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Today, the city of Myrtle Beach lies in the geographic center of a 60-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline known as "The Grand Strand." It is a mecca for millions who come regularly for family vacations, long weekends, golf vacations, shopping trips, even day trips. Increasingly it is also a place more and more people call home.

But this development was a long time coming!

In the 1500s when Spanish and French explorers first reached the Grand Strand's shores, various Native American tribes welcomed them to the land they called "Chicora." Romantic tribe names like Waccamaw, Pee Dee and Winyah reflect their legacy in a number of today's place names.

It would be 1629 before the English claimed the lands of "Carolana" and 1670 before brave emigrants established a permanent settlement in what is now Charleston, SC. Building on indigo and rice cultivation, the landholders evolved a prosperous plantation culture as far north as Georgetown. A few settlers tried to extend the culture even further north into what is now southern Myrtle Beach. In 1735 the Withers family purchased nearly 3,000 acres along the swamp that fed Eight Mile Swash. Their influence remains in the name Withers Swash. "Swash" is a wonderful South Carolina name meaning saltwater marsh fed by an ocean inlet.

Ultimately, the sandy soil of the beaches refused to support agriculture on a big scale. Settlers moved inland along the rivers clearing the forest, planting row crops, felling trees to build log homes and leaving the beaches to await their future.

The 60-mile Grand Strand covers both Horry (pronounced Or-REE) and Georgetown counties and follows Long Bay, the bay created by the Atlantic's inward curvature at South Carolina's northern end. Although Myrtle Beach lies at the geographic center, this central location ironically made it one of the last areas to be settled. Both Little River, at the North Carolina border, and Georgetown, where the Waccamaw, Black, Sampit, Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee rivers meet to empty into Winyah Bay and the Atlantic Ocean were viable ports and settlements in the early 1700s.  Conway, the Horry county seat, was settled in the mid 1700s but its location on the Waccamaw River made travel to the beaches impossible except by boat.

The person largely responsible for Myrtle Beach's transformation from an isolated stretch of beach into a tourist attraction was F.G. Burroughs, a Conway businessman who recognized both the area's natural beauty and its potential for development. Burroughs began purchasing Myrtle Beach real estate in the late 1800s-at one point owning 80,000 acres including most of the coastline between Little River and Murrells Inlet. Strolling the beach one day with his daughter, Burroughs said, "I will not live to see it, and you may not, but someday this whole strand will be a resort."

Burroughs, who earned his living through the Burroughs and Collins Company selling the tar, pitch and turpentine (naval stores) gleaned from the company's timber holdings, died in 1897 but the seeds he had planted would come to fruition. In 1900, his company brought the 14-mile Conway & Seashore Railroad to the beach (then called "New Town"), giving people living inland their first easy access. Later that year, a contest was held to give the town a more distinctive name. Mrs. F.G. Burroughs submitted the winning entry of "Myrtle Beach" in honor of the native wax myrtle shrubs. In April 1901, the Burroughs and Collins Company opened the Sea Side Inn, a small hotel run in the style of a boarding house where a stay cost $2.00 a day, meals included! Serving as Myrtle Beach's first resort, the Sea Side Inn was a three-story wooden frame building with a rear boardwalk connecting to the train depot and a front boardwalk leading to the beach.  Nearby, a wooden beachside pavilion offered summertime band music and a raised wooden boardwalk running parallel to the ocean. The company also opened a commissary store with a "complete stock of general merchandise."

These humble tourism beginnings were just what the beaches needed. People, mostly from Conway, began building cottages by the sea to serve as their summer home with lots selling in 1910 for $25.00! But times were getting harder for the Burroughs and Collins Company as the naval stores industry slowed. In 1912, the company attracted a Chicago businessman named Simeon B. Chapin to invest in a partnership. He provided finances and the Burroughs provided nearly 70,000 acres along the coast.  The partnership was named the Myrtle Beach Farms Company and Chapin, although he visited the area occasionally, left the day-to-day operations of overseeing the land's development to Burroughs' sons Donald and Frank.

In 1914, a dirt road opened from Conway to Myrtle Beach. The circuitous route wound through the Socastee area but it provided a sorely needed alternative to the railroad and made a trip to the beach viable for more and more people.

In the 1920s, on the south end of the beach below the holdings of Myrtle Beach Farms Company, Sen. D. Allen Spivey developed land that included Withers Swash into Spivey's Beach. Among the attractions were small cabins that rented by the day or week and a pavilion that provided competition for the one Burroughs and Collins had built in the downtown area.

