McKenzie Beach – Pawleys Island, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Georgetown County Photos | McKenzie Beach
This dilapidated motel is all that remains of one of the most popular black beach resorts of its time. Located between Pawleys Island and Litchfield Beach, McKenzie Beach stretches 23 acres from the ocean to Highway 17.
The beach was named after Frank McKenzie, one of the resort’s founders. He and fellow Pawleys Island native Lillian Pyatt acquired the land in 1934 and began development shortly thereafter. McKenzie and Pyatt envisioned a place where blacks, without fear of racial discrimination, could visit the beach and enjoy great food, strong drinks, and live music.
In 1936 construction began on the narrow causeway that would run across Midway Creek and connect the mainland to the south end of Litchfield Beach. Over the course of the next few years they would complete the causeway, while adding a pavilion and 15 small cabins. Word of the new resort spread quickly and by the late 1930s popular musicians such as Count Basie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Duke Ellington were playing there on a regular basis.
The resort continued to grow until 1954, when Hurricane Hazel hit the coast and destroyed the causeway, pavilion, and most of the cabins. After dissolving his partnership with Lillian Pyatt, McKenzie rebuilt a small motel and bait and tackle shop on the mainland.
While the resort regained its popularity, things were never quite the same for Frank McKenzie, who had to sell the property in the late 1960s due to financial hardships. The new owners closed access to the beach and let the motel fall into disrepair.