Hilton Head Island or simply Hilton Head is a Lowcountry resort town located on an island of the same name in Beaufort County, South Carolina, USA. It is 20 miles (32 km) north of Savannah, Georgia and 95 miles (153 km) south of Charleston. The island gets its name from Captain William Hilton. In 1663, Captain Hilton identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which he named "Hilton's Head" after himself. The island features 12 miles (19 km) of beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean and is a popular vacation destination. In 2004, an estimated 2.25 million visitors pumped more than $1.5 billion into the local economy. The year-round population was 37,099 at the 2010 census, although during the peak of summer vacation season the population can swell to 275,000. Over the past decade, the island's population growth rate was 32%. Hilton Head Island is a primary city within the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The island has a rich history that started with seasonal occupation by native Americans thousands of years ago, and continued with European exploration and the Sea Island Cotton trade. It became an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the Southern ports during the Civil War. Once the island fell to Union troops, hundreds of ex-slaves flocked to Hilton Head, which is still home to many 'native islanders', many of whom are descendants of freed slaves known as the Gullah (or Geechee) who have managed to hold onto much of their ethnic and cultural identity.
The town's Natural Resources Division enforces the Land Management Ordinance which minimizes the impact of development and governs the style of buildings and how they are situated amongst existing trees. As a result, Hilton Head Island enjoys an unusual amount of tree cover relative to the amount of development. Approximately 70% of the island, including most of the tourist areas, is located inside gated communities. However, the town maintains several public beach access points, including one for the exclusive use of town residents, who have approved several multi-million dollar land-buying bond referendums to control commercial growth.
Hilton Head Island offers an unusual number of cultural opportunities for a community its size, including Broadway-quality plays at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, the 120-member full chorus of the Hilton Head Choral Society, the highly-rated Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the largest annual outdoor, tented wine tasting event on the east coast, and several other annual community festivals. It also hosts the Heritage Golf Classic, a stop on the PGA Tour which is played on the Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort.
History Timeline of Hilton Head Island
Stoney-Baynard House, Plantation Drive, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, SC
The following information and photographs were provided by the Coastal Discovery Museum. The Museum gathered the information for the timeline from Town residents and long-time Islanders. The Museum relied on significant input from the Community to put together the timeline. A book entilted “ Images of America Hilton Head Island” covers the Island’s history and is available for sale at the museum.
Slaves of the rebel Genl. Thomas F. Drayton, Hilton Head, S.C.
Native American Occupation 8000 B.C. - 1500 A.D.
Mansion of the rebel Genl. Thomas F. Drayton, Hilton Head, S.C.
8000 B.C. - 1000 B.C. - Archaic Period Native Americans visited this area seasonally.
1335 A.D. Green's Shell Enclosure, a 4-foot-tall shell ridge that encloses 2 acres, was built along the banks of Skull Creek.
Military camp flying the U.S. flag, with soldiers on patrol men on horseback, Zouaves, women and children and horse drawn carts scattered throughout.
European Explorers 1500 - 1700
Gen'l Sherman's Headquarters, Hilton Head, S.C. [Pictorial envelope]
1521 - A Spanish expedition, led by Francisco Cordillo, explored this area, initiating European contact with local tribes.
1663 - Capt. William Hilton sailed from Barbados, on the Adventure, to explore lands granted by King Charles II to the eight Lords Proprietors. Hilton Head Island takes its name from a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound.
1698 - John Bayley, of Ireland, was given most of Hilton Head Island as a barony. Twenty-four years later, his son appointed Alexander Trench as his agent in charge of selling the land. For a short time, Hilton Head was called Trench's Island on some 18th century maps.
Hilton Head, S.C. Dock built by Federal troops
Plantation Era 1700 - 1860
Hilton Head, S.C. Rear view of Fort Walker
1711 - Beaufort, South Carolina was founded.
1760's - Beaufort County's shipbuilding industry was one of the largest in the 13 colonies. The deep-water creeks around Hilton Head and the prevalence of hardwoods (like live oak) made the island a popular place for shipbuilding. The USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," was rebuilt in 1997 using live oaks felled during construction of Hilton Head Island's Cross Island Parkway.
1779 - Privateers sailing with the British navy burned many houses on Skull Creek and around the island on their way to Beaufort and Charleston. Hilton Head residents tended to be Patriots, while Daufuskie residents were Tories.
1780 - Daufuskie Islanders burned several Hilton Head homes, including the Talbird home.
1788 - The Zion Chapel of Ease, a small wooden Episcopal church for plantation owners was constructed. All that remains is the cemetery, home to the Baynard Mausoleum, near Mathews Drive.
1790 - William Elliott II, of Myrtle Bank Plantation, grew the first successful crop of long-staple, or Sea Island, cotton in South Carolina on Hilton Head Island.
1813 - During the War of 1812, British forces landed on Hilton Head Island, burning many of the houses along Skull Creek.
1860 - There were more than 20 working plantations on the island before the Civil War. Most plantation owners did not live on Hilton Head. The island was populated with slaves and overseers.
A Scene of Hilton Head, S.C. during the gale of March 24 - 31, 1863 [Drawing]
The Civil War and the Union Occupation 1860 - 1865
Complete description of the province of Carolina in 3 parts
1861 - Beginning in July, Fort Walker was built on Hilton Head Island at the entrance to Port Royal Sound in Order to protect the port from Union attacks.
