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  • Writer's pictureLaurie

Exploring the Northeast Coast | Huntington Beach State Park - Murrells Inlet, SC

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

After a full week of exploring the Northeast Coast in Myrtle Beach, I wanted to introduce Dom to Huntington Beach State Park. It is charming as I remembered when I last visited in 2010. Admission to the park is $8.00 per adult and is open from 6 am until 6 pm. During Daylight Saving Time, the park stays open until 10 pm. While the beach is lovely and not crowded, we came to visit Atalaya Castle. The winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, where they stayed from November through March or April each year. The castle is open from 9 am to 4 pm and stays open until 5 pm during Daylight Saving Time. Admission to the Castle costs $2.00 more per person as a donation. Before I discuss the gorgeous rooms, I’ll tell you of other things you’ll find at this coastal state park.

The state park has a gift shop, a nature center, picnic shelters, hiking trails, and a wedding venue. You can find a campground as well. The activities in the park are biking, surf fishing, geocaching, birding, beach combing, and inlet kayaking. The principal attractions are the beach and the castle.

Here is a brief history of Atalaya Castle. Archer Huntington purchased Brookgreen and three adjoining plantations in January 1930. Construction of the house began the following winter. The name “Atalaya” is a Spanish term meaning watchtower. They built the house and Brookgreen Gardens over two to three years. Mrs. Huntington insisted on utilizing locals to offer work for residents during the Great Depression.

The placement square building makes the east side ocean-facing. The castle has two grassy inner courtyards and a main entry court on the west side. 30 rooms are making up the living quarters and these surround three sides of the perimeter. Everyone had a view from their bedroom and bathroom!

The watch tower inspiration comes from the square tower, which soars 40 feet up from the one-story brick building and bisects the inner court. A 3,000-gallon cypress water tank used to be inside the tower. An artesian well supplied the water, which got pumped into a 10,000-gallon concrete cistern where the sand settled to the bottom. They pumped the water into the tower tank on the sand cleared from the water. The height of the tank created water pressure throughout the house.

The living facilities in Atalaya Castle include the dining room, sunroom, library, and bedrooms.
The Atalaya Castle

The living facilities in Atalaya Castle include the dining room, sunroom, library, and bedrooms. These rooms are ocean-facing. The southern wing contained Mr. Huntington’s study, his secretary’s office, and Mrs. Huntington’s studio. Mr. Huntington enjoyed writing, and Mrs. Huntington was a sculptor. Her studio included a 25-foot skylight and opened into a small, enclosed courtyard where she worked on her sculptures. Mrs. Huntington, being inspired by animal forms, had horse stables, a dog kennel, and a bear pen included within the exterior walls. The inner courtyard was one of the prettiest places.

The living facilities in Atalaya Castle include the dining room, sunroom, library, and bedrooms.
The Atalaya Castle

While strolling through, we noticed a fireplace in most rooms, including each bathroom. They heated the house using coal room heaters and wood-burning fireplaces. There are ramps leading from the courtyards to each entry door, and wood is being hauled in using small carts. Many of the rooms still feature working wooden shutters after many decades. They installed these, along with grillwork designed by Mrs. Huntington, to protect against hurricane-force winds.

In 1955, Mr. Huntington passed away, and they sent most of the furnishings from the house to the family home in New York City. They sent the studio equipment to Brookgreen Gardens. In 1960, the Brookgreen Trustees leased the 2,500-acre tract to the state. Mrs. Huntington passed away at her Connecticut home in 1973. During the fourth weekend in September each year, they held an arts and crafts festival in the castle in tribute to Mrs. Huntington.

While walking through this historic home, we imagined how life was during winter from the 1930s through the 1950s in this castle home. We enjoy seeing and learning about historic places. After we finished seeing everything in the house, we took a walk on the nature trails. Then we left to find lunch. 

The living facilities in Atalaya Castle include the dining room, sunroom, library, and bedrooms.
The Atalaya Castle

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