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    McKenzie Beach – One of the First African-American Resorts on the East Coast

    Pawleys Island is a community located on the south end of the Grand Strand between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. The island itself is four miles long and a quarter of a mile wide. Famous for its “arrogantly shabby” Cypress cottages, the island is an interesting mix of these old, classic homes – some grandiose and interesting – and other newly built beach homes. Pawleys Island has a different feel from anyplace else along the Grand Strand. There is little commercial development and no high-rise buildings in Pawleys Island but nearby you’ll find Brookgreen Gardens,  Huntington State Park Murrells Inlet Hobcaw Barony  and Georgetown  . The Sales Executives at the Trembley Group Real Estate are experts on Grand Strand real estate and know that Pawleys Island real estate is still a very much desired piece of paradise for many real estate investors. (PawleysIslandRealEstate)

    The Pawleys Island area is part of an area known as the Waccamaw Neck. Just 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Pawleys Island is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those who appreciate the beauty of the Low Country landscape with its sweeping undeveloped marshland, massive live oaks and magnolias, slow moving rivers, and oceanfront state parks. The Pawleys Island community continues to be known for its laid-back lifestyle and residents still enjoy crabbing in the creeks, fishing, the ghost stories, lying around in the famous Pawleys Island rope hammocks, and the unspoiled, unsophisticated, casual, delightful stretch of wide beaches and sand dunes.

    The island has a rich history. Pawleys Island is one of the oldest vacation resorts on the east coast. It was originally developed by families of rice planters who owned plantations on the nearby rivers in the early 1700s. They moved their families, horses, cows, bedding, provisions and furniture to Pawleys Island in May of each year and remained there until the first frost in November. Twelve residences on the island’s historic district date from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s.

    February is Black History Month and Pawleys Island and Georgetown County have a rich African-American history. Anyone interested in South Carolina’s history should be sure to visit the Gullah Museum in Georgetown , investigate the African-American roots of Faith Memorial Episcopal Church in Pawleys Island , and discover the heritage of Sandy Island, developed by slaves and still inhabited by their descendants. But the African-American history of McKenzie Beach and the Magnolia Beach Club and Pavilion in Pawleys Island is one of the most interesting.

    Anyone who has driven from Myrtle Beach to Georgetown or Myrtle Beach to Charleston has probably noticed the remains of a falling-down motel known a McKenzie Beach, once part of the Magnolia Beach Club and Pavilion on the east side of US-17 in Pawleys Island.  While it is hard to miss, few, even long-term Pawleys Island residents, know its history. It was once one of the only places an African-American could stay on the east coast between New York and Miami. It was one of few spots on the east coast where African-American had direct beach access.

    Frank McKenzie and his business partner and Pawleys Island resident Lillian Pyatt acquired the 28-acres in 1934 and began development shortly thereafter. McKenzie and Pyatt envisioned a place where blacks in the Jim Crow south, without fear of racial discrimination, could have access to the beach, and enjoy good food, strong drinks and live music.

    In 1936, construction began on a causeway across Midway Creek and connected the mainland to the south end of Litchfield Beach. Before the causeway was finished a pavilion and fifteen small cabins were built. The beach club and pavilion was a waterfront restaurant and club where, by the late 1930s, popular performers and musicians Like Charlie “Bird” Parker, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Little Richard performed regularly on their “colored circuit” tour travels. And even though their music was played on the jukeboxes in “juke joints” around the country, for many the Magnolia Beach Club was the first time hearing  some of these legendary big band jazz and rhythm and blues artists.

    The resort continued to grow until 1954 when Category 4, Hurricane Hazel directly hit the area, destroying the causeway, the pavilion and most of the cabins. McKenzie rebuilt a small motel and a bait and tackle shop on US-17 on the mainland in 1956. The property became known as McKenzie Beach. The ruins that can still be seen from the highway are McKenzie Beach.

    Financial hardship forced McKenzie to sell the property in the late 1960s. The property’s new owners allowed McKenzie to operate the motel for a few more years until he retired from the motel business. Frank died in 1978, the same year his former partner Lillian Pyatt died.

    Race relations along the Grand Strand have changed since the Jim Crow 1960s. Long gone are the days when performers like Duke Ellington could entertain at upscale Myrtle Beach area hotels but not stay there. The pride, vision and hard work of people like Frank McKenzie and Lillian Pyatt helped create a bridge between the old south and the new south.

    The Pawleys Island community continues to be some of the most desirable real estate along South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Pawleys Island is considered by many to be one of the oldest resort areas in America. Rice plantation owners built beach houses on the island, in order to take advantage of the ocean breezes and escape malarial mosquitoes on the inland plantations during the summer months. Pawleys Island motto of “Arrogantly Shabby” reflects the outward appearance of some of the island’s real estate dating to the 1700s and 1800s that have been rearranged by hurricanes over the years. With the gentile and responsible development of Pawleys Island and the mainland community, “Elegantly Shabby” might be a more appropriate motto.

    The Trembley Group Real Estate Sales Executives are experts in every aspect of Grand Strand Real Estate. Give Jeremy Jenks, Vice-President of Sales, a call at 843.638.3002, to learn more about Pawleys Island’s history and to explore opportunities to own a piece of this paradise and history. There are plenty of nearby fishing spots, golf courses, parks, nature walks, shopping and dining, all within a short drive or a short walk from the beach.

    Need help? Call The Trembley Group at 843.945.1880 ext. 100 and we’ll help you look for the perfect listing or buyers agent!

    At The Trembley Group, we pride ourselves on being the experts at more than just selling real estate. We are local residents, some of us have been here for a lifetime. The rest of us will be here until the end of time. We love living, working, and playing in the diverse backyard of Coastal Carolina, and look forward to helping you live and love your dreams soon too. Please reach out to us by phone or email for personalized service and one-on-one advice. 



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