold orange trim, all inspired by South Pacific architecture. At the entrance stood a large bright orange sign depicting a man paddling a Polynesian outrigger canoe, which was the early logo of the Fripp Island Resort. The lobby boasted a tuning chandelier and a handsome curved stairway that led to an upstairs cocktail lounge with spectacular views of the expansive beach. The entire inn was decorated with Polynesian artifacts tapas wall hangings, masks, models of early sailing vessels and tiki lanterns that helped to create an exotic ambience.