History, Arts & Culture
Myrtle Beach is a modern pleasure island of amusements and comforts sitting amid a deep, rich sea of history and culture.
Our town is full of popular live music and entertainment venues. Music lovers also will enjoy classical concerts presented by Myrtle Beach’s Long Bay Symphony.
Those looking for fine arts in Myrtle Beach can find them at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, which showcases internationally renowned visual artists and hosts classes for visitors and residents.
The area’s schedule also is full of crowd-pleasing festivals, which can be browsed in our festivals and events calendar of programs celebrating fine arts, music, crafts and dance. ArtsAtTheBeach.com and TheArtsGrandStrand.org also are great resources.
For a full picture of the largest county in South Carolina, there’s the Horry (pronounced O-ree) County Museum. Housed in a 1905 former school, the exhibits about the county that includes Myrtle Beach tells visitors all about its natural history, pre-history, and colonial and post-colonial history. The museum includes the L.W. Paul Living History Farm, a recreation of life on a one-horse family farm after the Civil War and the collapse of the plantation system. The museum also has a huge freshwater aquarium that was featured on Animal Planet’s popular reality show “Tanked.”
To dive deeper into the area’s past, visitors must go farther inland. That’s because as South Carolina was colonized and developed, the area that became Myrtle Beach remained isolated and wild for centuries. In fact, what became the city had only a few permanent residents at the turn of the 20th Century and didn’t become an official city until 1957, when the permanent population first topped 5,000. The military buildup for World War II also affected its development. In 1940, a U.S. Army Air Corps base was established on the site of a nascent municipal airport; Myrtle Beach Air Force Base didn’t close until 1993. Its property has since become the Market Common District, among other developments.
The area surrounding Myrtle Beach, however, has a history as long and involved as anywhere in the United States. South Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies and was the eighth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. More major Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes were fought within its borders than any other state’s. Horry County was named for a Revolutionary War hero. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the United States, and the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor began the Civil War that would devastate the state and so much of the nation.
South Carolina had been among the richest states in the Antebellum South, with European immigrants using large numbers of slaves from Africa to work on plantations growing rice, indigo and, later, cotton. By the early 1700s, Africans outnumbered European residents of the state, and their talents and culture influenced life even as they were oppressed for the next 250-plus years.
Plantation life, which died out when cotton prices collapsed after World War I, can be explored at several places in the Myrtle Beach area.
Hopswee Plantation, which has a preserved great house and two slave cabins on its beautiful grounds, also holds presentations of the Gullah Geechee culture of former slaves on the more remote islands and shores of the Atlantic coast.
Brookgreen Gardens is a 9,100-acre property consisting of four former rice plantations. This institution, bought in 1930 and opened in 1931 by the heir of a railroad magnate and his wife, a noted sculptor, consists of an outdoor museum of more than 2,000 works by 430 of the greatest names in American sculpture, past and present, and the Lowcountry History and Wildlife Preserve, which includes native plants and animals of South Carolina’s Lowcountry as well as essential information about life on the rice plantations of the 1800s.
The Mansfield Plantation is a bed and breakfast in a renovated plantation greathouse and outbuildings that also has a well-preserved slave village on its nearly 1,000 acres.