Myrtle Island Tour of Homes and Gardens showcases island architecture, deep roots

Hilton Head Island PacketMay 11, 2014 

From the 100-year-old snooker table in the downstairs “man cave” to the gas lights converted to electricity in the upstairs living and dining rooms, the home of Bud and Shirley Mingledorff built hard by the May River on Myrtle Island oozes old world charm.

But the house is only four years old. Architects William Court and James Atkins of Bluffton designed the home to make it look like it had been in the family for generations and been added to over the years. The home was built by Bill Nischler of Genesis Construction of Bluffton and interior designer Ruth Edwards worked with Shirley Mingledorff on the decor. 

“We really wanted to make (the home) feel like it had been in the family over time and to give it a timeless, generational feel,” Court said. 

Bud Mingledorff, whose family has long ties to Myrtle Island, said the house’s design stands as a salute to the Caribbean roots of many Bluffton families whose ancestors moved to this area from plantations in Barbados and other islands.

The lot was purchased from Bud’s grandmother’s estate in 1986 and the family moved to Myrtle Island after spending 40 years in Atlanta working at the Mingledorff air-conditioning company headquarters. Today the company operates in six states and has branch offices in Savannah and on Hilton Head Island.  

To achieve the airy, Caribbean feel, the exterior of the 9,600- square -foot,  six bedroom house includes screened-in porches, balconies and features a mix of materials —  including brick, cedar shakes and tabby. Inside, the home has louvered windows to let the breezes blow through, part of the “West Indies influence” Court said he and Atkins incorporated into their architectural plan.

The Mingledorff’s home is one of five houses that will be open to the public on the Myrtle Island Tour of Homes and Gardens from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $35. For information or to purchase tickets, call 843-290-4953. The proceeds will benefit the Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine.

Joan Heyward, chairman of the board of the Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine, said the organization chose Myrtle Island for the tour because it is a unique neighborhood and not a destination place. 

“I got on the phone and asked people if they would be kind enough to put their house on a tour for the Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine and they all agreed,” she said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

Heyward said all the homes are within walking distance and golf cart drivers will be on hand to shuttle visitors if needed. 

Myrtle Island is reached by a road and bridge off All Joy Road in Bluffton. It was developed by Percival Huger in 1926. Prior to 1926, the island was used for agriculture and oystering and was known as Beef Island. The last lots were sold in the early 1940s.

Bud Mingledorff said his favorite room in the house is the first floor entertainment area, which he calls his “man cave.” The huge room contains the snooker table, a long bar, a big surround-sound television and comfortable chairs. The floor is made of reclaimed heart pine planks set around old brick . A wall of windows with a large screened-in porch overlooks the May River. 

The ladies, he said, prefer the upstairs rooms.

An expansive second floor includes a living room, dining room, kitchen with breakfast area and screened-in porch with views of the river. The space is dotted with wrought iron chandeliers, and a vaulted living room ceiling with trusses makes a grand statement. A touch of whimsy in the breakfast area comes from blue crabs painted on the wall that appear to dangle from crabbing lines once used by the Mingledorff children. 

A centerpiece of the living room is a large area rug custom woven from pictures of the home taken by Shirley Mingledorff. Among the sites captured in the rug are images of the home’s dock, a shrimp boat, buoys, a sea gull, a pelican, a dolphin and oak trees.

Also on display in the living room is a model of the mine sweepers that Bud Mingledorff’s grandfather, Walter Lee Sr., turned out during World War II at his foundry in Savannah. Walter Lee Sr. also made submarine chasers and a number of the blueprints for these boats line the walls of a rear staircase

Another highlight of the home is a restored 1939 Old Towne canoe that is hanging on the entrance wall. 

Both Bud and Shirley Mingledorff hold high praise for their architects and builder. 

“The house took two years to build and that was OK with us,” Bud Mingledorff said. “We were not in any hurry. We wanted to do it right."


55 Myrtle Island Road: Mayfair was built by Dan and Rosalie Hull in 1928. It was the first home built on Myrtle Island and its current owners, Charlie and Nancy Golson, take care in preserving the property. Mayfair was built as three structures connected by porches for privacy and ventilation. Inside the home are pictures of early life on Myrtle Island. Recently, the Golsons have uncovered the original koi pond and original brick steps to the river.  

112 Myrtle Island Road: Kim and Mike Clark bought this home from the estate of Betty Harper. After much planning, the Clark’s gutted everything in the home except for the fireplace, which was saved and preserved. The Clarks rebuilt the inside with spacious rooms and a large screened-in porch complete with a kitchen. Not to be missed is the dog apartment under the staircase. 

107 Myrtle Island Road: Peggy Parker wanted to move into a home with a view of the May River and a spacious yard for gardening. This home was built in the 1990s and the property was originally owned by the Estill Family. Parker bought the home in 2012 and transformed it with family antiques. Being a lover of plants, a garden was created in the front of the home where the grass is always green and the flowers are always blooming.

83 Myrtle Island Road: The home of Rose and Weston Newton was originally built in 2002. The space on the May River is perfect for family living with a spacious yard and expansive views. The home is decorated in the traditional style with many family pieces and photos.

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