MOSQUITO BEACH — In the middle of the last century, a small stretch of high ground wedged between Sol Legare Island and the marshes of southeast Folly Beach was the stomping ground of African Americans seeking a good time.
They indulged in comfort food, music and dancing, seizing an opportunity to socialize safely away from the gaze of White people. Some rented a room for a night or two.
This was one of just a few places in the Lowcountry where Black people could access the water. It was called Mosquito Beach, and it was a hot spot for decades, reaching its peak of social activity in the 1950s and ’60s.
Local residents have been trying to rebuild this gathering place ever since Hurricane Hugo wrecked it in 1989, but the efforts have faltered for a lack of adequate funding and an abundance of bureaucratic obstacles.
Several years ago, a renewed effort got underway, spearheaded by the Historical Charleston Foundation and Kyle Taylor, who is project manager of the whole enterprise. They secured a $43,000 research grant from the National Park Service, then succeeded in getting the Pine Tree Hotel property listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
That cleared the way for a second application to the park service's African American Civil Rights Grant Program for money — about $490,000 — to rehabilitate the hotel.
Momentum was building, and the team took advantage of it, landing a Hurricane Irma Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Grant of $250,000 to restore the Island Breeze Restaurant next door. With this money in hand, the team solicited construction and renovation bids earlier this year.
The project to restore Mosquito Beach was underway.