From Sand Spurs to Sloops: A Brief History of Palmetto Dunes
It began in the mid-1960s, when several physicians and business executives from Greenwood, S.C. entered into an innovative business venture with Charles Fraser. For $1,000 an acre, the group bought a 2,000-acre no man’s land on Hilton Head Island. The property would become Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.
Ten years earlier, the president of Greenwood Mills, Jim Self, Jr. had started investing in Hilton Head property, when no bridge existed and it took a very creative mind to picture what the island could offer. He and Charles Fraser, the modern day founder of Hilton Head Island, partnered at Sea Pines to build the island’s first golf course; the Ocean Course at Sea Pines.
By the mid-1970’s, Greenwood was developing a project in Columbia, S.C. with Environmental Resorts (ERI) — a firm whose principals included Bill Gregory, one of the first owners of Palmetto Dunes; and Charles Bates, an architect who lived in Palmetto Dunes who designed the original Hyatt Hotel.
They contacted the Self family about investing in another of their projects on Hilton Head — the Fazio Villas along the Fazio golf course. Bates was into the second phase of Fazio Villas and was somewhat bogged down, so he asked if Greenwood would take over the third phase of the project. And with that, Greenwood was back in the mix on Hilton Head.
Soon afterwards, executives at Greenwood were approached to buy Palmetto Dunes. John Davis, who served as President of Greenwood Development from 1982 to 1999, said that things moved quickly: He decided to sign a 90-day option on Palmetto Dunes in June 1979. A few months later in November, Greenwood Development closed the deal on acquiring Palmetto Dunes, and the land that would become Palmetto Hall and Shelter Cove. At closing, Greenwood Development become Hilton Head’s second largest landowner.
With a significant presence now secured on Hilton Head, the company determined to create a deliberate and sound development framework for Palmetto Dunes. The community’s legacy already was intact. Now, it was up to Greenwood Development to preserve it, and to advance it.