Myrtle Beach History

Myrtle Beach history begins, as does the history of each of the United States, with indigenous people. In this case, the Waccamaw and Winyah tribes. The coastal route that now runs along the coast of this region was once a Native American trade and hunting trail long before Europeans arrived and began to settle the region. Today, this route is known as the Grand Strand and parallels more than 60 miles of pristine sandy South Carolina beaches from Georgetown (about 20 miles south of Huntington Beach State Park) all the way north to the border of North Carolina. The modern history of Myrtle Beach began with Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez de Allyon who established a short-lived settlement here in 1526. Later, the English established settlements along the Grand Strand.

One of the little known facts about Myrtle Beach is that the inlets, coves, and islands along the stretch of ocean provided ideal hiding spots for the famous pirates of the early eighteenth century who took advantage of the numerous British and European ships that came to supply the new English settlers. The most notorious of these pirates was the infamous Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. Today, some of the best seafood dining spots on the beaches of the Grand Strand are named for Blackbeard or his equally legendary contemporary Drunken Jack.

Throughout most of the Myrtle Beach history during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Grand Strand region remained largely unpopulated and undeveloped because of its inaccessibility and poor economy. Several attempts were made to extend the slave and plantation systems to the coast, but the land was not good for the kinds of crops (cotton and tobacco) that were grown on southern plantations and the efforts largely failed. The most successful plantation crops were rice and sweet potatoes. Looking for new ways to create income, the Burroughs & Collins Company (a local turpentine manufacturer with considerable beachfront property) decided to develop the region as a vacation destination, and built the first of the seaside beach resorts in 1901. The history of Myrtle Beach changed again when Mrs. Burroughs won the competition to name the resort community. She chose Myrtle Beach because of the many wax myrtle bushes and trees that thrive along the shore.

Shortly afterward, Bourroughs & Collins became the present day Burroughs & Chapin Company. A luxury resort was built on the northern edge of the newly named community that included the first golf course along the Grand Strand—the present day Pine Lakes International Country Club. The history of Myrtle Beach as a tourist destination continued during the 1930s and 1940s as more oceanfront hotels and resorts were developed, and the Intracoastal Waterway (a 3,000 mile long waterway paralleling the shoreline that stretches from New Jersey to Florida and from Florida to Texas) was opened for commercial and pleasure boat traffic.

From 1949 to 1954, Myrtle Beach history entered the modern era of tourism development when the Pavilion was built, and the historic carousel and band organ creating the region’s first amusement park were erected on Ocean Boulevard. One of the facts about Myrtle Beach that continues to resonate today is that in 1954, Hurricane Hazel devastated a large portion of the Atlantic Seaboard. A large number of oceanfront hotels, homes, and trees were completely destroyed, paving the way for a 1960s real estate and building boom that included building new golf courses almost every year, modern hotels, upscale shops and boutiques, and other tourist facilities. Today, the Grand Strand boasts several multi-use travel destinations that have taken the place of the original Pavilion Amusement Park, including the Myrtle Waves Water Park and Broadway at the Beach, a 350-acre shopping, entertainment, and dining complex with numerous hotels, and the Family Kingdom Amusement Park along Surfside Beach.

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