Exploring Myrtle Beach’s Historical Tapestry

Unveiling the layered history of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this comprehensive guide takes you beyond its famous white sandy beaches and into the heart of its rich cultural heritage. From its agricultural roots to its transformation into a bustling seaside resort, Myrtle Beach is a treasure trove of historical sites and museums, each telling a unique story of the area’s past.

What is Myrtle Beach best known for?

Myrtle Beach is famous for its beautiful beaches, a major tourist attraction. Additionally, its numerous golf courses, entertainment options, family-friendly activities, and rich historical background make it a popular destination for a diverse range of visitors.

It is also best known for its 60 miles of stunning sandy beaches, often called the Grand Strand. It’s also renowned for its world-class golf courses, family-friendly attractions, and vibrant nightlife.

To fully appreciate Myrtle Beach’s history, starting at its agricultural beginnings is essential.

Long before the European settlement, the land, known as “Chicora” to the native Waccamaw, Winyah, and Sewee tribes, was rich in culture and history.

The Village Museum offers an intimate look into the lives of these Native American tribes, showcasing artifacts and detailing the impact of the first European settlers. It’s a gateway to understanding the deep-rooted history of Myrtle Beach beyond its contemporary appeal.

Hopsewee Plantation

Visiting the Hopsewee Plantation is a step back into the 18th century.

As the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, this plantation is a living piece of American history. Remarkably preserved, it showcases 18th and 19th-century furnishings, giving visitors a glimpse into life during the Revolutionary era. As South Carolina’s first National Historic Landmark, Hopsewee is a testament to the endurance and preservation of American history.

Rice Museum

The rise of Myrtle Beach as an agricultural powerhouse is closely tied to its rice cultivation. The Rice Museum, located in the historic Old Market Building, delves into the significance of rice in shaping the region’s economy and culture.

Through exhibits and dioramas, the museum illustrates the profound impact of this crop on Myrtle Beach’s development. Additionally, the Mansfield and Hampton Plantations offer a realistic portrayal of life on a rice plantation, complete with preserved slave cabins and historical insights.

The St. James Santee Brick Church

Another remarkable site is the St. James Santee Brick Church.

St. James Santee Brick Church

Commissioned by the French Huguenots and built with bricks imported from England, the church’s architecture and history reflect the prosperity brought by the rice industry. Although no longer in regular use, it stands as a symbol of the region’s historical wealth and religious heritage, with its original features intact.

Myrtle Beach’s Museums

For art enthusiasts, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum offers a rich collection of local art and historical maps.

The Horry County Museum, with its extensive collection of local history and art, and the Kaminski House Museum in Georgetown, showcasing 19th-century art and antiques, are must-visits for anyone interested in the region’s artistic legacy.

Other Historical Landmarks and Museums in Myrtle Beach

  1. Jack Thompson Photo Gallery in the Myrtle Beach Historic District is a significant site showcasing the work of local historian and photographer Jack Thompson. His work captures the essence of Myrtle Beach’s history over the past 70 years​​.
  2. Myrtle Beach Boardwalk holds historical significance with venues dating back to the town’s early days, including Peaches Corner, The Bowery, and The Gay Dolphin, offering insights into the city’s evolution​.
  3. Charlie’s Place Historic Site on Carver Street is renowned for its musical history, being part of the Chitlin Circuit, and playing a significant role in the African-American community during segregation​.
  4. Pine Lakes International Country Club is one of Myrtle Beach’s most historic buildings and the birthplace of Sports Illustrated, with its history intertwined with Myrtle Beach’s development​.
  5. Myrtle Beach Historic Colored School Museum tells the story of African-American education from 1932 to 1953, highlighting the community’s efforts to preserve and celebrate this history​.
  6. South Carolina Hall of Fame, located inside the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, features portraits and information about important figures who have contributed to the state’s success​.
  7. Warbird Park & The Military Museum in the Market Common District offers a glimpse into Myrtle Beach’s military past, from WWII to Desert Storm​.
  8. Brookgreen Gardens, created from former rice plantations, now features an outdoor sculpture garden, indoor galleries, and a zoo, preserving the history of the plantations and the stories of enslaved Africans who lived there​.
  9. Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park, a winter retreat for Archer and Anna Huntington, is an architectural marvel reflecting Archer’s love for Hispanic culture and architecture​.
  10. The Historic Pawleys Island Hammock Shop Village on Pawleys Island, known for its hammock-making demonstrations, provides a unique insight into local craft and culture​.

What is the best month to visit Myrtle Beach?

Visiting Myrtle Beach in late spring (May) or early fall (September) is ideal. These months offer the perfect balance of warm, pleasant weather and fewer crowds, making your experience more enjoyable and relaxed.

Tips for Visiting Myrtle Beach:

  1. Enjoy the Beaches: With moderate temperatures and less crowded beaches, it’s a great time for sunbathing, swimming, and beach activities.
  2. Explore Outdoor Attractions: Enjoy the comfortable weather to explore outdoor attractions like Brookgreen Gardens or state parks.
  3. Golfing: These months are perfect for golf enthusiasts looking to experience Myrtle Beach’s famous golf courses.
  4. Accommodation Deals: Look for off-season discounts on hotels and rentals.
  5. Local Events: Check the local calendar for unique events and festivals happening during these times.

Myrtle Beach is not just a destination for beach lovers; it’s a journey through time, where every historical site and museum offers a window into the past.

From its Native American origins to its pivotal role in American history and the rise of the rice industry, Myrtle Beach is a destination that offers far more than meets the eye. This guide invites you to explore the hidden historical gems of Myrtle Beach, each with its own story and significance, providing a deeper understanding and appreciation of this vibrant coastal city.

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About the author
Growing up in Detroit, Lindsey is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.