The Chitlin’ Circuit

This photo shows remnants of an old black-owned hotel on US 17 near Litchfield Beach, SC.  The story goes that it was built in the late 40s by deccendents of rice plantation slaves who came into possession of the land as compensation from the plantation owners after emancipation. During the 50s, it became a popular overnite stopping point for black bands and entertainers playing the Chitlin’ Circuit — the name given to venues up and down the East Coast and throughout the South where it was safe for black musicians to perform during the era of racial segregation.

US 17 was a principal north-south highway at the time, before the interstates, of course, and there were probably few establishments catering to blacks along the way. Black entertainers would perform there and draw large crowds and included many well known stars of the time such as Count Basie.

The facility also included a restaurant and a boardwalk across the marsh over to the ocean front on South Litchfield Beach. Locals were charged a modest fee to cross the marsh and enjoy the beach, which is undevelopable because of tidal flooding.  The property was  almost completely destroyed  during Hurricane Donna in 1960 and the motel never reopened. The property and remains of parts of the facility lay  dormant for almost 50 years before recent efforts to do something with the site.

The South Litchfield Beach area for many years drew black folk and was called Magnolia Beach. Certainly the motel and causeway to the beach  was the impetus.

I went in search of similar remains over in Oak Orchard, DE, where the Indian River flows into Rehoboth Bay.   I’ve read there used to be a place called the Rosedale Beach Hotel that was a stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit too.

In its pre-60s heyday, Rosedale Beach had a little boardwalk, a hotel, and a dance hall where performers like Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown performed. White Sussex Countians often anchored their boats offshore to listen to the music.  Unfortunately, there are no remains of Rosedale, not even a marker.

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7 thoughts on “The Chitlin’ Circuit

    1. I am a grandson of Asher H. Lingo,who owned land on both sides of Rosedale Beach Road, where the road came of of Route 24, which runs from Millsboro to Rehoboth Beach via Route One.. .The road was was later changed to Gull Point Road, unfortunately when the Indian River land where the Rosedale Beach Hotel was located. I am glad to read here that there is now a Delaware Historic Marker. I hope some Delaware history student will write a history of this important African-American resort
      .:Submitted by Frank Lingo .Calhoun, Crozet, VA, ,VaDriving@aol.com. Asher H Lingo served in the Delaware House of Representatives. around 1914. My Uncle, Carlton LIngo, later was elected to the Legislaure representing Indian River Hundred. Carlton LIngo established four gas stations at the intersection leaving Millsboro to get on Route 113. His first small frame gas station was moved recently to a Calhoun farm. .

      1. I dont see your email to respond. You can reach me @ zobert13…@…yahoo.com. less all of the extra dots.

  1. Thank you for posting about the old hotel on Hwy 17 in Litchfield Beach. I drive by it every day and have always wondered about it. I have been down the road next to the hotel which also has other abandoned buildings…now in ruins. Vague reminders that there was once a vibrant community there….alive with activity. I wish there was more information, pictures, etc. to tell the story of that time. I am glad to know more about it and I hope they never disturb what’s left of those buildings. (One can hope). ; )

    KC Richards, Litchfield Beach, SC

  2. The Sussex County alumni chapter of DSU is planning a day of remembering Rose Dale Beach and is looking for memorabilia (post cards, newspaper clippings, poster ads, etc.) for purchase or to get on loan. Proceeds from the event will be used as scholarships money. Please can anyone help? Much appreciated!!

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