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Atalaya Castle: A Home for All Seasons

Page Ivey Page Ivey
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Every time I visit Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park, I am struck by two things: how clean this open-air castle is and how cool it is even on sticky, humid fall days.

I don't know whether Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington actually found the breeziest spot on their oceanfront property to build their Spanish Moors-style home or whether it was just good fortune. Though the Huntingtons used it as their winter home, the castle is tolerable even in summer months.

When you first see the building, you might think it's the ruins of some other larger structure. When you walk the halls, looking into the small rooms and shared baths, you might think it was a prison. (The daunting grillwork and shutters on the windows were actually designed to protect them from hurricane winds and flying debris.)

It was built in the 1930s using local laborers who so desperately needed the work during the Great Depression and then Huntingtons wintered there in the 1930s and '40s.

Archer Huntington died in 1955 and in subsequent years, equipment from Anna's studio was moved to Brookgreen Gardens. Brookgreen trustees leased the 2,500-acre tract including Atalaya to the state in 1960. Anna Huntington died in 1973.

One of the best ways to see this National Historic Landmark is during the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festivaleach fall when more than 100 artists fill the rooms of the castle and the courtyard it surrounds. Local restaurants also bring their best Lowcountry cuisine and area musicians perform to the festival.

While you stroll through Atalaya looking at all the art, the story of the castle is told with signs in the rooms of note, including Archer Huntington's study and Anna Hyatt Huntington's studio. Next to the home are stables where the Huntingtons kept dogs, horses and even bears, which all were used by Anna as models for her sculpture. 

If you get your fill of art, food and music, Huntington Beach State Park has a wonderful 3-mile stretch of beach just a short walk from the castle. There are indoor changing rooms and showers, if you want the immersive experience, and outdoor showers for those who just need to rinse the sand of their feet.

Atalaya bonus: No one would ever say that South Carolina's Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historical Landmark on U.S. 17 South in Murrells Inlet, is on the road less traveled. In fact, it sits on the busiest highway along the state's coast. It is, however, a world apart from all the other attractions along the Grand Strand.

Even when the gardens are not in bloom, the sculpture is always stunning. More than 1,200 works by 350 sculptors are on display, including many pieces by Anna Hyatt Huntington who laid out the walkways throughout the gardens. 

Page Ivey
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.