In 1926, another visionary named John T. Woodside proposed to turn part of the area into a resort playground. The textile magnate from Greenville, SC purchased almost 65,000 acres of land from Myrtle Beach Farms Company paying the then staggering sum of $950,000. The purchase left the Myrtle Beach Farms Company with only the Pavilion and its surrounding properties. Woodside set to work immediately on the first phase, the Ocean Forest Country Club. Designed by New York architect Raymond Hood, construction began in 1926 and was completed in 1927. A 27-hole golf course, designed by Robert White, was opened with the Country Club. Today, those roots are still intact at the Pine Lakes Golf and Country Club.

An even bigger undertaking was the oceanfront "million dollar" Ocean Forest Hotel located around today's 55th Avenue North. Taking over a year and a half to build, the elegant structure featured a tiered 10-story central tower flanked by 5-story wings on each side. The hotel, gardens, pools and stables covered 13 acres. The interiors spared no expense and featured marble stairways, Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, Grecian columns, oriental rugs in the marble floored lobby, and faucets that dispensed salt water to the 202 ventilated bathrooms. The Ocean Forest Hotel held its formal opening on Friday, February 21, 1930, ushering in a level of luxury and glamour most people in the area had never before experienced. Although few locals could afford to stay there, many did attend dances in the grand ballroom or work in the elegant dining room giving them their "claim" on the exclusive list of world-class hotels. The Ocean Forest Hotel remained an oceanfront landmark until it was demolished in 1974.

Woodside's dreams for the remainder of the land - a place he called Arcady - never developed due to the stock market crash of 1929. Other investors bought the hotel and the golf course but the rest of the property fell into foreclosure and reverted to the Myrtle Beach Farms Company.

Despite the Great Depression, the 1930s brought welcome advances to the Myrtle Beach area. In 1935, the Myrtle Beach News began publishing. A hard-surface road that ran parallel to the railroad opened from Conway to the beach providing more direct access than the circuitous route through Socastee. 1936 brought the beach a telephone exchange and the opening of the Intracoastal Waterway. The last link in the east coast Intracoastal Waterway was an engineering marvel that dug a straight channel from Little River to Socastee where it joined with the Waccamaw River as it flows to the coast. The Army Corp of Engineers chose to dig rather than follow the Waccamaw's natural circuitous inland route to Conway. Although the waterway project effectively created an island of the coastal area, it drained much of the wetlands and swamps around the Waccamaw and installed swing bridges that allowed automobiles to cross and boats to pass unimpeded. With access came more growth allowing the town to become an official municipality on March 12, 1938. W.L. Harrelson was named the first mayor; a fire and police department followed and the first City Hall opened in 1941.

The city opened a small municipal airport in 1940. Expected to further enhance the city's growth, the airport instead was "commandeered" for the World War II effort in late 1941. The Army established a gunnery school and flight training base, training more than 70 Army Air Corps squadrons. A section of the coast was set aside for fighter aircraft to practice strafing runs. The end of the war brought another building phase to the beach. These "mom and pop" accommodations brought more and more vacationers, particularly from the Carolinas. By 1954, the Myrtle Beach area had become so popular that Myrtle Beach started its signature Sun Fun Festival which has served as the "official" start of the season ever since. In the 1950s, Myrtle Beach was still a summer tourist town with locals breathing a sigh of relief as the last car rolled out after Labor Day! This seasonal aspect was soon to change, ironically brought about by a most unwelcome visitor in the fall of 1954-Hurricane Hazel. The devastating storm left wide spread destruction on the coast but instead of giving up, hotel operators started an even bigger building boom. Some of the smaller operators sold their land so those with the financial resources could begin building bigger hotels. High-rises would be the new feature on the Myrtle Beach skyline!

In 1955, the Bombing Range was reopened as the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base bringing an "industry" that became a major part of the area's economy in terms of jobs for locals as well as services for military retirees. "Shoulder" seasons in the spring and fall months were promoted for golfers and senior travelers - a break from the traditional families tourist base. "Snow Birds" began spending the winter months to escape the bitter northern climate.  More Golf courses were built to accommodate that growing segment of the market. More and more visitors decided to retire to the area adding a healthy seniors lifestyle segment to the area's attractions.

By 1980, the population of Horry County had doubled from its 1950 mark of 59,820. By the mid 1990s, more than half of Horry County's population lived in town and much of the rural population commuted to jobs on the coast. The Grand Strand boasted more than 1400 eating establishments and more than 50,000 rooms for rent. The beach season became year-round, giving the Grand Strand a larger average daily population than the cities of Columbia and Charleston combined!

By the end of the 20th century, the population had doubled again. Myrtle Beach was no longer the little town on the beach. Its urban lifestyle was now a tourism engine driving the whole county and its economic impact was a major contributor to the welfare of all South Carolinas.

» Contact Information

The Hoffman Group
2200 Premier Resorts Boulevard
North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Phone: 1-877-671-5024

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