Myrtle Beach’s unique musical history is part of the story being told through the restoration and re-use of Charlie’s Place on Carver Street. Charlie Fitzgerald and his wife, Sarah, owned the Myrtle Beach nightspot from the late 1930s to the early 1960s.
The Shag and “beach music” all have their origins here. Famous African-Americans entertained at Charlie’s Place in the days before integration, and many stayed at the Fitzgeralds’ Hotel, which was next door.
Charlie’s Place was part of the “chitlin circuit,” which catered to early Motown stars who were excluded from other venues. Those who performed at Charlie’s Place included Dizzy Gillespie, Little Richard, Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Muddy Water and Ray Charles.
The nightclub itself it gone, but the Fitzgeralds’ home and part of a small motel they operated still exist in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood. Members of the community asked the City of Myrtle Beach to help preserve the cultural and historic significance of the property.
The city honored the request by buying the land. Phase One of the preservation project was completed earlier this year. It included reconstruction and remodeling of the Fitzgeralds’ house for use as a community center and event space.
The work involved 1,264 square feet of interior space and 240 square feet of screen porch reconstruction. Crews added space to the rear of the building to include restrooms for visitors attending activities to be held on the site.
Phase Two of the renovation includes restoration of the first four motel units and reconstruction of eight other units. A few of the rooms will be kept as a museum to the era, showing what “Green Book” travel was like in the day. Other rooms will be reconstructed and used for small shops and community classes or crafts.
In addition to preserving the history and musical culture of that time, the city’s goal is to restore the economic contribution the club made to the community. The Fitzgeralds’ home now has a new life and use as part of a larger event space for the neighborhood and community.
Looking back at that troubled time, Charlie Fitzgerald created a place of harmony at Charlie’s Place, where music lovers could mingle and dance together, long before the barriers of segregation fell. The musical tradition continues when the site hosts the fourth annual Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival, October 4-6. Everyone is welcome to attend!