The History Of Sea Pines

Over fifty years ago, it was the vision of Charles Fraser that made Sea Pines what it is today. Realizing the land’s potential uses other than for timber and private hunting preserves, Fraser began his quest to figure out how to develop and improve the land for human enjoyment without disturbing the delicate balance between the environment and its inhabitants. In order to accomplish this, Fraser spent months traveling the East Coast gathering information by observing communities and talking with citizens. He wanted to know what they would have done differently in their communities and towns if they could start all over and begin with a clean, unspoiled state. Fraser believed that his concept could only be implemented if the developer controlled every aspect of planning, from street locations to the design of individual houses. He founded the Sea Pines Company in 1956 with that thought in mind.

Landscape architect Hideo Sasaki created the master plan for Sea Pines and development began with extraordinary care, guarded by land-use covenants. Then, as now, to build a home in Sea Pines required adherence to stringent Architectural Review Board standards that put a premium on environmental preservation and conformance. In other words, trees are more often built around than built over.

Approximately one-fourth of the land was dedicated to open space, including a 605 acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve, a tract of land that was specifically set aside as part of the grand scheme to preserve and conserve the natural beauty and wildlife inhabitants of Hilton Head Island. Unlike other beachside communities, there was to be no front row/second row situation. The trees were not to be cut down and the land stripped before construction began for residential property. The main artery for traffic, which became Sea Pines Drive, was set back from the ocean and off of it cul-de-sacs ran toward the sea.

Residences placed into the natural environment were expected to blend into it rather than dominate it. The colors were to add to their contribution by being like the soft tones of the faded silver from the trunks of old palmettos and the hues of tan from the pine needle floor and bark of the forest trees surrounding them. Earth tones were added and the palette was established and has since been maintained. Between the ocean-side cul-de-sacs were easements of twenty to thirty feet, which separated each residential street and offered access to the beach for residences located on the streets but not directly on the ocean.

Sea Pines Drive, Greenwood Drive and subsequent streets wind their way through the green forests, twisting and turning to avoid the necessity of removing specimen trees along their way. Roadways, and later golf fairways, were redesigned to steer around these trees. The original plans for Harbour Town Yacht Basin called for the basin to be round. The discovery of a live oak, perfect in shape and size, launched an internal lobbying effort to save it. After a major and expensive redesign of the basin, the tree was saved. Today it is called the “Liberty Oak” and is one of the focal points in Harbour Town. It also happens to be the place where Charles Fraser is buried, the one (and perhaps only) concession that Sea Pines Company made to its strict covenants, i.e. that area is not zoned for cemetery purposes.

Sea Pines occupies more than five thousand acres of Hilton Head Island, including views of sea marshes, five miles of beach, maritime forests with palmettos, pines and live oak trees. It is home to over thirty species of mammals, one hundred thirty-three types of birds, eleven kinds of fish, thirty-seven reptiles, twenty amphibians and various other creatures.