Another of Charleston County’s beach gems, the city of Folly Beach (zip code 29439) located on Folly Island, was once an encampment for Union forces during the Civil War. The Union army built some of the island’s first roads. Starting around the 1920s and accelerating into the 1930s, Charlestonians and other vacationers began utilizing Folly Island as a resort area; homes, the Oceanfront Hotel, the Atlantic Pavilion, a boardwalk and a pier appeared during this time, and by 1937, the SC State Legislature recognized Folly Island as a township.
Just as Sullivan’s Island has Edgar Alan Poe, Folly Beach has its own famous artist visitor: George Gershwin, who composed the classic 1935 opera Porgy and Bess while he was staying on the island. In the 1940s and 1950s, Folly witnessed infrastructure upgrades, including the building of a concrete bridge over Folly River, and many new homes were erected. By the 1960s, Folly had the Ocean Plaza and amusement rides. The City of Folly Beach incorporated in 1973, and by 1985, a major corporation — Holiday Inn — had come to the island, constructing its 132-room oceanfront hotel at the former location of the Ocean Plaza. The island’s population has grown from nine permanent families in 1932 to 2,400 residents in 2009.
From Interstate 26, Folly Beach is accessible by traveling through either West Ashley or downtown Charleston to James Island and taking Folly Road (Highway 171) all the way to the end. Taking Interstate 526 to Highway 17 through West Ashley is another way to reach the 9.1-square-mile Folly Island. The commute to downtown Charleston from Folly Beach is about 30 minutes. The closest schools are on James Island, which is part of the Charleston County school district and only minutes from Folly Beach.
Attractions include the newly revitalized downtown center area with retail and surf shops and some of the best restaurants around, the county park at 1100 West Ashley Avenue, the 1,000-foot fishing pier with seafood restaurant, excellent surfing at the area known as the “Wash Out” and convenient beach-side parking.
Housing options on Folly Beach include condominiums that range in price from the $300,000s to $400,000s; starter homes that begin around $400,000 to $500,000; larger homes in the $800,000 range; and luxury oceanfront mansions for $1–$2 million. Home construction dates and architectural styles on Folly Beach vary. Some homes from the 1940s to 1960s still stand. Most homes were built in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The Holiday Inn and numerous restaurants are the major Folly Beach jobs providers.
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