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.
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 was a water tower instead.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”