If you’re looking for a piece of history to visit while you’re in Myrtle Beach, there are few better places to visit than Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park.
Atalaya Castle was the home of Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955) and his wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973). Archer Huntington was the stepson of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. Archer was a Spanish language scholar and a philanthropist. Anna was a sculptor whose father was a professor at Harvard and MIT.
The Huntington’s moved to South Carolina from Connecticut and lived in Atalaya Castle during the winter months from 1933 (when it was completed) until 1947. After Archer’s death in 1955, Anna moved to nearby Brookgreen Gardens.
The Castle Construction
The name “Atalaya” is a Spanish word. It means “watchtower.” The Castle took three years to build. It was built by a local contractor using local labor. Archer Huntington wanted to be sure that the local community benefited from the project – something that was much appreciated during the Depression. Archer Huntington seems to have completed the construction project without paper plans of any kind.
Atalaya was a 30-room building modeled after a Moorish castle and dominated by a 40-foot tall tower that was used to store water. The Castle was square, with walls that were 200 feet long on the Castle’s exterior. Rooms were built along the inside of the Castle’s walls and the center of the residence was a palm-lined courtyard. The home included a studio for Anna Huntington which opened into its own small enclosed courtyard.
Mrs. Huntington designed the ironwork that covered the windows of the Castle herself. The Castle also had facilities to house animals that Mrs. Huntington used as models for her sculptures. The courtyard was divided in half by a covered walkway of open brickwork lined with arches and planters. Creeping fig vines covered most of the walls inside the courtyard. this had the effect of changing the hard brick to a softer green interior.
Archer and Anna’s private quarters were on the south side of Atalaya. Archer had a study and a bathroom. Their bedroom was on the southeast corner and held the best view of the ocean. There was a library, a foyer, a sunroom, a breakfast room, a dining room, and a servants’ quarter – all of which faced the ocean. Atalaya had six rooms set aside in some way for food preparation- including a walk-in icebox and an oyster shucking room.
Each room had a fireplace for heat in the winter months.
In 1960, 2500 acres of the Huntington’s land was leased to the state of South Carolina for use as a park. Atalaya is in the park. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. Admission to the park is $5.
The park itself is a beautiful place to visit.