Without doubt the highlight of Murrells Inlet is Atalaya Castle. It was an unexpected delight for me. No matter how long I’ve been living on the east coast, new and exciting places are still to be discovered. Some places are old news to people while being a new discovery for others. That’s one of the many things I love about the Atlantic Coast, the history and culture are so significant and bewildering. The past has lead us to the coast we know and enjoy today. I just adore learning about the past by visiting exciting historical landmarks and locations along the east coast.
These photos will inspire you to explore the beautiful location while learning a bit of American history at the same time. If you’ve been to Atalaya before, these photos will inspire you to return to the gorgeous castle on the Atlantic shore.
The castle was built by the Archer Huntington and his wife Anna in the early 1930’s. They were philanthropists from New York City who designed the castle to use during the colder months as they escaped the frigid northern winters.
The home has Spanish influence due to Archer Huntington loving hispanic culture and history. Anna also played a large role in the construction because she was a talented sculptor. She designed the wrought iron grills on the windows that protect against tropical storms and hurricanes.
The water tower at Atalaya is 40 feet tall and is how the castle got its name. Atalaya meaning ‘watchtower’ in Spanish. The courtyard is absolutely breathtaking. The open yard is surrounded by walls donning superb aged brick and those prominent teal iron bars over each window.
To my surprise, inside of the castle the most comfortable and beautiful rooms in the castle were given to the servants, house keepers, and kitchen workers. The bedroom and bathroom still have the originals showers, baths, and storage closets. Most residents of Atalaya have bathtubs in their bathrooms, but Mr. Archer had a stand up shower with seven shower heads installed in his room!
Can you imagine being a housekeeper and having such nice accommodation? That bath with a view of palm trees and the ocean air blowing in on you… how luxurious!
The studio is a gorgeous open space with light streaming in from the skylights. (would make a glorious photography studio, don’t you think?)
Another admirable trait of the Huntington family is that they insisted on hiring local employees to help boost the economy of the area during the depression & they were known as very kind employers. Their estate once set on 9,000 acres. Part of that acreage created one of Murrells Inlets most popular attraction, Brookgreen Gardens which is used to showcase the sculptures and artwork of Anna Huntington.
One of the most jaw dropping features of the castle is outside the bright brick halls. Atalaya has a horse stable, an oyster shucking room, and….bear pens. The pens were use to temporarily hold live bears, deer, and other animals so that she could sculpt her animal statues accurately .
The Huntington family left Atalaya during World War II to let the US Air Corps use their home as barracks. After the war they returned for a few more years before the death of Mr. Archer. After his passing, his wife only visited the estate two more times in 1956 and 1958. In 1960 a large portion of the former estate was leased to the state if South Carolina for free to be used as a state park.
Later, Huntington Beach State Park was created and the park is now responsible for the upkeep of the castle. Then, in 1984 the castle was places on the National Register of Historic Places in order to preserve the history of the Huntington family.