Atalaya – Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Georgetown County Photos  |  Atalaya

The heart of Huntington Beach State Park is formed by Anna and Archer’s Huntington’s former winter home, studios, and stables – Atalaya.

Atalaya Watchtower

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The name is Spanish for watchtower, the dominant feature of the castle-like structure that Archer designed based on memories of his travels to the Mediterranean Coast. The watchtower may not have served as a lookout, but it did have an important function. It served as a water tower instead.

Atalaya Huntington Beach

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

There are no known blueprints for this sprawling fortress. Archer conveyed his ideas to the contractor verbally, revealing a little more from his imagination day by day. After awhile, the contractor is said to have joked, “Mr. Huntington, if you tell me much more, I’ll find out what you are building.”

Atalaya Murrells Inlet

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Nevertheless, the result is spectacular. There is no furniture left inside, and the walls and open windows have been left exposed to the elements. Wandering down the cool corridors and roaming from room to room – there are 50 in all! – is a welcome respite from the sun and sand. It also makes a magical maze for children to explore.

Walls of Atalaya

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The above photo shows one of Atalaya’s corner rooms. Atalaya’s four wings form a square around a large interior courtyard. The outer walls of the home extend 200 feet, and there are 50 rooms in all – including studios and stables. The massive structure is often mistaken for a jail or fortress. Today, people commonly refer to Atalaya as a castle.

Atalaya Castle

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Above, an alternate shot of the walls and windows of Atalaya. During the Huntington’s winter visits, they often kept large animals such as bears inside their home. Anna would use these animals as models for statues. There were also servant quarters, a library, a sun room, and various food preparation and dining rooms – including a specialized oyster-shucking room!

Atalaya Castle Huntington Beach

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Geraniums and liropie grow in one of Atalaya’s beautiful flower boxes. The flower boxes line a central corridor which serves as the home’s main entry and divides the interior courtyard in two. The courtyard is planted with palmettos, South Carolina’s State Tree.

Atalaya Castle Myrtle Beach

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Anna Huntington, a renowned sculptor, designed Atalaya’s window grilles. Many of the window panes and casements are now missing, but here and there they remain. Wind rustles through the empty spaces as you explore, lending life and movement to the low, cool rooms.

Atalaya Night

Rightcoaster Photography of Myrtle Beach, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Over 9,000 acres remain between the two properties, and the land serves primarily to protect nature and wildlife. Brookgreen features a small zoo, and there are plenty of nature trails and wildlife viewing opportunities at Huntington. Its three miles of undeveloped oceanfront – a rarity in South Carolina – are alone worth the trip.

Atalaya near Myrtle Beach

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Many of these photos were taken during SCIWAY’s day at Huntington Beach in March 2008. Huntington shares its history with Brookgreen Gardens, located just across US 17. The two properties make up more than 9,000 acres of property once owned by Anna and Archer Huntington. The Huntingtons came to Georgetown in 1931. They built their winter home, Atalaya, on what was then known as Magnolia Beach. The rambling fortress is separated from the ocean only by dunes and low thickets of vegetation. In the Huntington’s time, it was even nearer the sea.


SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Atalaya Ruins

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Atalaya Castle State Park

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Atalaya Castle

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Archer Huntington decided he liked the way the mortar looked before it was scraped off (as is traditionally done), so he asked his workers to skip this step. The effect became known as the “Huntington Squeeze.”

Huntington Squeeze

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Lovely Atalaya

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Atalaya is listed in the National Register:

(Atalaya Castle) Atalaya is significant for its unusual architectural style seldom found in this country, and as winter home of world famous sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, and her philanthropist husband, Archer Milton Huntington, the designer of Atalaya. It is located approximately one hundred and fifty yards from the Atlantic Ocean within the boundaries of Huntington Beach State Park. The single story masonry structure was conceived by Mr. Huntington and was meant by him to resemble the Moorish architecture of the Spanish coast.

Atalaya was built between 1931 and 1933 by local laborers under the direction of contractor William Thompson. Atalaya is built in the shape of a square. It has a flat asphalt and gravel roof with a parapet of simple decorative brickwork. There are twenty-five chimneys located throughout the house capped with copper hoods which rotate with the winds. The exterior walls are stuccoed, with the inner courtyard walls have untooled mortar joints. All exterior walls are sprayed with a gray cement coating to help the building blend in with the environment. The house contains thirty rooms which are connected by an inner hall that runs the length of the northern, southern, and eastern elevations and contained the living quarters of the Huntington’s and their servants. Little alteration has taken place on the home and it looks much as it did when completed.

Reflections on Atalaya

Contributor Patrick Donahue, who captured the amazing night sky image above, says, “This is a photo of the Milky Way above Atalaya Castle in Murrells Inlet. A super clear evening, with nothing but stars overhead.”

Add your own reflections here.

Atalaya Info

Address: Atalaya Road, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Atalaya Map

Atalaya – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Atalaya, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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2 Comments about Atalaya

BarbNo Gravatar says:
December 5th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

This was really an incredible surprise. Came to camp at Hunting Beach at the suggestion of friends, and didn’t know anything about this historical gem. Atalaya is one of those places I soon won’t forget. I can only hope to attain mere portions of the wonderful good deeds these two people have contributed to our world. Their energy will help continue my forward motion on my journey exploring every day people doing extraordinary things. Although this couple was financially abundant they valued all life had to offer and lived incredible lives. Extraordinary!

the spencersNo Gravatar says:
July 17th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Awesome, beautiful place. I love it!


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