Early fall on Hilton Head is a series of festivals, oyster roasts, art exhibits, polo matches, chili cook-offs, Latin music festivals, fiery sunrises and sunsets, Salty Dog Fish Fries, a Craft Beer and BBQ Festival and the week-long annual Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival with music, entertainment and a boat parade complete with a blessing of the fleet…an event that draws islanders and visitors from near and far to the quaint town of Bluffton, located across the bridge from Hilton Head, nestled by the May River. This historic hamlet is a favorite of many who favor the laid-back lifestyle and the smell of wood smoke as cooling breezes stroke the land.
Many buyers of real estate prefer to focus their efforts on property searches in the fall after the summer crowds have left. As inventory decreases and prices begin to edge upward, smart buyers are looking for their dream home or villa before selection is further diminished, while mortgage rates are still low. They are finding success. There have been more oceanfront homes and lot sales in Sea Pines this year than in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined. Villa sales are ahead of 2011 sales by more than 40%. Rising building optimism along with rising buyer demand is creating a surge in building activity.
One NFL champ, Chris Canty, has chosen Hilton Head for his new 13,000 square foot, six bedroom, six bathroom home that is now under construction on a beautiful waterfront lot where a 3,254 square foot home has been demolished. The new structure will have a limestone facade and a lighting, heating, security and home-theater system that can be controlled by the owner from anywhere on the planet via his iPhone. Nearby is a waterfront home of 18,000 square feet once appraised at $17 million.
For the buyer who revels in stunning water views and spectacular sunsets, an executive-owner with a leading internationally known financial firm is offering his almost 5,000 square foot penthouse in Harbour Town, overlooking the 18th fairway of the Harbour Town Golf Links, for $2 million, furnished. Like some other prime-property owners who have found a safe harbor here for their money during high earning years, he is retiring and downsizing. From the penthouse, it is an easy stroll to the Harbour Town Yacht Basin where an owner can board his yacht and enjoy a sunset cruise all the way to Costa Rica.
Another interesting offering are two adjacent estate-size lots, 2.5 acres each, in a former plantation area in Sea Pines bordered by a large, sparkling lagoon, with enough space on the far side of the lagoon for a small guest house or two. The plantation once grew fields of rice that surrounded a large plantation house. The fields were flooded with water carried through Lawton Canal from Calibogue Sound. The rich rice harvest was called “Carolina Gold” by planters.
This area is only a short walk to Lawton Stables, a state-of-the-art facility across from Heritage Farms where residents park their Land Rovers, Jaguars and BMW SUV’s and work their plots in old Gucci loafers and stained jeans. Instead of growing vegetables, some grow roses. At Lawton Stables, the revered American Saddlebred horse, known as the “Peacock of the house show world” is bred. Long a favorite of riders, General Robert E. Lee rode a Saddlebred named “Traveller” (General Ulysses S. Grant and Stonewall Jackson also rode Saddlebreds). After the American Civil War ended, breeders began promoting the breed as a show horse. The two adjacent estate lots near Lawton Stables present an unusual opportunity for a buyer with a sense of history and vision, especially if his or her family appreciates horses. It is a dream location for grandchildren. They can also ride their bikes to the beach or to Harbour Town.
Last week there was a final party at the Plantation Club in Sea Pines – a once-elegant private club where members kept their liquor in lockers and chefs were imported from Europe to serve fine foods and wines “at table”. It was a final farewell before the structure is torn down to make way for a new $12 million dollar golf club. On a personal note, our family joined the Plantation Club in the 1960′s when we were stationed in Seoul, Korea. We were charter members of the club. My then husband, a Marine officer, accompanied the first ROC battalion to Vietnam where they were valiant fighters. It was the first time the Koreans had fought outside of their country. Later, I arranged for our home to be built in Sea Pines near the beach while said-husband was under siege at Khe Sanh, Vietnam, commanding the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines.
For the last party at the Plantation Club, former chef Franz Meier and his former captain Klaus Jackel joined a number of early members, all gave nostalgic, short speeches while some admired one of the most beautiful tropical views on the island, long vistas from the rear of the club’s large dining room windows of green golf fairways fringed by tall palmettos and lagoons. One speaker mentioned Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser, the genius behind our internationally known resort, being photographed for the Saturday Evening Post in the early days walking a 13-foot alligator on a leash. A short time later, while in Italy, he came across a foundry where various animals had been cast. Having a photograph with him of the alligator on a leash, he commissioned an alligator to be cast. It has served as a water fountain near the front of the Plantation Club ever since.
Stan Smith, our resident celebrity (an American Wimbledon champion whom I’ve written about before in this blog) was one of the speakers. He remembered the club as being the original home of the Renaissance Weekends that brought some of the most famous names in the country to the island, including Bill and Hillary Clinton. Stan and his family have lived on Hilton Head for 41 years. He is tall, handsome and dignified – a true all-American that all who know him are proud of.
When the club was built, the interior was designed by Elizabeth Gordon, the influential editor of House Beautiful magazine. Klaus Jacket told the crowd the club was known up and down the East Coast as the finest of dining establishments. One of the best and most popular speakers was “Happy” Mitchell, a slender, energetic African American who worked at the club and arranged parties for members for over 45 years. Happy retired a couple of years ago from the Harbour Town clubhouse where he continued arranging parties for residents and where he ended his career with Sea Pines. During his speech, he said that when he decided to retire, he wanted to go home, to go back to the river and to spend time with his “grands”. He said they go all over the island and almost every day the grands ask him, “Where we goin today, Pappy? Do we have any money?” Happy likes going home, to the river.
The sun was setting over Calibogue Sound as the party ended. Numerous widows and widowers departed the club for the last time, leaving with their memories of happier times, wrapped like gifts and placed forever in their minds. Some were guided in their wheelchairs to waiting cars. Only the alligator from Italy remained.
Provided by Diann Wilkinson