Preservation efforts at the former Charlie’s Place have reached a couple of major milestones.
Phase 1 of the project focused on remodeling and reconstruction of Charlie Fitzgerald’s house, for use later as a community center and event venue, WMBF reports. Space for restrooms were added to the back of the building. Cost for this first phase was $290,000, according to the City of Myrtle Beach, with funding via a Community Development Block Grant.
Charlie’s Place was an iconic supper club on Carver Street in Myrtle Beach that’s said to be the birthplace of the Shag, South Carolina’s official state dance. Over the years, Fitzgerald played host to a series of African-American music legends – including “Dizzy Gillespie, Little Richard, Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles and others. Charlie Fitzgerald created a place of harmony, where music lovers could mingle and dance together, long before the barriers of segregation fell,” the city notes.
The home and hotel later fell into disrepair, until members of the community asked Myrtle Beach’s city council to help preserve the venue as a cultural landmark.
A state historic marker was also unveiled last October, not long after the third annual Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival took place on the adjacent grounds. The Horry County Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation played a key role in getting the marker placed, according to WBTW. Myrtle Beach city council members Mike Chestnut and Gregg Smith were on hand for the event.
Here is the full text of the historical marker at Charlie’s Place:
Charlie and Sarah Fitzgerald opened Charlie’s Place as a supper club in 1937. It was a stop on the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” nightclubs where black entertainers such as Billie Holiday, the Mills Brothers, Little Richard, Ruth Brown, Otis Redding, and the Drifters performed during the era of racial segregation. While the club is gone, the Fitzgerald Motel, built in 1948, remains.
The motel served black entertainers who could not stay in whites-only hotels. Oral tradition holds that “the Shag,” a form of southern swing dancing, originated here. Both white and black customers gathered here to listen to music and dance. In 1950, the Ku Klux Klan led a parade through ‘The Hill,’ the African-American neighborhood where Charlie’s Place was located. The Klan returned later and shots were fired into the club, injuring many. Charlie was severely beaten but survived. Some Klansmen were charged, but no one was prosecuted.
The Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival as founded in part to raise awareness about the historical importance of Charlie’s Place. WBTW said the city of Myrtle Beach has invested some $650,000 so far on the project. Neighborhood services director Cookie Goings told WMBF that Phase 2 will focus on the motel; Phase 3 will involve parking.
To find out more about the Myrtle Beach Jazz Festival’s sponsors, click here. Like what you heard? Detailed information about last year’s performers can be found here. Want info on how you can get involved with this annual non-profit event? Click here to learn more about volunteering. Want to stay connected? Get the latest by following us on Facebook.