The Gentrification of Folly Beach

In the halcyon days of the early century, when people asked me how long I’d lived on Folly, and I’d reply ten or fifteen – depending on the year –they’d inevitably respond, “Wow, you must have seen lots of changes.”

“Actually, not all that much on the East Side where I live,” I’d say. “There’s no sewage, so you can’t build a beach McMansion on a lot that doesn’t perk, or barely perks.”

Alas, however, that assessment predated the proliferation of Airbnbs that are popping up all over the island like irritating internet ads, infiltrating not only the commercial district but residential neighborhoods as well. The unpaved lane where our home stands, once the site of an idyllic neighborhood of mostly unmarried senior citizens, has been transformed into Little Fort Lauderdale. Houses that were zoned for one or two bedrooms now hold as many as fifteen to twenty defecators straining the unseen septic tanks over which they park their vehicles on lawns of well-tended rye. 

And, when night/ Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons /Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.[1]

Why rent your quaint beach cottage to a struggling musician or food and beverage worker when you can make more in three days than you would in a month by renting to bachelor party attendants or untanned wanna-be beachcombers rolling up in their exhaust-spewing Pathfinders?

I walk to the post office every weekday morning, and I’d guess seventy percent of the traffic consists of the white pick-up trucks of subcontractors, the plastic surgeons of construction, engaged in the soul-crushing transformation of gentrification.

However, it’s not really the funky real estate that makes Folly Folly; rather, it’s the long-term renters, the bartenders, cooks, and waitresses, the painters, the musicians, eking out their livings in a soulful setting.

The population of residents of Folly is in decline. Leave it to Springsteen to nail it:

Because there’s just different people coming down here now and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we’ve known will just be swept away.[2]

But look, there’s a conga line of bachelorette party weekenders! Hubbub-hubbub-bubba, swish boom Bah!

art by Wesley Moore III

[1] Paradise Lost, 1.500-3. Perhaps I should have titled this piece “Paradise Lost.”

[2] “Independence Day

5 thoughts on “The Gentrification of Folly Beach

  1. It’s the poets that make Folly an act of folly:) X-games are to sports what poetry is to career paths. Most musicians know they’ll find work somehow, because it’s an industry. With such a pure art form, though, the only real estate is intellectual property and the only capital is your ideas. Being brave enough to roll the dice with your future usually means you’re just not quite there and lack the ability to act in your own self-interest ( definitely not your case ).

    And then even if you’re playing with a full deck, you still need talent to find any kind of gainful employment, bc selling that stuff to the public is an art in and of itself. Folly is sort of like that movie Point Break …

  2. Cud’n Darryl! Well expressed. The late Senator John Drummond and I had several conversations over the years suggesting that SC have visitors passes to pickup at the borders of SC . And to be turned in after a brief visit. And limits to what folks are allowed to do here.if it’s so wonderful that they want to come and stay, don’t start trying to alter our lifestyle without pleading their case before long time residents.

  3. From a Folly resident of some 40 plus years now, thank you for an interesting read. I’d just like to add one extra perspective here which I think is often overlooked. TAXES!
    Yes taxes, feeding politicians endless thirst for the ability to buy a vote from one special interest hungry mouth to another, drives long term established residents or owners away from places like Folly , forcing them to sell or resort to short term rental revenue to simply maintain possession of their property. Property taxes in particular, represent the most corrupt and convoluted system of taxation ever conceived.
    That system is at the very heart of the problem you describe.
    Think about it. It’s not complicated.
    Thank you.

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