Myrtle Beach is incredible. It holds a certain mystique for Southerners. It speaks to a bygone era of Grand Strand cruising in daddy’s Cadillac convertible, spending warm summer nights at the drive-in diner, spending days at the resort pool, and getting sweaty in a steel pier Shag contest. Even today Myrtle Beach, South Carolina reigns as a summertime destination for some 14 million visitors according to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. But as those same tourists are finding rest in one of the strips towering hotels, a handful of adventurers are being lulled to sleep each night in a more exotic hideaway: a 50-year old lighthouse some 30 miles off the coast.
Carolina businessman Richard Neal bought the old tower for $85,000 at a government auction just four years ago. In fact, he was the only bidder for the retired Coast Guard light station! Initially designed to sleep 20 guardsmen, the floating tiny house (and yes, it is tiny considering it’s 5,000 sq.ft. serve as hotel, restaurant, recreation facility, office, and more!) now plays host to up to 12 guests in a configuration of 8 bedrooms: 5 with twin beds and 3 with queens. In addition to the paying guests The Frying Pan has 2 staff members on site every other weekend when guests are overnighting.
The Frying Pan sits at the southernmost end of the feared “Graveyard of the Atlantic” which stretches up to the northern end of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The shallow waters in this area made ship navigation dangerous. In 1954 a moving lightship was stationed there and was kept in service for 110 years. It was manned 24/7. In 1960 however, construction began on a permanent steel structure with a lantern house. The structure was salvaged then as well as it was little more than a modified Texas drilling platform.
In 2004 the station was rendered obsolete thanks to GPS technology and advanced radar tracking. The Coast Guard abandoned the station. The structure itself remained though as the shoals underneath are a protected reef.
While the interior is not yet ready for its Architectural Digest spotlight there are a number of more “normal” comforts such as lights, running water, a full kitchen, a pool table, a telescope, Internet access and digital TV on a 8’ projector. Add those to the panoramic sunrises and sunsets and you have one incredible tiny house for your small tribe!
The Frying Pan Lighthouse is a beautiful example of making something out of seemingly nothing. In today’s modern tiny house movement much is said about new constructs with the latest, greatest appliances, materials, trailers, etc. But one needn’t look very far into history to see the initial growth of the movement, which was firmly rooted in the school of DIY and salvage. Take some barnwood from here, a window or two from there, comb the hardware store for some “oops” paint, and hold it together with an amalgam of screws and nails, and a house was born. While this renovation effort is much more safe and much more advanced, it still hearkens back to a time in the tiny house world when people looked to save and salvage in an effort to make home out of anything but a house!