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Recently, I got out of town for a long weekend at Surfside Beach in South Carolina. Surfside is just south of Myrtle Beach, but is an entirely different experience from Myrtle. It’s an old-style family beach with beach cottages and low-rise condos and only a couple of high-rise hotels. This was one of my first visits to Surfside and my first time renting, and I assumed it would be like many other Carolina beaches, where most of the older cottages have been replaced with Victorian-ish McMansion beach homes or high-rise condos. In fact, usually when I head to the beach, I leave my love of Modernism at home, because there’s never anything Modern to rent or even to enjoy looking look at.

But then a relative who owns a Surfside place mentioned that he’d discovered a really cool house about a mile down the road at Garden City Beach. “Looks just like a spaceship”, he said, so I was compelled to check it out. On the way there, I decided to explore the area a bit and that’s when I noticed both Surfside and neighboring Garden City actually have quite a few Mid-Century Modern beach homes. Some had been reno-ed way beyond recognition, but many still looked original, at least on the outside.

My first discovery was a 50’s -60’s era neighborhood just a few blocks from the ocean in Surfside. Surprisingly, most of the homes were ranch styles and tri-levels and none were on stilts. In fact, the neighborhood had a feel similar to Lansdowne in Charlotte.  I spotted several MCM’s, such as this sprawling, vaulted-ceiling ranch with an enormously wide chimney.

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A little farther down the road was this little turquoise cutie complete with seahorse, one block off the beach. It was really just a square with a flat roof and lots of windows, but totally charming. Basic old-school beach living at it’s best, proving you don’t need fancy to have fun. Next time I’ll get a better photo AND worm my way inside, just watch me.

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All around Surfside and in Garden City as well, I saw quite a few L-shaped 60’s modern houses built in the same style and plan, just like this one below. They must have all come from the same developer. Some were all dolled up (unfortunately), some not. But dollars-to-donuts, some of them are rentals.

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In Garden City, there were many interesting-shaped roofs rising up from behind fences and between rows of cottages. Such as the roof of this house that appeared to be an assembly of pods.

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Or the pogoda-like (or Pizza Hut-like?) roof of this house.

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Or this flat roof with a thingamabob extrusion on top.

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And suddenly there it was, peeking out from the edge of the marsh: the Spaceship House!

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Hovering on the edge of the marsh, overlooking Murell’s Inlet. Ordinary, boring structures now hemmed it in, cutting off some of what must have once been an incredible 360 degree view. This part of the island was –  and is so narrow that even though the house sits on the marsh, the ocean is only a couple of hundred feet behind it.

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And yet, rather than overshadowing it, the bland structures around it made it seem more special. And it somehow made them seem more special, too. Every group of ugly buildings needs to have a spaceship house in their midst for a sorely needed dash of levity. Or a visual distraction.

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Wish I could tell you more about the place. But so far I know nothing. Except that it appears to be either abandoned or rarely visited. A forbidding chain link fence with No Trespassing signs surrounds it (That’s why there are no peeking-into-windows photos). This is prime beach property; my guess would be it’s in danger of disappearing. Or maybe flying away?

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This trip taught me  that I will never again have to put aside my love of Modernism when visiting the beach. So now I have a new goal for my next beach trip: find the owner of this house and finagle my way inside! Stay tuned for photos!

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