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Happy Birthday, Myrtle Beach: Here are things you may not know about the city’s history

Watch as Myrtle Beach transforms right in front of your very eyes

Myrtle Beach has remained in a constant state of transition over the past century. Watch the changes unfold in these photo recreations of the downtown area. Photos provided by Wayne Aiken and Jack Thompson.
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Myrtle Beach has remained in a constant state of transition over the past century. Watch the changes unfold in these photo recreations of the downtown area. Photos provided by Wayne Aiken and Jack Thompson.

Happy birthday, Myrtle Beach.

The city celebrated its 81st birthday Tuesday. From an area of thousands of foresty acres in the early 1900s to a SkyWheel and hundreds of hotels and restaurants, Myrtle Beach has grown and developed into a well-known tourist city.

But it wasn’t always a sought-after spot for tourism. Less than 100 years ago, more than 60,000 acres were covered in forest.

And not many people were interested in purchasing the land, said Horry County Registrar of Deeds Marion Foxworth, until a family from Greenville bought 66,000 acres in the early 1920s. Arcady Resort, a “vacation club,” was the plan for the Woodside family.

“I called it Great Gatsby with a drawl,” Foxworth said.

But by the early 1930s, the Woodside family went bankrupt. The Ocean Forest Hotel, built 10-stories high with five-story wings, had been built on North Ocean Boulevard as part of the project in 1929, but has since been demolished. Still standing since the Arcady days are Pine Lakes Country Club and the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum.

The Myrtle Beach area was incorporated as an official state town March 12, 1938, several years after the oceanfront resort development plan failed.

“It took two attempts for the city to become incorporated,” Foxworth said. “The first effort failed at the ballot box because of how voting residents were defined in the proposed charter.”

There have been many moments in the city’s history that may or may not be known to its residents and folks who visit the area. Like, for instance, Pine Lakes Country Club was the birthplace of Sports Illustrated in the early 1950s, Foxworth said.

And there were horse and dog tracks. Washington Park, across from the present-day Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Oak Street, was a horse track where sulky racing took place. Racers would line up with a two-wheel cart harnessed to a horse and race the quarter-mile track. A portable dog track was set up at 13th Avenue North and 5th Avenue South during the summers, Foxworth said.

We can’t forget the casino. After Arcady, a beach club with a relaxed atmosphere opened at the end of 14th Avenue North, Foxworth said. It was owned by S. P. Gardner and functioned as a bed and breakfast and casino with a pier, Foxworth said.

Eighty-one years later, the city is still finding its identity, revitalizing its downtown area in the hopes of creating a more family friendly atmosphere. Big topics of discussion now are on products containing CBD oil on Ocean Boulevard, rezoning for new tobacco and vaping stores and the development of an entertainment district.

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Courtesy of the City of Myrtle Beach

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