Horry County considering creating Little River historic district

Grand Strand

A map of historical properties in Little River, as of summer 2021. (Source: Horry County Government)

LITTLE RIVER, S.C. (WBTW) — Little River’s future may include a callback to its past.

The unincorporated Horry County community is being considered for a historic district, with a committee forming to study the issue.

“We are exploding with development, so change is going to come, and we know that,” said Lou Conklin, the senior planner with Horry County Zoning and Planning, and the Horry County Government staff liaison for the county’s historical planning commission. “But historic designation does not preclude that you can change.”

Instead, it would mean that changes would need to be carefully planned and reviewed in light of the property and history around it.

The process was kickstarted by the county’s preservation plan, which collected feedback about areas that could potentially receive historic designation.

“One of the goals that went out of that plan was to do historic districts,” Conklin said. 

Out of several proposed areas, Little River received the most votes. Other areas up for future consideration include the Green Sea area, Pee Dee Crossroads, Hickory Grove, Nixons Crossroads, Socastee and Murrells Inlet. 

There are 6,103 potentially eligible properties that could be added to the county’s register of historic places, according to Horry County’s preservation plan. The majority of the list’s existing properties are cemeteries. Areas are eligible for protection once they hit the 50-year mark.

If eligible, property owners who rehabilitate historic structures can have their taxes frozen for 15 years. 

Little River’s colonial history stretches back to the 1700s, when fishermen and farmers formed a post there. The area had a port — and is rumored to have attracted pirates like Blackbeard and Anne Bonny. George Washington even stopped by, passing through in 1791 and staying with Jeremiah Vereen, an area resident.

The area’s port was absorbed into the Intracoastal Waterway when it was finished in the 1930s, according to Conklin.

The area currently has six properties on the county’s historic property register — McLamb Cemetery, the Brentwood Restaurant and Wine Bistro, Little River Methodist Church Cemetery, The Parson’s Table, Livingston House and the Riverview Live Oak Tree.

An area must have at least one designated historic property before a committee can investigate the possibility of creating a district. The district does not need to be congruous. 

Most of Little River’s historic properties are located along Mineola Avenue and Highway 17. The county has identified at least a dozen parcels that contain a structure that is at least 50 years old.

The Parson’s Table was one of the first properties to gain a historic designation from the county, according to Ed Murray, the restaurant’s owner and chef. The structure, which has been around since 1885, became a restaurant in 1978 and received historic designation status in 2010. 

“We promote it,” Murray said. “With the architecture, with the stained glass, that is what makes us unique.”

He said the history adds to the building’s ambiance, although most people might not notice it’s even there.

“People are surprised that it’s a restaurant,” Murray said. “Some people drive by on 17 and don’t think we’re a restaurant.”.

He supports creating a historic district.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.

He points to the town’s history, including large, historic oak trees in the area. He’s also seen historic buildings get torn down because there aren’t funds to restore them

“Once that’s gone and once that history is gone, people don’t realize,” Murray said. “I think it’s important we save some of that heritage so we can remember for future generations.”

The move is also supported by the Little River Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, according to the organization’s president and CEO, Jennifer Walters.

“It will be the first effort of this kind in Horry County and we are honored that our community was chosen,” she said in an email.

Conklin said the timeline for the decision is currently unknown. The county will need to determine the boundaries of the district, and then take an inventory and conduct research. 

Property owners who would like their buildings to be considered for historic designation from the county can contact Conklin at conklinl@horrycounty.org.

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