Every year a friend publishes a “coffee-table” book known as the Hilton Head Island Vacation Guide, and he graciously includes in it an article about the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Reviewing this year’s edition, we were reminded of something. Or maybe we began to see something for the first time. The story we are blessed to be part of here is one that will go on after our own time, and we can be pretty sure that the things we experience as day-to-day life will take their place as part of the Hilton Head Island story. How grateful we are to find this.
Every day we are witness to a beauty that inspires the directions people take in life. The sunsets we see from atop the lighthouse have been enough to move people to take their first kiss, to get engaged, to plan their weddings, to decide to put down roots here on Hilton Head Island. It seems important not to overlook the specialness of each day here. What the Vacation Guide reminded us of was that these experiences have already stacked up into a story. The story is bigger than us, and it looks to last longer, too.
Living with a Landmark
Welcoming visitors from around the world, it can be surprising how far away people focus on visiting the lighthouse. That saying, “It would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eifel Tower,” turns out to be true. There’s meaning behind this iconic image, and that meaning is authentic and genuine.
Early in imagining his innovative, nature-friendly approach to a resort community, Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser thought it was critical that there be a central gathering place, where people could go and socialize in pleasant surroundings. This idea stemmed from his own research, where he found example after example of towns, beginning with the Greeks and the Romans, designed around open plazas.
As Fraser fashioned Harbour Town, after the best ideas he gleaned from an extensive trip through the Mediterranean, he saw that it needed an exclamation point – a significant structure that would symbolize the idea, magnetize the location, and add some drama to the site. He imagined there should be a lighthouse located at the entrance to the harbor, shining out over Calibogue Sound.
Beyond “Fraser’s Folly”
Fraser commissioned his architects at Sasaki and Associates of Cambridge Massachusetts to design the lighthouse. Some of the early residents in Sea Pines, and old-time Hilton Head Islanders, considered it to be a silly idea, “Fraser’s Folly.” Now, more than a half century after its completion, the 93-foot tall, hexagonal, candy-striped lighthouse has become an internationally recognized symbol of the Sea Pines resort community, an icon of excellence and quality.
The lighthouse was completed in 1970. The frame was up just in time to overlook the final putt of the first Heritage Classic on the 18th green of Harbour Town Golf Links in 1969. That final putt was sunk by America’s favorite golfer, Arnold Palmer, making Palmer the first Heritage Classic PGA champion. Today, TV coverage broadcasts nation-wide and across the globe the commanding presence of the Harbour Town Lighthouse each spring during the tournament.
The Harbour Town Lighthouse has stood for more than a half-century now, as a beacon and a symbol of the creative spirit of Charles Fraser. The Sea Pines founder and visionary is laid to rest under the Liberty Oak facing the lighthouse he built as a welcome to all who come to visit or stay a lifetime. It has become a part of the story people take home with them; an essential symbol of the dreams that have come true here. No matter how often you come to Hilton Head Island, the Harbour Town Lighthouse is a must-do experience.
It is a privilege to take part in this ongoing story, and we look forward to welcoming you to it, too. Come join us! We will always be glad to welcome you.