Jane Comer's family discovered what is now known as the beautiful beaches of South Walton in 1948 and fell in love with the area.

In 1949 they purchased one of Seagrove founder Cube McGee's cinder-block houses, which they kept for about 20 years.

"My father discovered the property, but my mother was the beach lover," says Comer.

Comer's mother and father were Elton and Alys Stephens of Birmingham, Ala.

Comer grew up spending summers here in the quiet solitude of the emerald beaches.

"There wasn't anything here but the Seagrove Village Market Cafe and a couple of other cinder-block houses. No restaurants, but lots of sand dollars and wild pigs. No air conditioning. We had a lot more sea life than you see now. It was a different world," she said.

In the 1970s, Comer's father bought the land where Alys Beach now rests.

"He held onto it for years," said Comer. "The amount of acreage he bought is close to what it is now."

According to the Alys Beach sales office, the community rests on 158 acres.

"He bought it for investment," said Comer. "He invested in real estate. He didn't have anything in mind for the property."

Comer's father died in 2005 at age 93.

Jane, along with her son, Jason Comer, and other relatives founded Alys Beach in 2002.

As for naming of the new beachside development, Jane says the whole group sat down together and went through about 10 names before deciding on Alys.

"I'm not sure who said Alys, but when it was said, everyone said, 'Fabulous!' Coming to the beach was her favorite thing to do," said Comer.

Architects Marieanne Khoury-Vogt, Erik Vogt, and Jason Comer did the town's design, said Jane.

"They took trips to Antigua and Bermuda and came up with the style. All the family got involved and we gave our influence directly or indirectly," she said.

Alys Beach's unique combination of Antiguan and Bermuda style in white has caught the attention, praise, and awe of people and publications far and wide, winning many awards for the town and architects.

"My desire is that it be a great place for families to go to enjoy the white sand," said Jane. "I can't believe the way the area has developed. There is too much traffic and tourists. Seaside and Rosemary are wonderful, but getting mighty crowded. I think Alys Beach still has the same feeling but more activity now."

These days, Jane spends six months of the year at her home in Birmingham and the other half in Seagrove. She likes to come down in October, she said, when it is peaceful.

"It has its great spirit then, as well as art, good food, a film fest ... there is a lot to offer these days. You can stay in or find something to do. The area has really changed since the old days. People dress up at the beach now. That's what tickles me. That's a drastic change," she said.

Comer said she remains very interested in the architecture at Alys Beach, the way it feels, and how it will come across.

"I don't want it to be too fancy," she said. "I want it to keep its sandy lanes and not be opulent or grand. Keep it as beachy as you can with oyster bars and casual places to go. Charming and casual."

Alys Stephens died in 1993. She never knew of the beach town named for her.

"I don't know what she would think," said Jane of her mother. "She was modest and not a person to want things named for her, but I believe she would be thrilled and honored."