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Preserving Folly’s character

Edward Fennell
The Post and Courier

Several years ago, reacting to the stack-a-shack condo growth on Folly Beach, the community came together to create a Design Review Board. That board came to life with the good work of Gary Brown, Randy Haig, Jim Bishop and Rick Moutz.

The basis of that ordinance was a desire to keep and build upon the unique character of the island. There was a tug to sanitize the look of new buildings, much like our adjoining islands.

Some initial board members thought the shark sticking out from the law office and the mural on Planet Follywood should go.

Center Street on Folly Beach is a focus for town’s Design Review Board. The board has had good debate about the unique character of the island and the implications of judging new projects.
We tried to assemble an inventory of significant buildings.
At first, there were none.

Taking a broader view, we found that rather than single buildings, it was the fabric of the whole that was significant. There are quirky, colorful, buildings with goofy expansions and flamboyant expressions.
Looking back to the good old days, Folly Beach had a permanent carnival, a dance pier and door-step bars.

As the board considers new projects, we have come to a consensus about the ‘unique character.’ It is defined by a colorful and energetic atmosphere, arty and funky buildings and truly unique people. More essential, it is not refined, vanilla, uniform or boring. That exists in abundance in the Lowcounty.

I have an photo of Fat Harry’s. It was painted teal and pink, with a neat crescent hand-painted sign. Hardly the stuff of good architecture.

The Design Review Board exercised the owner of the ‘Big T Shirt Shop’ for five months. The iterations of the building went from truly Myrtle Beach big to the present structure. It is a junk trinket shop on Folly Beach for goodness sake. Would a Saks look be more appropriate instead? In fact, the current Big T Shirt Shop would go nicely with the Old Fat Harry’s.

The new building inventory on the beach is no longer stack-a-shacks with two trees and a shrub. There are multiple projects, each with very unique character. These projects are fully landscaped, considerate of their neighbors and interesting to look at. The Taco Boy, 11 Center Street, and the rebirth of Suzanne will add to the energy and color of this street.

The refurbished community center now hosts the shag club. There may well be a fast-food restaurant that moves to Folly. I promise you that it will not be their standard prototype design. They will be encouraged to get their ‘Folly’ on before they build.

I encourage you to take off your vanilla preconceptions, unbutton your button-down collar and take another look at the good effort made to keep Folly ‘Folly.’ It has energy and color, interesting buildings, a beautiful park. We have our ‘Folly’ on.