The City Magazine Since 1975

Last Resort

September 2017
Last Resort

When downtown temps became too sweltering to bear, locals might even join vacationers at the magnificent New Brighton Hotel, shown here on the far left.

For folks like business owner and Lowcountry native Montague Triest (pictured second from the right, with friends and relatives in 1895), it simply wasn’t summer without an escape to Sullivan’s Island. When downtown temps became too sweltering to bear, locals might even join vacationers at the magnificent New Brighton Hotel, shown here on the far left. The vision for the luxurious retreat was that of Boston businessman J.F. Burnham, who hoped to boost Charleston’s status after the Civil War to that of a stylish summer destination for wealthy Northerners. With captivating towers and turrets, the New Brighton was completed in 1884, offering 112 lavish rooms and a handful of guest cottages, each outfitted with then-extravagant amenities such as gas lighting and electric call buttons. The resort was home to a private rail line, horse stables, a glitzy casino, and a world-class performance hall, and it attracted gamblers and renowned entertainers from far and wide to its sprawling grounds on “Ocean Park.” It was sold in 1894 and became Atlantic Beach Hotel, which stood until a blazing fire consumed the structure in 1925. According to legend, the flame was ignited by a bootlegger who lit a match while digging for his stash of whiskey, hidden somewhere near the casino. Atlantic Beach Hotel would be the last inn to stand on Sullivan’s Island, though natives and visitors alike still take to its shores for blissful escapes. 

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Photograph by WIlliam P. Dowling & Courtesy of Larry Freudenberg