This conversation was written by Madi Blanford, CHStoday’s digital media intern.
Recently, Charleston native Bill “Cubby” Wilder + his quest to renovate the Pine Tree Hotel have made headlines. Located on a small strip of land off of Sol Legare Road known as Mosquito Beach, his family’s hotel – which is no longer functioning – has been granted about $500,000 by the National Parks Service’s African American Civil Rights Program to be renovated + preserved.
A couple hundred years before the Pine Tree Hotel was built on a street bustling with dancers, diners, shoppers and tourists from up + down the South Carolina coast, the plot of land now known as Mosquito Beach was home to Solomon Legare’s Savannah Plantation. After the Civil War, the plantation was sold to several Black farmers who divided the land to harvest produce such as okra, watermelon + green beans.
As the years passed, interest in the location grew, and before too long, Sol Legare Road hosted several businesses: the Unity Oyster Company of Charleston, Joe Chavis’s general store, The Harborview Club, Machi & Nucca’s Pavilion, Uncle Jimmy’s Place, Jack Walker’s Club and eventually, the Pine Tree Hotel.
In the 1950s + 60s, the area was known as a safe haven from legal racial segregation also known as Jim Crow Laws. Here, Black people from all over the Lowcountry could spend weekends or holidays boating and fishing, eating out, dancing to live music + simply enjoying the company of friends and family. As segregation regulations became stricter in surrounding cities, this hidden gem on James Island continued to provide South Carolina’s Black residents with a respite from the injustice so common in other social settings.
However, once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect, Mosquito Beach very quickly declined in popularity. With the spacious beaches on Sullivan’s + Folly now open to all, many began to forego their visits to Mosquito Beach and make trips to the more commercialized getaways instead.
Slowly but surely, hurricanes, loss of revenue + widespread disinterest stripped the area of its once-beloved stores, restaurants and dance clubs. Today, not much remains of Mosquito Beach, but Bill Wilder plans to change that.
Bill’s uncle, Andrew “Apple” Jackson Wilder, built the Pine Tree Hotel on Mosquito Beach in the 1950s with 14 bedrooms, two bathrooms + a shared kitchen. Since then, the roof has collapsed and the porch has given way to inclement weather. Bill hopes to rebuild what has been damaged, modernize the floor plan and reopen the hotel, bringing life + culture back into Mosquito Beach.