A historical site and museum guide for myrtle beach

An overview of historical landmarks and museums located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach is widely known for its beautiful white sandy beaches, seemingly endless sunny days, and its multitude of recreational activities. Taking a look at the bustling commerce and frenzied activity in the seaside resort today, one could not even begin to imagine the humble agricultural beginnings of what would become one of the South's most prosperous areas. While the Myrtle Beach of today might not reflect the area's agrarian roots, it does contain numerous historical sites and museums that not only capture but also reveal the past culture and the character of the area.

In order to appreciate the rich heritage of Myrtle Beach, one must first examine its agricultural past. Before European settlement of the New World, the area was inhabited by the Waccamaw, Winyah, and Sewee Indian tribes who called it, "Chicora", meaning "the land." In fact, arrowheads and various artifacts can still be found in the region today, testifying to the widespread influence of Native Americans in the past. For visitors interested in wanting to learn more about Native Americans who inhabited the area, the small and intimate Village Museum, is a good place to start. The museum not only traces the history of Native Americans in the region, but it also details the first settlement at Jamestown, SC by the French Huguenots, and the resulting influence the French had on the area in terms of religion and commerce. For a more in depth look into the area's rich history, the 18th century Hopsewee Plantation is the landmark to visit. Named for Chief Hops of the Sewee tribe, the Hopsewee Plantation is the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Although built forty years prior to the Revolutionary War, the plantation is still in excellent condition and is furnished with 18th and 19th century furniture. Designated as South Carolina's first National Historic Landmark, the plantation is still a privately owned residence, and in fact has only been owned by five families in its roughly 275 years of existence.

As Europeans began to establish rural farms in the soil rich area, Myrtle Beach began to slowly grow and eventually prosper as an important agricultural base in the South. The reason for their success was the rice crop. In fact, rice would become the dominant crop in the area, playing an important role in the economy and culture of the region. The influence of rice in Myrtle Beach can be seen in a number of different museums and historic places. The Rice Museum located in the Old Market Building, which locals refer to as the "town clock", houses a number of exhibits as well as maps and dioramas displaying the importance of rice to the region. The museum also has the distinction of being the first building in Myrtle Beach to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Mansfield Plantation, a surviving rice plantation complete with slave cabins, offers visitors a glimpse back into history and operates as a modern day bed and breakfast. Another rice plantation, the Hampton Plantation also offers visitors the chance to go back in time and experience what is was like living and working on a plantation in the Deep South. A religious landmark, St. James Santee Brick Church, located on Old King's Highway, also highlights the importance of the rice crop to the area. Commissioned to be built by the French Huguenots, the church was officially established on April 19, 1706 and completed in 1768. Owing to the prosperity of the rice crop, the brick used to construct the church was imported from England. Although the church is no longer functional, it remains in good condition with original plaster ceilings and a floor that has survived two wars. The church holds an annual service on the first Sunday after Easter.

Myrtle Beach is also home to several other museums that offer visitors a glimpse into the local history of the region. The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum includes a collection of local art as well as historical maps and engravings for those interested in the artistic heritage of the area. The Horry County Museum in Conway offers tours of its collection of local history and art to interested visitors. Finally, the Kaminski House Museum, located in the historic district of Georgetown, offers the public the opportunity to view 19th century art and antiques typical of the region.

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