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Atalaya Castle

Explore a little bit of history when you step into Atalaya Castle in Huntington Beach State Park.

Click to view a transcript of the video.

(Music)

(Josslyn Stiner Speaks)

Hello my name is Josslyn Stiner, I’m the interpretive Ranger here at Huntington Beach State Park, and I’m welcoming you to Atalaya. Atalaya is the winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington. They built this house from 1931 to 1933, actually using all local labor.

One of the reasons why they settled here in South Carolina was because Anna was suffering from Tuberculosis in the early 1920s. They needed a warmer climate for her to spend her winters; they were actually living in New York at the time. So, they came down here fell in love with South Carolina, and decided to build. At the time that they were building Atalaya they were also building Brookgreen Gardens right across the street. They utilized all local labor, they also taught a lot of the local residents how to construct a building in this way, in the Spanish style, and they gave them valuable skill sets that they can use for the rest of their lives.

One of the interesting things about Atalaya is the brickwork; you can tell that you’re standing in a room where the Huntington’s would’ve considered public domain, when you see this Herringbone brick pattern. All of the other rooms have a straight brick pattern, but when you’re in the library the breakfast room, the dinning room, the sunroom and the foyer, these all have much more decorative brick pattern. So, this is where the Huntington’s would’ve invited their guests, in fact we actually have oral history from some of the employees of the Huntington’s that they were invited to the foyer to have tea. So this is something the Huntington’s did on occasion. They didn’t really have over night guests, which is why you won’t find any ballrooms or any guest rooms in Atalaya. The only person we know for certain that stayed over night was Mrs. Huntington’s sister, and she actually stayed in one of the out buildings that is no longer on the premise.

Archer first came down here in 1929 and he found the area and he realized that this stretch of beach particular, actually reminded him a lot of his travels through Spain. He had traveled through Spain as a young man, and decided this would be the perfect place to actually build a replica of a Spanish fort, and that is why Atalaya has the distinct architecture it does today, because Archer was basically recreating what he remembered on this travels. Atalaya has a lot of whimsical details, so it’s not an exact replica of the forts you see on the Spanish Mediterranean Coast, but it is very close. It has a two-part plan with two courtyards; it has a central hallway called the covered walkway that you walk through. It has small rooms kind of in a horseshoe shape all around the perimeter of the house, and it has these really beautiful iron grill works on the windows.

Atalaya is actually named for the large watchtower that is in the center of the courtyard, right here. Atalaya means watchtower in old Spanish, and luckily for the Huntington’s they didn’t need to use it for lookout for pirates, so they actually used it as a water tower. They used to hold a 3,000-gallon cypress water tank at the very top of that tower. Pump water from the northern part of the property up to that tower, and then gravity would push the water through to all the pipes and amenities throughout the house.

Thank you guys for joining me on this short tour of Atalaya, hopefully you learned a little bit about it. Please feel free to visit us here at Huntington Beach State Park. 

 

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