Pete McGinty, earliest creator of 'Hilton Head look,' dies

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comMay 30, 2014 

Richard McGinty


Retired architect Richard A. "Pete" McGinty, the first to create the "Hilton Head look" after moving to an island with no bridge in 1954, died Friday in his Sea Pines home. He was 86.

"He is the father of architecture on Hilton Head Island," said architect Doug Corkern of Bluffton.

"You can go to a road today in Port Royal Plantation and stop and look around and see the houses up and down the road and know that you can only be in one place on earth and that's Hilton Head.

"You see nature left alone, and none of the houses are shouting greater than the others. Pete did that."

Before the bridge came in 1956 and before there was a demand for homes, McGinty -- with his wife, Aileen, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse at Honey Horn -- helped Fred C. Hack and the Hilton Head Co. lay out roads and the traffic circles.

He helped lay out the early roads in Sea Pines for Charles E. Fraser.

He helped design the 56-room William Hilton Inn in 1958 and the Lake House in Sea Pines, the pro shop at the community's first golf course. He designed the island's first stick-built library and the initial sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, where he was a charter member.

McGinty made suggestions about what has become Coligny Plaza, urging that its first buildings not face the traffic circle but pull people into the property.

Along with architects including Corkern and the late John Wade and Ed Wiggins, McGinty created a Hilton Head style by using natural materials, muted stains rather than paint, wide overhangs, screen porches, wood shake shingles, multiple roof lines and expansive use of glass. The homes capitalized on vistas and blended with the trees.

"It was born, as far as I am concerned, out of a conscious effort to build with a limited number of materials that would stand up to the climate," McGinty told Jim Littlejohn in a 1980 interview.

"As to its uniqueness, there were some places where similar things were beginning to happen. The West Coast in the late '50s was beginning to do things with natural wood -- redwood mostly. Here we had cypress available. It weathered well and had a finer grain than pine.

"That, plus the idea that there could be a wide range of design options while staying within a certain concept, is what brought it about."

McGinty is cited in "Profits and Politics in Paradise: The Development of Hilton Head Island" by Michael N. Danielson as a "true island pioneer," whose homes helped create a strong sense of place and increase land values.

McGinty was reared in the college town of Clemson, where his father was a renowned horticulturist responsible for developing the Clemson spineless okra.

He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and earned degrees in mechanical engineering and architecture from Clemson University. He and Aileen reared three children on the island, where she taught for more than 30 years. She died in July 2013.

McGinty was a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and served on its board. He was a leader in state and national architect examination boards.

He chaired the jury for the Golden Palmetto Award to recognize outstanding island architecture and design.

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