A History Buff’s Guide to North Myrtle Beach and Little River
Exploring all that there is to see and do on the Grand Strand is one thing, but going back in time to discover the history rooted in our area adds another layer of charm.
There is so much history to dig up like buried treasure around here, that we’re guiding you through a lesson in a timeline of events, town by town. Up next are our north Strand neighbors of North Myrtle Beach, SC and Little River.
Here’s a brief, historical timeline:
Before Europeans settled in what is known as the Long Bay area, it was a retreat for the Winyah and Waccamaw Indians. Local Indian tribes once called Little River Mineola, which translated into “Little River,” today one of the oldest settlements along the coast. (Mineola Avenue in today’s Little River is one of the town’s main thoroughfares.)
Early settlers in the area as early as this time include Europeans and Africans. Early families who bought up land in the area include the Bellamys, Bessants, Nixons, and Vereens. As early as 1737, William Gause obtained a grant for 250 acres of land near Windy Hill Beach to farm the area. The forests here on the north Strand replaced the plantations to the south, resulting in timber and naval stores.
European settlers arrive in the Little River area, including the prominent Long family, namesake of the nearby town of Longs and the foundation of the development of Horry County within the construction and masonry industries.
Up until the 1900s, the beaches of the Grand Strand, including North Myrtle Beach, are uninhabited because of their inaccessibility by travel. That is until a timber company begins transforming the Myrtle Beach area into a resort destination. Farmers from the western ends of the county began descending to the beach by covered wagons to fish and relax, camping behind the dunes.
Paved roads and bridges emerge from the growth of automobile production, and tourists begin to spill into the area. Communities of frame houses on stilts are also popping up on the North Strand.
Developer Charles Tilghman Jr. of Marion County buys a large plot of land to become an upscale residential community. Investors from Florence develop Ocean Drive and Crescent beaches farther south. Investors from Conway start developing Windy Hill Beach after World War II. And Black entrepreneurs develop an all-Black resort, Atlantic Beach.
Business is booming this year! Also in 1948, the landmark Hoskins Restaurant opens on Main Street. Today, they’re still serving up homemade Southern breakfast comforts. This same year, Frank and Louise Boulineau opened the infamous Boulineau’s grocery store in Cherry Grove Beach.
1940s and 1950s
After the opening of a pavilion and amusement park on the beach, crowds are attracted here to play and dance the shag, the “swing dance of the South.” As the birthplace of shag, the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach becomes the headquarters for the dance, with dance floors hoppin’ at clubs like the landmark Fat Harold’s Beach Club.
Land that makes up Futch Beach is joined to a Cherry Grove property owned by the Nixon family by filling an inlet that separated them. The new name: Cherry Grove Beach.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Hazel strikes the Strand and destroys countless homes and businesses, including Boulieneau’s (a second store is opened a few years later). Because many property owners do not want to face rebuilding, they sell their land at bargain prices, which prompts the faster development of more homes, hotels, and businesses.
Surf Golf Club & Beach Club opens just a few blocks from the ocean in Cherry Grove. The exclusive course was designed by notable golf course designer George Cobb, who also created the Par-3 Course at Augusta National Golf Club.
In the wake of Hazel, the beach is booming in the 1960s. All communities (Cherry Grove Beach, Crescent Beach, Ocean Drive Beach, and Windy Hill Beach) elect to combine to create North Myrtle Beach. Other suggested names included Grandest Grand Strand Beach, Honey Hill Beach, Ocean City, Palm City, Petticoat Junction Beach, and Peyton Place Beach. Atlantic Beach declined the invitation to join the consolidated North Myrtle Beach.
The North Myrtle Beach coastline becomes more populated with high-rise hotels and multi-story condo buildings, leading to the oceanfront properties today.