Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Guided Tour of Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina.

atalaya 01

Atalaya is one of those interesting places in South Carolina that demanded a visit from CarolinaConsidered. It is a remarkable structure, difficult to describe.

atalaya 02Built during the early 1930s by railroad heir, Archer Milton Huntington, and his second wife, the famous sculptor, Anna Hyatt, Atalaya covers nearly an acre of ground at what has since become Huntington Beach State Park.

I visited Atalaya a year or so ago while camping at Huntington Beach State Park, walked around, took a few photos, and didn’t think much more about it. Click the link above to see the post from that visit. The building, to my architecturally unsophisticated eye, was more whimsical than practical. “An impulsive project born of a vague idea,” is how I then described it.

atalaya 03Well! You should have read the e-mail that post inspired. Some amusing. But some that encouraged me to take another look. Next time with an informed guide. In February of this year I got that chance. During another visit to Huntington Beach State Park, made primarily to visit Brookgreen Gardens, just across the road from the Park.

This visit I was able to meet and interview Ms. Elizabeth Moses, the Interpretative Ranger responsible for Atalaya. Needless to say, Ms. Moses didn’t share my earlier opinion of Atalaya. More important, she proved to be extremely well informed. About the building, the building’s history, and about Archer and Anna Huntington. What a difference an hour or so spent listening to Elizabeth Moses meant!

Here is the first part of the interview with Elizabeth Moses, done at the Huntington Beach State Park Office. In it we learn how Ms. Moses came to her current job and the history of Atalaya.

In the second part of the sit-down interview with Elizabeth Moses, she provides more specific detail on Atalaya as it exists today at Huntington Beach State Park. Including the importance of the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park volunteers who help maintain the building and guide tours. Click the link above to access a Friends Group description of the house and a useful map.

When you visit Atalaya, try to join a docent-led tour. Those tours are available from March through November, if memory serves. Call Huntington Beach State Park [843-237-4440] for the tour schedule.

If you’re unable to join one of those tours, or if you visit Atalaya between November and February, be sure to take one of the new audio tours. They cost only $4.00 per person, and allow you to wander through Atalaya at your own pace, with informed commentary. Even including some comments of Anna Hyatt Huntington herself! Well worth the fee.

I was able to persuade Interpretive Ranger Moses to take me on a brief tour of her own during my last visit. A real treat. Listening to her informed commentary as we walked through the many corridors and rooms made all the difference in the world. I’ll never describe Atalaya again as an “impulsive project”!

The quality of the audio in these next two videos is terrible. My recording equipment just wasn’t up to the challenge of windy weather that day. But Ms. Moses’ commentary was too interesting to waste. So I’ve included it here for everyone to hear. Here’s Part One of that tour:

And here is the second part. Even with repeated editing I was unable to clean the sound of the wind from the audio tracks. Sorry about that. Don’t let the poor quality keep you from listening though. You’ll miss a lot.

So there you have it. Another, more informed, visit to Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. After listening to Elizabeth Moses’ patient explanations and description, I hope to visit Atalaya at least one more time, when I can devote several hours to the project. Thanks again, Elizabeth, for your patience and for your remarkable knowledge of this important site and of the Huntingtons who created it. You made a world of difference!

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