Noel Wright’s fascinating history of marine operations at Isle of Hope confirm their central role in the community for the better part of the 20th century. The Hallman family were among the first commercial operators in the 20th century, bolstered by Joe Hallman’s reputation as one of Savannah’s best shipbuilders. The Brady and Barbee families were also important to this early industry. Bill Brady, brother-in-law of Willie Barbee, bought Hallman’s Fish Camp circa 1939 and renamed it Brady’s Boat Works.
Mr. Wright recalls: Over the years, the marina added numerous floating docks and large covered boat wet storage sheds. They installed benches in front of the over-the-water office for customers and kibitzers, and the marina became the center of activity for the entire island. Many of today’s Isle of Hope adults worked for the marina in their youths as their first paying job. In 1962, Isle of Hope was filled with excitement! Gregory Peck, Polly Bergen, and Robert Mitchum were in Savannah filming the movie, Cape Fear. Several of the important scenes were filmed at the marina under the gaze of thrilled crowds of Isle of Hopeians. Isle of Hope lads Malcolm Harbison and Jim Sickel both had bit parts in the movie! Bill Brady retired in the middle 1970s and Neil Mingledorff became the next owner.
In the mid 1980’s, real estate investors became interested in buying the marina and the houses on the Bluff that had been acquired over the years with plans to close the marina and build condominiums and develop the marina land for commercial uses. When the developers realized the strong opposition to their plans from the Isle of Hope residents, David Johnson stepped forward and purchased the marina operations, and the IOH Historical Association purchased the residential properties across the Bluff. The Association immediately resold the residential parcels to individuals who agreed to rehab the existing homes or construct new homes on the few vacant lots in compliance with guidelines established by the Association. Jack Oliver became the manager, and peace returned to the island.
Today, Charlie Waller and his sister Kathryn Waller II, are the marina owners. They have recently completely rebuilt and modernized the facilities to transform it into the most up-to-date, desirable, and sought-after marina on the Georgia coast.
Mr. Wright has lived on Bluff Drive since 1944 and his history is worth reading. This is just a small part of it.