For the next three decades, the Depot served as the city’s activity hub, welcoming passenger trains full of vacationing families and boxcars full of supplies and building materials. In 1967, with train travel waning, Atlantic Coastline Railroad sold the Depot and 1.25 acres to a beverage distributor, which constructed offices and warehouses on the site. These new buildings blocked the view of the Depot from main roads. The company also removed an exterior freight dock from the Depot and replaced it with an enclosed two-bay maintenance garage for trucks. The remainder of the building was used for storage and warehousing.
In 1999, the property owner decided to move the distributorship, and the Depot property was placed on the market. After several months with no viable offers, the owner was advised that the property might sell more quickly as vacant land. When word spread that a demolition permit had been requested for the Depot, a public outcry arose to save one of Myrtle Beach’s few remaining historic buildings. At first, the city worked with the owner to move the historic Depot to a new site, but the city eventually purchased the building and land outright for $750,000.
With the Depot safe from the wrecking ball, the city formed the Myrtle Beach All Aboard Committee and charged it with restoring the building and listing it on the National Register of Historic Places. This volunteer group also was responsible for raising the money to accomplish those goals. During the next four years, the committee raised more than $650,000 in grants and private donations to restore the structure and improve the site with parking facilities, lighting and landscaping. Fund-raising projects included the sale of engraved pavers, scale models, t-shirts and limited-edition watercolor prints. Carolina Southern Railroad also provided two sets of train rides from the Depot to raise money, and both were sellouts.
Because the added-on maintenance garage rendered the Depot ineligible for the National Register, the committee worked with the S.C. Department of Archives and History to develop demolition plans for the addition. Research via the Caroliniana Library at USC provided photographic evidence of the Depot’s original appearance. In 2001, the garage was successfully removed, and, on July 22, 2002, the Myrtle Beach Train Depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Even with this success, the project was far from complete. During the next two years, the committee and volunteer architect Dale Gilliland worked to make the building habitable, without compromising its historic integrity. Using money raised by the committee, the city hired a contractor to restore the Depot to its original appearance and function. The project included restoring wooden and concrete flooring, as well as the original trim, ceiling boards and beams. The roof was replaced, along with the loading docks and exterior windows. Great pains were taken to match new materials with the appropriate historic ones. The work also included a heating and air conditioning system, along with modernized plumbing and electrical services, in keeping with guidelines from the National Register.
Finally, on May 6, 2004, the All Aboard Committee cut the ribbon on the newly restored Myrtle Beach Train Depot, 67 years to the day after the original opening ceremonies. More than 200 people came to celebrate the restoration and rebirth of one of Myrtle Beach’s earliest landmarks. In 2005, the Myrtle Beach Train Depot received the South Carolina Historic Preservation Honor Award from the S.C. Department of Archives and History.
The Community Benefit
The newly restored Depot is in the heart of Myrtle Beach, providing an active link to the city’s past and a focal point for its future. Members of the All Aboard Committee are rightfully proud of the role they played in preserving the historic structure. Their efforts were directly responsible for having the Depot listed on the National Register and raising the money to preserve the building’s character and charm. The committee’s determination and ultimate success have fostered a can-do attitude toward other preservation projects.
Today, the Depot serves as a public facility for meetings, committees, receptions, activities and parties. The city operates the building and makes it available to groups for a nominal fee. Everyone who enters the great hall, with its exposed wood trusses, plank flooring, brick walls and sliding freight doors, is reminded of the glory days of train travel. The Depot and its adjacent railroad tracks were vital players in Myrtle Beach’s early days. Restoring the Depot not only preserved that history for future generations, but also gave the community a project to share and a beautiful structure to use and enjoy.
For more information about the restoration, please call 843-918-1050. To reserve the Train Depot for your event, contact Bryan Lowry at 843-918-4906 or 843-251-6849.