Inside the iconic, steepled butteries that flank the corridors leading into Alys Beach, passersby in the know can find an introduction to the history of this cherished land in a form most befitting to Alys Beach: stories told through art, namely a series of mosaic tiles created by artist Concetta Rothwell Morales.
Each of the four butteries—designed by Khoury-Vogt Architects and styled after buildings once commonly used in Bermuda to store food—feature tiles depicting different periods in the area’s history. They progress from localNative American heritage to early European explorers, the thriving period of the timber industry, and modern-day life at the beach.
Alys Stephens Protzman, who served for three years as style director at Alys Beach (which is named for her grandmother Alys Stephens), says her family seized on the idea of erecting the butteries as iconic architectural elements to signal arrival at Alys Beach. Along with many others involved in designing the town from the beginning, the family also conceived the idea of having the butteries be interactive in some way. “Pedestrians and bike-path visitors could engage with the butteries and be drawn in, rather than just having solid block buildings on either side of the road,” says Alys, now an interior designer near Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
They commissioned Concetta to show the different periods in 30A’s history through tiles that became essentially mini-murals inside the butteries. Marieanne Khoury-Vogt, town architect of Alys Beach along with her husband, Erik Vogt, says the medium also reflects an early design element they had embraced for use throughout Alys Beach. “Very early on, colored concrete mosaic tile became a material we wanted to deploy at Alys Beach,” she says. “You see it a lot in Antigua, Guatemala, which is one of the touchpoints for design inspiration. The artist then ran with the idea of using these tiles, which are inset and flush with the stucco on the four inside corners of each buttery, and then each of the four butteries tell a different story about the history of 30A.”
Alys says the murals reflect the value the town founders have always placed on remembering the area’s history. “I love it because it’s a great reminder that 30A, ice cream parlors, swimsuits, sunscreen, and all that are blips in the story of the land where we have built Alys Beach,” she says. “The sense of history and place are inherently a part of the dynamic. It’s all about fostering community and a sense of place and the stories we tell about where we live.”