Beaufort News

'Writer on board' recalls mansion's journey up the Intracoastal Waterway

Paul deVere figured he was in for a treat.

It was 1986, and Haig Point's developers were planning an outlandish feat -- moving an entire, historic, 7,500-square-foot mansion by barge 100 miles from St. Simons Island, Ga., to Daufuskie Island to serve as the focal point of their new private club.

They wanted deVere, a freelance writer and then a resident of Moss Creek, to tag along and chronicle the journey as a "writer on board."

"I thought that would be the coolest thing in the world, and it was," deVere said Thursday.

Three days after the venture began and 25 years ago this week, deVere was among four men on board as the three-story, 300-ton structure glided to its new home on Daufuskie.

Officials at Haig Point, who marked the development's 25th anniversary with several events earlier this year, celebrated the move this week in an announcement recounting the saga.

According to deVere and news reports from the time, the Strachan (pronounced "strawn") Mansion was built by a Savannah shipping magnate before St. Simons was accessible by car.

Under different ownership decades later, the mansion was slated for demolition because it stood in the way of a Myrtle Beach company's plan to build houses on the oceanfront property. The company offered to sell the mansion for $1 to anyone who would move it.

Haig Point's developers sensed an opportunity to promote their plans for Daufuskie, which is south of Hilton Head Island and accessible only by water. They pounced, and raced to secure the permits necessary to float it up the Intracoastal Waterway.

The three-day move had to be timed precisely with the tides to squeeze under several bridges. The mansion suffered only a broken window during the trip.

All the while, deVere rode with the house, spending the night in a sleeping bag, resting on a rocking chair and delivering updates to national news outlets via ship-to-shore radio.

Years later, deVere still marvels at the experience, which he said was a high point of his life.

"It was a wild ride," said deVere, who now lives on Hilton Head.

Including renovations performed after the mansion reached Daufuskie, the move cost more than $500,000. Haig Point officials, who estimated the mansion would cost $1 million to build new, called it a bargain.

Randall Page, Haig Point's general manager, said the mansion continues to fulfill its purpose as the club's social center. It welcomes members and guests when they arrive and includes a general store, bar, pool table and mailboxes.

"It's sort of our front door," Page said.