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Atalaya, Georgetown County, South Carolina

Photo by Ron Osborne, released into public domain via wikimedia commons

Atalaya was designed meant to resemble the Moorish style of architecture found along the Spanish coast. Built by local laborers under the direction of contractor William Thompson between 1931 and 1933, the building has been little altered over the years. Atalaya is significant for its unusual architectural style seldom found in this country, and as winter home of world famous sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, and her philanthropist husband, Archer Milton Huntington, the designer of Atalaya. It is located approximately one hundred and fifty yards from the Atlantic Ocean within the boundaries of Huntington Beach State Park near Murrells Inlet in northeastern Georgetown County, South Carolina.
Anna Hyatt Huntington (March 10, 1876 – October 4, 1973) was one of America's foremost sculptors. It was at Atalaya that Mrs. Huntington did a study piece of Rocinante, the fictional Spanish knight Don Quixote's mount, found in the book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

Photo by Ron Osborne, released into public domain via wikimedia commons

On January 24, 1930, Archer Milton and Anna Hyatt Huntington acquired four plantations consisting of 6,635 acres from the FMC Corporation Hunting Club. It was their idea to establish a wildlife and nature preserve which would act as a backdrop for Mrs. Huntington’s sculptures and those of other modern sculptors. Their dream became a reality the following year when
Brookgreen Gardens(listed in the National Register, April 15, 1978) was incorporated as a nonprofit institution under the laws of South Carolina. While the gardens at Brookgreen were being developed the Huntington’s wanted to be nearby, so they moved into the two-story hunt club house on Magnolia Island (present day Huntington Beach State Park) opposite the entrance to Brookgreen. They enjoyed living among the dunes and they decided to build a house of their own design. It was named Atalaya which translates from Spanish to English as "Watchtower". Mr. Huntington, a well known and respected Hispanic scholar, called upon his background for the design of Atalaya which he based on the Moorish architecture of the Spanish coast.

The effects of the Depression had been devastating to the economy of the local community and in an effort to help alleviate this, Huntington hired local laborers. It is believed that these laborers, under the direction of contractor William Thompson, carried out the verbal instructions of Mr. Huntington since no blueprints were used to build Atalaya.

Photo by Ron Osborne, released into public domain via wikimedia commons

Atalaya is built in the shape of a square with the outer measurement of each wall being two hundred feet. It is a single story brick building and has a flat asphalt and gravel roof with a parapet of simple decorative brickwork. There are twenty-five chimneys located throughout the house capped with copper hoods which rotate with the winds. The exterior walls are stuccoed, while the inner courtyard walls have untooled mortar joints. All exterior walls are sprayed with a gray cement coating to help the building blend in with the environment. The eastern elevation faces the ocean and consists of three bays. The recessed center bay is fronted by a semicircular patio, which fills in the recession between the center and end bays. Entrance is through the center bay which has two single doorways. The center bay has three windows, while the southeast has eight and the northeast has six all at random intervals. The southern elevation has seven windows randomly spaced along its run and a door which opens into an inner courtyard. Windows are randomly spaced on the northern elevation. The western elevation has a large double gate which opens onto an entrance courtyard. This was the main entrance when the Huntington’s occupied the house. There are two small inner courtyards to either side of the entrance which contain storage sheds.

Some of the details on Anna Hyatt Huntington are taken from The Huntington’s, found at the Brookgreen Gardens website at http://www.brookgreen.org/huntington.cfm.  The rest is from the National Register of Historic Places documentation on  Atalaya prepared by Daniel Ray Sigmon, Historic Researcher for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism on March 20, 1984, and the National Register of Historic Places documentation on Brookgreen Gardens by Kathy Kelly  (Waccamaw Regional Planning and Development Council) John Califf and Julie Burr for the South Carolina. Department of Archives and History, February 4, 1978

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