The Sea Pines Plantation Company was incorporated in 1957 by Charles E. Fraser of Georgia to develop the southern third of Hilton Head Island into a residential, recreational, and resort community. By 2000 the project had blossomed into a hugely influential and extremely profitable venture encompassing 5,200 acres, five miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline, a nature preserve, private villas, hotels, a beach club, conference centers, golf courses, tennis courts, both a marina and a yacht basin, walking and equestrian trails, restaurants, and one of South Carolina’s five largest real estate companies, averaging more than $1 million per day in transactions.
Fraser’s plans for Sea Pines were influenced in part by Sea Island, Georgia, and Pebble Beach, California, where some community master planning had been implemented with positive results. Fraser, however, controlled the development of Sea Pines much more tightly, in the process introducing many profitable innovations that have been widely emulated. The new community would be unique in its environmental sensitivity, with beaches, golf courses, resorts, and shopping all discreetly tucked into a seven-square-mile nature preserve. Quiet understatement would result from extremely detailed restrictions on land use. He insisted on building the very best in order to attract the very wealthiest customers in order to maximize the inevitable increase in land values. By weaving home sites in and around golf courses, he was able to create a different kind of premium home site market, and by removing roads to a location further inland and connecting home sites to the beach via paved paths, Fraser increased the number of “waterfront” lots that could be sold at prestige prices.
In the early 1960s Sea Pines struggled financially, but its explosive growth in the second half of that decade and throughout the rest of the century testified to Fraser’s foresight. Developments following the Sea Pines model later occupied all of Hilton Head Island and can be found widely throughout the United States.
Danielson, Michael N. Profits and Politics in Paradise: The Development of Hilton Head Island. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.