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History Of The Grand Strand

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina


The history of the Grand Strand includes an unlikely tale of two neighboring, but vastly different, cultures and geographical areas. Georgetown County developed from a thriving colonial plantation culture that reached its zenith just before the Civil War, while the more isolated Horry County (pronounced Oh-Ree) rose from humble beginnings in farm and timber trades

Long ago, Waccamaw and Winyah Indians called the area "Chicora," meaning "the land." Recorded or documented history about the Native Americans is difficult to retrieve, but their lifestyles have been recreated in several exhibits at the Horry County Museum in Conway. A burial mound is located at Waites Island near Little River, and the remains of an Indian village have been excavated on Wachesaw Plantation near Murrells Inlet

English colonists laid out plans for Georgetown, the state’s third oldest city, in 1730. Surrounded by intricate rivers and marshlands, Georgetown became the center of America’s rice empire. Crops of indigo, cotton, and lumber also contributed to the wealthy economy. A rich plantation culture took root here and flourished—in no small measure as a result of the diligence and manpower of African slaves, many with firsthand knowledge of rice cultivation from their homelands. Hopsewee and other historic plantations, Georgetown’s Rice Museum, and Brookgreen Gardens offer fascinating glimpses into this cornerstone of Georgetown’s past

Before the Civil War, wealthy plantation owners turned Pawleys Island into one of the first summer resorts on the Atlantic coast. Planters and their families spent summers on the cool, breezy island to avoid malaria and other deadly diseases associated with the more swampy, still conditions of the plantation sites. Historic cottages, inns and other buildings still stand on Pawleys Island

After the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, Georgetown’s rice plantation culture, disappeared. Today, the Georgetown Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to being a major industrial center, the city is well known for careful preservation of its past with historic churches, homes, and storefronts, fine restaurants, and plantation sites

Horry County was cut off from the plantation culture that flourished elsewhere along the coast, due to being surrounded by rivers on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Horry residents in what is now the Conway area were hardworking farmers, timbermen and turpentine distillers who bartered for their needs. A typical family in 1875 earned approximately $2.50 a year in what was nearly a cashless economy

Until the 1900s, bridges and railroads to the beaches from Conway did not exist; only struggling farmers and fishermen inhabited the beaches of Horry. Eventually, for summer recreation, families from Conway were ferried across the Waccamaw River and rode in wagons from the river to the beach

In 1900, Burroughs & Collins Company, a timber-turpentine firm with extensive beachfront holdings, began developing the resort potential of the Grand Strand by constructing a railroad to the beach. They built the first hotel, the Seaside Inn, in 1901. At that time, oceanfront lots sold for $25 to those with difficult-to-come-by, ready cash. Those without cash could purchase a lot one row back in yearly installments of $2.50. Buyers received an extra lot free if they built a home valued at $500 or more. Mrs. F.E. Burroughs, wife of the founder of the Burroughs & Collins Company, hosted (and won) a contest to name the town. Myrtle Beach was chosen for the many wax myrtle trees growing wild along the shore

In 1912, Chicago businessman Simeon Chapin purchased property and invested capital in the town’s development. The Myrtle Beach public park and library are named for him

In the 1920s a group of businessmen built an upscale resort called Arcady at the north end of the community. The legendary resort was the rage among affluent society and included the present Pine Lakes International Country Club, the area’s first golf club and birthplace of the magazine Sports Illustrated, and the grand Ocean Forest Hotel. Ocean Forest and its 300 rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, health club, stables, and crystal chandeliers, remained the center of Myrtle Beach social life for nearly 30 years. The stately building was torn down in 1974 to allow for future development

The Intracoastal Waterway was opened to pleasure boats and commercial shipping in 1936. Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938. The Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was established in the 1940s and used for coastal patrols during World War II. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion began delighting children and their parents in 1949

Hurricane Hazel demolished buildings and trees along the Strand in 1954, ironically clearing the way for new, larger hotels and homes. During the rebuilding phase of the 1960s the golf boom began and has continued to this day with new courses being built each year. In the 1970s and ‘80s construction of attractions, homes, retail shops, and other amenities steadily increased, introducing another boom in the early ‘90s that currently attracts millions of visitors and thousands of new residents to the area each year

Phenomenal expansion and development have contributed to the Grand Strand’s national reputation as a year-round resort abundant with hotels, more than 110 golf courses, almost a dozen live entertainment theaters, unequaled entertainment/shopping complexes, nationally acclaimed attractions, and 1,650 dining choices

Exciting new ventures are announced regularly, helping to keep the Grand Strand atop national and regional rankings as an ideal place to live and play. In 2000, The Searchers, Inc. a St. Louis based data research company named the Myrtle Beach area and Horry County as an Outstanding Community. Quality of life, taxes, crime rate, and affordability of housing were among the criteria in The Searcher’s selection. Travel managers from AAA named the Myrtle Beach area the second most popular travel destination for the summer of 1999. And the readers of Southern Living selected the area their second favorite family vacation destination and their favorite beach in 199O. 

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