When we think of Myrtle Beach today, we almost always envision our beautiful coastline with white sand and relaxing waves. Along that coastline you’ll see high rise hotels, condo buildings, and time shares from Cherry Grove to Georgetown. More than 60 miles of these giant resorts dot our landscape and provide great amenities such as Indoor/Outdoor pools, lazy rivers, onsite dining, verandas, and hot tubs. This was not always the case. In fact, only 30 years ago, areas like Cherry Grove, Surfside, and most of North Myrtle Beach was mostly just small hotels and old beach houses. For decades, Myrtle Beach had all the larger condos/hotels. In fact, from the late 20’s to the 60’s, Myrtle Beach was the only place you could really go to get a true hotel experience. There were the typical dives and simple accommodations you would expect in any coastal resort town to have and you would definitely need to pack a broom with you when you decided to travel. Air conditioning was also a luxury! There was, however, a true gem of a place located off of Porcher Dr. This place stood out over any hotel (or any building!) on the Grand Strand and was spoke of in the highest of reverence. The greatest oceanfront hotel of its time was, without equal, The Ocean Forest Hotel.
Formally opened on February 21st, 1930, the Ocean Forest Hotel was different than any other. This gorgeous, unique hotel quickly became not only the most acclaimed and popular resort on the Grand Strand, but also a true vacation destination. Owned by John T. Woodside, a textile magnate, who had a vision to make the most luxurious resort on the East Coast, the resort costed a whopping $1 Million. The Ocean Forest was perfectly located between New York City and Miami (558 and 554 miles, respectively) and featured huge Greek marble columns, Czechoslovakian Crystal Chandeliers, and a breathtaking grand ballroom. Its design was of the “wedding cake” style, with two 5 story wings on either side of it’s giant (at the time) 10 story center tower. 202 guest rooms made their home here and there was no rival in the area. There were 13 acres of beautiful grounds, pools, gardens, and even stables. Back then, there were no man-made dunes that you see on all but 1 single property on the Grand Strand today. You could look directly out to the shimmering waters of the Atlantic from the ground and pool.
When the Ocean Forest first opened, it attracted the elite of society. A strict dress code was implied and gentlemen could not enter the ballroom without a tuxedo. Later in the 50’s and 60’s this relaxed a bit and appropriate “resort wear” was permitted. The Ocean Forest also was one of the few hotels in the area that had elevators! Guests could also choose to have salt or fresh water baths in their rooms. Shelly Winters, Strom Thurmond, and other celebrities and dignitaries would frequent the hotel, which helped Myrtle Beach to grow and gain more notoriety. The innovations and service found at the Ocean Forest inspired many other resorts who had to adapt to succeed in this competitive hotel/resort landscape.
Throughout the years, The Ocean Forest Hotel had several owners and was sold to Sonny Stevens and Dexter Stuckey in 1973 for $7.5 million. They tried to keep it open, but throughout the decades, it did not receive the upkeep and updates to code, which it sorely needed. The cost was simply too high for Stevens and Stucky to continue. On September 13th, 1974, the Ocean Forest Hotel was imploded and reduced to rubble within 6 seconds, marking and end to it’s 50+ years of opulence.
Today, you can still see exactly where the Ocean Forest Hotel stood. Although it has been replaced with….less than opulent accommodations, you can still see and traverse the roundabout which stood in front of the lovely façade. The former Ocean Forest Country Club and Golf Course is now called the Pine Lakes Country Club and is a fantastic place to golf and relax. It’s worth a trip to the roundabout or to park at the public beach access to say that you stood where such great history and good times were made. Plus – it’s only 1.7 miles from Grande Shores Ocean Resort!
It’s absolutely wonderful during these times to have a resort like Grande Shores, where you have wonderful amenities, expertly appointed rooms, and modern conveniences. We definitely owe the Ocean Forest Hotel for ushering in a new standard for excellence and providing such a rich history to our area.
Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation experiences. Having such a great place full of local legends and great history makes him a lucky guy! An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.