Beaufort News

Charles Fraser named to national housing hall of fame

When Charles Fraser climbed aboard a logging tractor during the summer of 1950, his only plan was to explore an isolated barrier island.

A recent graduate of the University of Georgia, Fraser had a summer job as a logging inspector for his father's company, which bought most of Hilton Head Island to harvest its timber. Fraser, however, simply wanted to spend a few weeks on the island before heading off to Yale Law School.

Instead, he became enamored with the stately live oaks, broad pearl-gray beaches and lush marshlands.

Fraser convinced his father, Joseph Fraser, that Hilton Head needed to be preserved and developed, not logged. So they purchased the southern third of Hilton Head from other members of the logging syndicate and formed the Sea Pines Co. in 1956.

Fraser then set about crafting what would become a model for other resorts and residential developments.

Fraser, who also brought the PGA Tour to the island when he founded the Heritage, will be inducted into the National Association of Home Builders hall of fame during a ceremony May 10 in the atrium of the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C.

The hall of fame was established in 1976, and its nearly 200 honorees include builders, developers, architects, financiers, land planners and government administrators.

Fraser, who died in a boating accident in 2002, received national acclaim for Sea Pines, one of the first projects to combine golf and real estate development in a planned community, one of the first to use covenants and deed restrictions to protect the environment and one of the first to promote inter-generational recreation. His covenants called for homes to blend into their surroundings, bicycle trails and walking paths to be constructed, and land to be set aside for parks and nature preserves.

A 1980 article in Signature Magazine noted, "Charles Fraser helped change the vacation, retirement and living habits of a nation." Fortune Magazine called Sea Pines "a rare holdout against tasteless commercialism."

The resort also was the first recipient in the world of the American Institute of Architects' Citation of Excellence.

Although not a golfer, Fraser sought to promote Hilton Head through the sport and invited Jack Nicklaus to help Pete Dye design Harbour Town Golf Links, which has hosted the tour's Heritage golf tournament for more than 40 years.