All Aboard

Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw

Myrtle Beach’s historic train depot is still a frequent stop

Though young compared to its nearby sisters Conway and Charleston, Myrtle Beach has its share of history. But the city’s commercial boom didn’t happen until the advent of the railroad at the turn of the century, and it wasn’t until 1937 that a train depot was built in downtown Myrtle Beach, or “New Town,” as was then called. Now, 73 years later, the depot still stands at 851 Broadway Street—but only because of the hard work of a dedicated group of preservationists and the city itself. Saved from the wrecking ball in 1999, the depot is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it one of the few lasting treasures of a by gone era.

Train travel, once the most common form of mass transit in the United States, served to deliver vacationers and materials to our sandy shores through the mid-1960s. When this mode waned, the depot was closed and became warehouse, eventually of little use for its owners who applied for a demolition permit in 1999. Vowing to save the depot from a fate that had befallen the Ocean Forest Hotel, a once-grand Myrtle Beach resort built in 1930 and leveled in 1974, the Myrtle Beach All Aboard Committee was formed to raise awareness and funds to save the historically important site. Fortunately they were successful. The City of Myrtle Beach purchased the property for $750,000, and began the restoration.

Following the strict guidelines required to remain a “National Historic Place,” architects and engineers brought the depot to life with a few modern additions like heating and air conditioning, and modern plumbing and electrical upgrades, all the while maintaining its beautiful wood-beam and brick interior. In 2004, a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially re-opened the Myrtle Beach Train Depot, which now serves as a public meeting hall, a popular wedding reception and party venue, and a concert hall utilized by the nonprofit group South By Southeast, which hosts regular concerts by well-known singer-songwriters.

While a train to Myrtle Beach may be a thing of the past, residents and visitors may enjoy at least one iconic landmark, which stimulates the imagination and nostalgic pining for a simpler time, when travel to the beach required a train, a conductor, a depot, and the familiar call: “All aboard!”

The Myrtle Beach Train Depot, located at 851 Broadway St., is open to the public by appointment only. For information on events, facility rentals, and interior viewing, call Bryan Lowry, special events coordinator, at (843) 918-4906.