As striking as the appearance of the Harbour Town Lighthouse might be, more remarkable still is the variety of feelings and actions that the lighthouse inspires. More than just a physical landmark, the lighthouse has, all along, had a way of prompting people to take a step forward. On the personal level, all kinds of turning points in relationships take place here – from a first kiss to proposals and engagements to weddings and anniversaries. On a business and public level, everything from the first Heritage Classic to the naming of the largest-selling private jet in the world to the decisions that launched the pioneering example of a nature-friendly resort all took place in the shadow of the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
This destiny – becoming a turning point – might be one result of the fact that the lighthouse itself is a labor of love. In its inception, in the roles it came to play, and in the millions of people from across the globe that it has attracted and welcomed, the Harbour Town Lighthouse was never based on business alone. It always came from the heart.
Only love could account for the mountains Charles Fraser and his followers moved to get Sea Pines off the ground. No, not that kind of mountain. Our alluvial plains here in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and particularly here on these sea islands, can hardly muster a hill, much less a mountain. But what we see around us on Hilton Head Island, and what we have come to expect from resorts today as a result, was at first an uphill battle of the most galling and contrary kind. Charles persisted despite a world that surrounded him with old ideas and had little use for the novel approach for which he was so passionate.
His law training helped Charles craft covenants to protect the trees, the soil, the gentle wildlife. But only his heart can account for the tenacity he applied to the job of making a new way come true. Tenacity is what it took because everybody thought they had a better idea. “Charles, you could put more lots there if you made the roads straight,” and so forth.
A Sense of Place
They thought it was nuts to build a lighthouse from scratch, but Charles knew it would give our harbor a powerful sense of place and the island a center of significance. “Fraser’s Folly,” they called it. Once they could see that he wasn’t giving up, advisors even told him the stripes should go a different way. Charles saw it this way instead. And that’s the way the world has seen it ever since.
The Harbour Town Lighthouse has stood silent guard as the PGA trophy for the Heritage Classic Tournament is presented for more than a half-century now. Its light beckons to yachts from all over the world, as well as to our neighbors in Savannah. For those who put the 114 steps to the top into their collection of life experiences, lingering on the landings to learn the story of how folks got here, what they find at the top is a view they take home nestled in remembrance, some to Ohio or Pennsylvania, others to New York and Washington, many to the four corners of the earth.
Pausing to Feel
This tower, that climb, and that view find a place in the hearts of people who have paused just a moment to let it in, to allow the sense to sweep over them. For someone to say the place is special is to warrant a good-natured chuckle for the obvious, among those who know the story.
Whether you are a longtime island resident or freshly landed on our shores, please stop by, and say hello. We never tire of welcoming people to the story of what makes this the heart of Hilton Head Island. Call or drop by, and let’s get acquainted.