The Brunswick County beach municipality, chartered in 1969, takes its name from the Holden family, who have been active in the region for two centuries.
Planter Benjamin Holden bought the island and four mainland tracts in 1756, using the land for fishing and cattle grazing. John Holden started a commercial fishery on the island, built a hotel and, in 1924, surveyed for a subdivision he called “Holden Beach Resort” — the first such subdivision in Brunswick County.
After World War II, John Holden’s grandson, John F. Holden, began building resort houses on the island and renting them to vacationers. (At the time, an oceanfront lot at Holden Beach sold for $600.) The settlement was largely demolished by Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and rebuilding was slow. By the time a high-rise bridge to the mainland was completed in 1986, however, some 1,900 homes were located on the island.
(Intriguingly, John Holden had built a bridge to the mainland in 1925, but that was destroyed by the construction of the Intracoastal Waterway. Holden and his sons then lobbied the state for ferry service, which was established in 1934.)
Date posted: April 10, 2009