By Dan T. Henderson Jr.

I recently shared a laugh with my friend Angela Drake about planning airline flights in and out of Myrtle Beach around trips to Frank’s Outback on Ocean Highway U.S. 17, in the Pawleys Island community. We are both guilty. When many think of the Lowcountry beach town just south of Litchfield Beach, thoughts may be of The Pawleys Island Pavillion, Pawley Island Hammocks, house parties, family reunions or The Gray Man.


For me, I remember being told a ghost story at a young age about the Gray Man. The tale says that a young man going to visit his fiancée on horseback tried to take a short cut to Pawleys from Georgetown and ended up in the marsh full of quicksand. Legend has it the Gray Man has been sighted numerous times since the hurricane of 1822, when a ghost dressed in gray walked the beach before landfall, warning of the impending storm that ended up killed many.

Pawleys Island is located off of the Waccamaw Neck, a long narrow peninsula between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic. The actual town of Pawleys Island is only the barrier island, four miles long and a quarter mile wide at its widest point. The Town is named for George Pawley, who received land grants in the early 1700s and was one of the first European settlers to build a plantation in the area.

Nearby rice planters were the first to settle on the island shortly after Pawley’s land grant. They knew the island was a healthy alternative to living on the rivers during the summer because of malaria spread associated with flooded rice fields. Most of the families actually lived on the island from late spring until the first frost of the fall.

The oldest homes on the island date back to the late 1700s. Slaves for a local planter named R.F.W. Allston built the south causeway onto the island in the mid 1800s; it allowed for easy travel to the island. The north causeway was built in the early 1900s. The National Register of Historic Places recognized the Historic District of Pawleys Island in 1972; the district includes 12 structures from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. The building style is a variation of West Indian architecture, which is designed for the most efficient degree of ventilation. These homes were not mansions — some small cottages and others large sturdy homes elevated off the ground, with many bedrooms, cypress siding, fireplaces, large chimneys and fireplaces and multiple porches. Also, unique to the design was rear breezeways that attached the kitchen wing of the house and servant quarters. This style continued though out the 20th century.

The town of Pawleys Island was incorporated in the 1980s. The first ordinances passed after incorporation limited commercial establishments, mainly targeted at chain hotels. There are a few inns to accommodate visitors, but no restaurants or bars. Today, the Sea View Inn built in 1937 and the Pelican Inn built in 1858 are still in operation.

One of the traditional-styled homes is on the market for sale. The seven-bedroom home built in 1945, was designed for the large family vacation. The home on Myrtle Avenue rests atop one of the highest dunes in the Historic District, over 25 feet above sea level. As with many homes on the island the beachfront home also includes a private crabbing and boat dock, located across Myrtle Street behind the home. The owners are asking $2,845,000. This home located across from the Pawleys Island Chapel, which hangs off the side of the road over the back creek and marsh. The chapel, originally a Pentecostal Holiness Church, moved to the present location from nearby Georgetown. In April of this year, 571 Norris Dr. sold for $999,999. The six-bedroom ocean bedroom oceanfront home was built in 1968.

Many South Carolinian’s remember the Pawleys Island Pavilion, which actually was located in four different buildings near the north causeway during a 70-year period. The first Pavilion was built in the early 1900s and hosted dancing and drinking — even during prohibition, according local legend. The second location lasted a decade and was built near the original site in 1925 by Cliff Davis; regulars called it Davis’s Little Pavilion. The third location, known as the Lafayette Pavilion, stayed popular until it burned in 1957. During that era there was also popular live music playing right off Ocean Highway during the season at The Magnolia Beach Club, which hosted legends like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

The last Pawleys Island Pavilion was built in 1960. This location hosted regional bands that would play the hits by the Drifters and Tams and other popular beach music bands. My close friend Bunky Odom was the agent representing many of those groups that worked the Pavilion in the day; he recalls that the actual bands with the songs on the radio would be playing just north in Myrtle Beach at the Beach Club, but that did not stop the over flowing crowds from coming out on a hot summer weekend night to hear the cover artists. The building was lost to a fire in June of 1970; arson was suspected and many suggested that a local resident was the culprit, speculating that someone was tired of the crowd that it attracted. At the time of the fire, there were plans for a new location but a local group bought the building and ended the long tradition.

Many South Carolinians know Pawleys Island worldwide because of the Pawleys Island Hammock. Capt. Joshua John Ward is credited for inventing the style hammock that didn’t require knots in the hammock body, which made them extremely comfortable. “Cap’n Josh,” as he was known, was a boat captain who ferried rice from the fields to the port of Georgetown in the late 1800s. Hammocks had been used for hundreds of years, dating back to Columbus sailing to America. The Original Hammock Shop was started in 1935 by Capt’n Josh’s family to better market the hammocks. The shop is still in operation today, at the original location, along U.S. Ocean Highway 17, off of the island in the Pawleys Island Community. The location is now known as The Hammock Shops; the specialty retail-shopping village is nestled in among tall pines, towering century-old oaks, camellias and azaleas. The village is a collection of more than shops and restaurants with a Lowcountry feel. Let me warn you, gone are the crushed oyster shell driveways and walkways. The village changed hands in recent years and the property has undergone a major renovation.

The Pawleys Island community commercial district also has a new Lowes Food Shopping Center and the major renovation is completed of the original retail shopping center Pawleys Island Plaza that is now anchored by a Publix. I have two favorite stops along the Ocean Highway strip — the first is the aforementioned Frank’s Outback; this open-air restaurant and bar has the best atmosphere and food around. On the other extreme is what the locals know as the PIT (Pawleys Island Tavern), which has great local and regional music, great bar food and what I would consider one of the best “dive” bars on the Lowcountry coast.

Dan Tompkins Henderson, Jr., CCIM, is the Broker/Principal of CCBG Real Estate Group, LLC. He was awarded 2014 Commercial Realtor of the Year. He is a former board of director member of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors; he has served the association in numerous committee and board positions, president of the commercial investment division and is an adjunct professor and director of the Carter Real Estate School at the College of Charleston; he may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Mercury newspapers can be found at the following locations:


Buxton Books

Caviar & Bananas

The Meeting Street Inn (Rack)

Clair's Service Station, Folly Rd. (Rack)

Harris Teeter, Houston-Northcutt Blvd. (Rack)

Mt. Pleasant Library, Mathis Ferry Rd. (Rack)

Pitt St. Pharmacy

The Square Onion, I'On (Rack)