Atalaya Castle and the Naming of Things

February 12, 2022
Atalaya Castle

We’ve never named our house. It’s always been called home, or nicknamed something mundane like, “The long house”, or, “the toaster.” From established norms, naming a house is for pretentious people with mansions like Atalaya Castle.

Elvis Presley named his fancy house Graceland. Paul Simon sang a song about it. Wayne Newton followed suit, dubbing his abode, Casa de Shenandoah, meaning “home of beauty”. The list goes on: The Biltmore (Vanderbilt), The Breakers (Vanderbilt), Casa Grande (Hearst), Paisley Park (Prince), etc.

There is a house on Lake Sammamish in Washington State with a sign that reads, “Weowna Beach”. We own a beach. They own a beach! Wow! They own a frickin’ beach and we don’t because we’re losers.

The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island

Most of us chuckle at how pride and pretense warp a simple concept. Naming your house is the equivalent of third-person self-questioning. “Am I a total douche bag? … Yes I am.”

I’m sure the Weowna Beach folks think its cute they named their home, but they’ve made an embarrassing statement to the world about their emotional machinery. They simply aren’t rich enough for this level of amour-propre.

In many ways these things work themselves out. Elvis would later die on the toilet without grace, and Wayne Newton’s home of beauty has suffered financial ugliness for years.

Road School and the Watchtower

Atalaya Castle

Our first field trip as a Road School family was to Atalaya Castle.

Atalaya Castle was developed by Archer and Anna Huntington in the early 1930’s. After Anna’s diagnosis of tuberculosis they decided the salubrious southern climate would be better for her health. They built their getaway on a 9,000 acre plot beside the ocean near Myrtle Beach, SC.

Archer was a wealthy, New York philanthropist with a profound love of Hispanic culture. He was also a fan of Moorish architecture and designed Atalaya to reflect the style. Atalaya means “Watchtower” in Spanish. Central to the castle is an elevated tower (shown in the very top photo) that lends a clear look of the landscape in 360 degrees.

Brookgreen Gardens near Atalaya Castle — not our photo

Anna was a talented sculptor and her studio was on the property at Atalaya Castle. She preferred to sculpt animals over humans — she found their forms more interesting — so enclosures were built for her bears, monkeys, leopard, etc. Her sculptures today can be found at nearby Brookgreen Gardens and other places around the country.

After Archer’s passing in 1955, Anna would only visit Atalaya two more times. In 1960, 2,500 acres of the land was leased for free to the state of South Carolina. Huntington Beach State Park was formed shortly afterward.

Atalaya Castle
Atalaya Castle — Beach Side. Looks more like a bunker.

For some reason I don’t take offense to the Huntington’s name of choice. The Spanish origin of the word Atalaya is organic and true to Archer Huntington’s character. And unlike Land of Grace, or House of Beauty, Atalaya Castle isn’t some garish ear-foul that makes you want to bang your head against the fireplace hearth.

It simply means Watchtower. We love the symbolism, especially at this time in our lives. Our watchtower was Monica’s job with the school district, which allowed us to oversee our children’s development. When it became clear their education took a back seat to the district’s ideology, we pulled them out of school and hit the road. One year later we are taking a mid-day field trip to celebrate our commitment to home school. What a marvelous turn of events!

We now live in a motorhome and travel to salubrious climates like Anna and Archer Huntington. The responsibility to educate our children, raise them as conscientious citizens, and show them how to be happy people is ours.

We are the Atalaya.

Bala de Zurullo

Atalaya Castle

So we’ve decided this whole “naming of things” thing deserved some clemency, and naturally we now need to name our motorhome. Heck, we need to name everything we love (and loathe) no matter who owns it. Naming things isn’t just for the ostentatiously wealthy anymore!

We have since named the Highline School District offices, “Campamento Comunistas de Cuba”. We love the sound of Spanish names. So regal!

Our previous motorhome was a 31 ft. Class-C Winnebago. It was unofficially dubbed, “The Fart Box,” which honestly, that’s a hard name to beat. However, as epic as “The Fart Box” was, our new RV needed something bigger, something less denigrating, and something typically unassociated with smells.

Nonetheless, Monica’s instinct was to stay the course. She propounded Bala de Zurullo.

It means turd bullet.

I can see it. But perhaps we can do better.

While we pondered names like “Deprecia,” “Guzzlie Thirstovich,” and “Trash Collector,” we found it easier to name our neighbor’s rigs in the RV Park:

“Final Resting Place.” “Heartbreak Hotel.” “Randy’s Racist Pad.” “Childhood Hell.” “Xanabuse.” “Collapsing Dumpster.” “The House of Broken Awning.” “He Yells, She Cries.” “Wash Me.”

What a fun exercise! Look out, Great Gatsby! The Hoffmann’s are seeing the light!

Atalaya Castle
The surf at Atalaya Castle.

With this newfound power of naming things, Monica wanted something exotic. “Sir Leaksalot,” wasn’t going to make the cut. If we were to pass on “Turd Bullet,” we had better make it special.

Here’s what we’ve settled on:

Castillo de Carretera.

It means Road Castle. It symbolizes our desire to travel around, to give our family some much needed safety from the world, and it sounds absolutely beautiful (if not a bit pretentious, which we are TOTALLY comfortable with by now).

Conclusion:

Atalaya Castle

We invite all of you to quit being decent and start naming your things like an attention seeking monster. You don’t have to jack up your face like Wayne Newton did, but maybe you should.

Archer loved Anna Huntington so much that he built her a castle where she could thrive and create; where she could be healthy, and passionate, and free from distracting influences. And when their time at Atalaya Castle was through, they passed it on to all of us. What an amazing love story.

We can each have our Atalaya Castle, or Castillo de Carreterre, or Turd Bullet, Fart Box, or whatever we want to call the place that promotes health and happiness for our loved ones. And when we’re done with it we can leave it to others, or park it in the RV campground and let it decompose.

If owning a motorhome is something you’ve considered, check out our magnum opus, Don’t be Afraid to Buy a Motorhome: Be Very Afraid and Buy One Anyway.

Atalaya Castle

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