Myrtle Beach marks 70 years as a city

She's known and loved by many and Wednesday, she celebrated her 70th birthday. The city of Myrtle Beach was born on March 12, 1938, when it was officially incorporated.

NewsChannel 15 did some digging into the history of the fair city and found that it has always looked toward the future and perhaps not done enough to remember its past.

In the early 1700's in what is now a Myrtle Beach city park, the Withers family ran an indigo plantation on property deeded by the King of England.

The property was eventually bought up by the Burroughs and Collins company. It was timber land and in the late 1800's, the company built a railroad to Pine Island for the purpose of shipping lumber.

"Someone decided that a few more miles over and they could be on the beach from Pine Island and so the tracks were extended," said CCU Research Specialist Ben Burroughs.

With the arrival of the railroad, a beach resort was born, then known only as New Town.

Around 1900, a handful of settlers decided the train depot needed a better name, so they held a contest.

"They all went through the names and then they voted on the one they liked best and the one that won out was Myrtle Beach," Burroughs said.

Beach houses and a pavilion went up and by 1938, there was enough of a community in Myrtle Beach to incorporate as a city.

"Myrtle Beach was a magical place, a shangra la," said local photographer Jack Thompson.

Thompson hitchhiked to Myrtle Beach as a 13-year-old in 1951 and never left. He says the town had about 600 permanent residents then and they swapped gossip at the one coffee shop in town.

At the time, it was already a popular beach resort, but for only a few months out of the year.

"On Labor Day, you could shoot a cannonball down Ocean Boulevard and not hit a soul," Thompson said.

Then in the '50's, the Chamber of Commerce got busy, America discovered Myrtle Beach and the city grew like a weed, now attracting 14-million visitors a year.

Thompson says the city has a terrific future but he regrets that local leaders have allowed so much history, like the old Ocean Forest Hotel, to slip away.

"They see Myrtle Beach as today and tomorrow and the future. They really don't look back to see where Myrtle Beach has actually sprung from."

But the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot has been restored and local historians like Thompson and Burroughs hope that marks the beginning of an era in which Myrtle Beach does a better job of saving its history.