For more than 30 of the 50-plus years of the Sea Pines Resort, we’ve held forth from The Shops at Sea Pines Center. Our location here, in the middle of the “Miracle Mile,” was part of the plan when Sea Pines Plantation founder Charles Fraser envisioned a world-class resort on this quiet, historic sea island. The influence of his ideas was so profound that they are all but taken for granted today, in the way resorts are developed. In that impact, we lose sight of how remarkable his approach really was.
The genius behind the Sea Pines Resort touched us here at Sea Pines Center, not only in where The Center was placed, but also in how it was composed. Embracing a sunny plaza – a place where people enjoy encountering each other in the pleasure of our subtropical days – The Shops, from the beginning, were a comfortable combination of the convenient and the elegant. The options that come with achievement were sprinkled here alongside a post office, a gas station, and a bank. Clearly, Charles wanted more from this central location than just a special occasion. The Sea Pines Resort was intended to include the comfort of convenience, and The Shops at Sea Pines Center is an example of that intention come to life.
We might see this insight, evident throughout the Sea Pines Resort, as an example of what the world’s leading designers today call “considerate design.” Today, good design is not for show, they say. “The old luxury” is what designers call the plush, overstuffed look of privilege seen in times past. The idea today is that design features reflect how carefully our needs and desires were considered. The insights of knowing where something should be placed so it will come to hand easily, of understanding what we will want, and when, of anticipating what we will enjoy – this is the essence of considerate design. We are fortunate to have it built-in to The Shops at Sea Pines Center, and to be surrounded by a masterpiece of this influence in the Sea Pines Resort.
The Saga Behind the Sea Pines Resort
The founder’s father saw Hilton Head Island as a profitable stand of timber. After graduating Yale Law, his son toured popular and prestigious gathering places all along the East Coast, looking for the answer to what attracts people to their favorite places. He sampled some settings in Europe for the perspective of the past. Considering his itinerary, the obvious answer would have been “water” or “coastline.” But Charles Fraser saw it a little differently. He concluded that people’s preferences in resorts had a lot to do with trees.
Preserving the shade, the silhouettes, and the wind songs of the spruce, the loblolly, and the long-leaf pine, the stately stance of the Spanish moss-draped live oaks; saving this beauty for the people he knew would come became essential to the animating mission of the Sea Pines founder. In pursuing this vision to what we see around us today in the Sea Pines Resort, Fraser overcame the inertia of old ideas and the hesitance of new investment as he patiently put together the paradise we see around us today.
Although the Ocean Course – now called Atlantic Dunes – was opened in 1960, the story goes that our walking and biking trails got here before golf. Expedient, perhaps, as trails are a fairly low-capital feature. Less obvious is the foresight that exercise would be part of a fortunate vacation, in times to come. Remember that, in 1957, when the first Sea Pines lot was sold, the generation that had grown up through the Depression and survived World War II considered sitting still to be one of life’s greatest luxuries. As we watch couples and families traversing the trails today, we might recall that this kind of enjoyment was visionary in the beginning.
Harbour Town took shape in 1967, the world-famous Harbour Town Golf Links was designed and built by Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye in 1968, and it opened just in time to host the first Heritage Classic golf tournament in 1969. A home movie of the first Heritage Classic trophy award ceremony shows the Lighthouse topped out, but not yet enclosed. Someone said the tall, bare framework looked like a little boy coming downstairs in pajamas and wearing a conical hat. From modest beginnings, the clarity of the vision and the persistence of its pursuit led at last to the Sea Pines Resort that we are so fortunate to live amidst today.
The Ways of Sea Pines Then and Now
The people who settled in Sea Pines had seen a thing or two. Whether as a permanent home, a seasonal or vacation residence, Sea Pines owners self-selected from among people whose careers had afforded them options. “A lot of people who could have lived anywhere, chose to live right here,” one of the early real estate professionals recalled.
With these experienced residents came some high standards, born from having sampled the best. Their preferences, and the ways that sustain those preferences, became the ways of life reflected today in the Sea Pines Resort. It’s not a flashy kind of wealth, but rather a sense of prosperity based on wisdom and awareness. The gentleness and good judgement that abound here make for good company.
We are fortunate indeed to have been part of this story, here in The Shops at Sea Pines Center. From time to time we hear someone refer to The Center as the essence of those Sea Pines ways. We consider this the highest compliment, and a benchmark we strive to live up to continually. Please join us here to enjoy this rare sense, and to help us pass it on.