A Polynesian Theme
Kilgore chose for the island a Polynesian motif as unifying design concept. This theme captured his vision of a tropical island with an exotic flair. It connoted, he thought, an enchanting and isolated place for getting away from the rush and stress of modern American life. From the palm frond thatched hut that served as the security gate at the entrance to the Fripp Island Bridge to the décor of the soon to be constructed inn, Kilgore drew on Polynesian culture for the design of this new resort.
Americans in the mid twentieth century had a special fascination with the South Sea Islands. The selection of a Polynesian theme was in keeping with a national trend that had its roots in the 1930’s with the trader Vic restaurants and then flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. The proliferation of Polynesian restaurants and motels was fueled by memories of servicemen who had served in the South Pacific during World War II, the popularity of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1951 book Kon Tiki, the1958 hit movie South Pacific, James A. Mitcher’s 1959 bestselling book Hawaii and Hawaii becoming the fiftieth state in 1959. As the suburbs and their proclivity for uniformity expanded, there was a special appeal for exotic restaurants and resorts that offered a temporary escape.
For Kilgore the Polynesian motif also proved to be an economical way for the Fripp Island Resort to achieve the desired ambience of a distant land. Using the existing plant life of the island, the resort built palm frond cabanas the dotted the beachfront and golf course to offer a shady resting place. A number of the early houses had Polynesian or Oriental features. One of the most popular styles was a modified Lowcountry cottage built of cedar to blend into the natural landscape. Like Hawaiian cottages, these houses had a pronounced overhanging roof to offer protection from the heat of the sun, and some had supporting beams that extended beyond the eaves in a stylized form that resembled the out rigging of Polynesian canoes.