The Inn-by-the-Sea was a dream come true. “It was laid out in Mediterranean style, situated in the center of a beautifully landscaped 75-acre park, with a private white-silver sand beach extending from the very edge of the patio to the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with no roadway to cross.
As advertised, the “Inn-by-the-Sea resembled a Spanish castle, as if lifted bodily from old Spain and gently set on the romantic Gulf Coast of Mississippi.”
“One could almost expect to see Spanish Grandees or French Cavaliers strolling through the rough-hewn beams of its corridors. One could almost imagine waking in the morning to witness a duel beneath one of the majestic Live Oaks. The very atmosphere of the Inn was charged with romantic intrigue of the Spanish Main and yet it had all the creature comforts in catering to the slightest wish of a vacationing family.”
The former owners of the Inn, Mr. and Mrs. I. T. Rhea, who 1915, had lost to flame the “Lynne Castle Hotel,” once reflected on the beauty of just sitting on the beach in front of the Inn by the Sea, and watching the magnificent sunset. They encouraged their guests to join them in listening to the splash of the waves and to become alert to the many natural amenities that were waiting to be reaped. They maintained flocks of exotic birds. In the patio, they hand-fed the bugle birds adorned with gold and black plumage, along with the white cockatoos, parrots, and beautiful macaws. The Innkeepers organized picnics into the piney woods and alerted their lodgers to absorb the glorious sunshine and to feel and taste the tang of salt air. Everyone learned to forget their cares as they would take a venture by sailing on the Pussy Cat or the Queen of the Fleet, or in taking a cruise on the Oneida to the barrier islands where they would spend the afternoon plunging from the bow into the Gulf's emerald waters.
The Inn-by-the-Sea was a delightful hotel surrounded by cottages between the tall pines and moss hung live oaks basking beside the shores of the Gulf at Henderson Point.
Inn by the Sea advertisements promoted itself as a Delightful Inn with adjoining cottages among the pines and moss-hung Live oaks – located beside the Emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico and open everyday of the year.
The Inn was architecturally designed along the lines of a typical Spanish Mission. It was laid out in a crescent shape that followed the course of the Bay shoreline – around which it was located. The main building was long and rambling, with low arched doorways and heavy hand-hewn doors that were adorned with wrought iron fittings. There were adobe-colored, high, double arched galleries, cloistered walkways, railed balconies, and fan-shaped windows – some with wrought iron guard grills. There were also private cottages.
The Inn guest rooms had large comfortable country-estate style bedrooms with large, welcoming fireplaces and finely appointed bathrooms with built-in tubs and pedestal basins.
However, like the many other old hotels along the Coast, the Depression of the '30s reaped its toll. After the Inn by the Sea fell into bankruptcy, not until the beginning of World War II, in 1941, the Inn was taken over by the U.S. Merchant Marines as a training academy only to be abandoned at War's end.
Currently, it is the Gulfshore Baptist Assembly