Pawleys Island landmark departs for greater good

A backhoe waits, ready to finish clearing the debris and rubble at 323 Myrtle Ave. in Pawleys Island.

Over the past 73 years, the address has been the location for a store, restaurant, bait shop, beer joint and private residence. Now a park will be located at the site.

The town of Pawleys Island purchased the property last week for about $375,000 from the McCarley family. Demolition started Monday and is expected to continue through next week, said Mayor Bill Otis. The contractor has up to 30 days to complete the job.

For the McCarley family, letting the town buy the property, which was appraised at about $600,000, was a tribute to their mother, Mary Anne McCarley, of Asheville, N.C.

Mary Anne McCarley, an artist of some renown in the Carolinas, bought the property in 1973 as a summer home. She was 92 when she died in October 2009.

"The coast was always appealing to her," said her daughter Victoria Stockton. "I remember as kids we would go to Brookgreen Gardens all day, and she would paint as we played."

Some of McCarley's watercolor prints of the gardens and the area's other natural beauty, like the marshes and its beaches, were sold locally at The Hammock Shops, Stockton said.

Although McCarley was an Asheville resident, her daughter said Pawleys Island had a special place in her mother's heart.

"We spent all of our summers there," Stockton said. "Mom had wonderful friends there. She loved the island."

The McCarley House was built in 1938 and was once a store, bait shop, residence and the Wagon Wheel bar and restaurant.

The former house was on the same block as the town's natural park, which is less than half an acre of grassy walking areas, benches, birdhouses, a garden and pavilion.

"She was thrilled when the park came in," Stockton said. "She would be thrilled to know that she was able to give back something to the area that gave her so much joy. It was a terrific opportunity to honor my mother."

The town paid the $375,000 from accommodations taxes, Otis said. The town will turn over the design of any landscaping to Pawleys Island Beautification Foundation, which designed the natural park. The nonprofit group would have to raise funding to implement any plans, he said.

Otis said he plans to meet with one of the foundation's committee members on Friday to discuss moving forward with the property.

Otis said the Town Council was happy to be able to purchase the property.

"It is perfect for that use," said Otis, who used to sit with McCarley on her porch on afternoons and admire the park.

The house was not on the National Register of Historic Places, but frequent Pawleys Island visitor Sandra Cummings considered it a landmark.

"We've been coming here for 23 years, and we're used to seeing the building on the corner as you come into town," she said. "It was such a shock to see it torn down."

She was pleased the town was going to be using it to expand the existing park.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," she said. "It was just hard to see it go."