1861 - On November 7th, Union forces attacked Fort Walker (later renamed Fort Welles in honor of Gideon Welles, secretary of the Navy) and Fort Beauregard in the Battle of Port Royal. Nearly 13,000 Union troops flooded onto the island in the days after the battle.
1862 - Hilton Head Island was also referred to as Port Royal, in reference to the Port Royal military installation. Port Royal was the home to the Department of the South.
1862 - Hilton Head's population swelled to over 40,000, including Union troops, civilian store-keepers, missionaries, prisoners of war, and slaves seeking refuge from their owners.
1862 - Gen. Ormsby Mitchel set up the town of Mitchelville to house the island's first freedman's village. Mitchelville residents elected their own officials, passed their own laws, and established the first compulsory education law in the state. The Mitchelville community was built along modern-day Beach City Road.
1862 - Fort Mitchel was built as a battery to protect Skull Creek from Confederate attacks. Fort Sherman, which circled the military installation, was completed.
1865 - The First African Baptist Church was founded in August. Several island churches formed out of this church, including St. James, Goodwill, Central Oakgrove, and Mt. Calvary.
Reconstruction and Isolation 1870's - 1940's
1868 - Large-scale military occupation of the island had ended. The island's population dropped to only a few thousand.
1870's -Some of Hilton Head Island's plantations were reclaimed by their antebellum owners after paying back taxes charged to their property. Other properties were held by the United States government, sold to speculators, or sold to freedmen who remained on the island after the Civil War.
1872 - The island was once again referred to as Hilton Head Island.
1893 - An enormous hurricane hit Beaufort County, killing at least 2,000 people in the county and flooding parts of the island with its 12-foot surge. Many of Hilton Head Island's structures were destroyed in this storm.
1901 - A 15-inch steam cannon was installed and tested on the beach at Coggins Point (modern-day Port Royal Plantation). It was 1 of 13 designed to protect the United States coast.
1917 - Troops were stationed at the former Union Fort Walker during World War I as lookouts for possible submarine attacks.
1920's - Gullah native islanders sailed bateaux from Hilton Head to the mainland, carrying people, crops, and livestock to the market on River Street in Savannah. Charlie Simmons Sr. operated the first mechanized ferry in 1930 from Simmons Fish Camp, located near Marshland Road.
1920's -The Hudsons and Toomers operated oyster factories on Hilton Head Island from the 1890s until the 1950s. By this time, the boll weevil had destroyed almost all of the Sea Island Cotton in the region.
1940 -The island's population was approximately 1,100 most of whom were descendants from freedmen who had made their homes on Hilton Head.
1941 -Marines were stationed at Camp McDougal near the Leamington Lighthouse. The lighthouse had been built in the 1870's - and was known as the Hilton Head Lighthouse until the Palmetto Dunes development, Leamington, began. Marines paved the first road on the island, which ran from the ferry landing at Jenkins Island (now Outdoor Resorts) to the lighthouse.
Mainland Connection and Modern Era 1949-1990's
1949 - A group of lumber associates from Hinesville, Georgia, bought a total of 20,000 acres of pine forest on Hilton Head's southern end for an average of nearly $60 an acre. They formed The Hilton Head Company to handle the timber operation. The associates were Gen. Joseph B. Fraser, Fred C. Hack, Olin T. McIntosh, and C.C. Stebbins.
1950 - Logging took place on 19,000 acres of the island. There were three lumbermills built to harvest the timber. The island population was only 300 residents.
1950 - The first electricity was brought to the island by Palmetto Electric Cooperative.
1953 - A state-operated car ferry began running from Buckingham Landing (near Bluffton, on the mainland) to Jenkins Island (at Outdoor Resorts).
1954 - Hilton Head Elementary School opened for the island's black students. Isaac Wilborn was the principal of the elementary school from 1954 until it closed in 1974. The school was replaced by a new integrated school constructed on a new site in 1975.
1955 - Beaufort County state representative Wilton Graves opened the Sea Crest Motel on Forest Beach. At first, it consisted of two rooms. The first vacation cottages were developed on Folly Field Road.
1956 - James F. Byrnes Bridge, a two-lane toll swing bridge, was constructed at a cost of $1.5 million. This opened the island to automobile traffic from the mainland. This year, forty-eight thousand cars traveled across the bridge. The toll was discontinued in December 1959.
1956 - Charles E. Fraser, bought his father's interest in The Hilton Head Company and began developing it into Sea Pines Plantation.
1956 - Norris and Lois Richardson opened the first supermarket on the island, located near Coligny Circle in the North Forest Beach area.
1956 - The Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce was established.
1958 - First deed to a lot in Sea Pines Plantation was signed. Beachfront lots initially sold for $5,350. By 1962, they were selling for $9,600.
1958 - Telephone service was offered by Hargray Telephone Company. The first Hilton Head office did not open until 1960.
1959 - The island's first golf course, the Ocean Course, designed by George Cobb, was built in Sea Pines Plantation.
1960 - The McIntosh family subdivided 360 acres of The Hilton Head Company to start Spanish Wells.
1961 - Port Royal Plantation was developed by Hilton Head Company, led by Fred Hack.
1965 - The Sea Pines Medical Center was built. It was staffed by a retired doctor who lived in Sea Pines but served the entire island community.
1965 - Hilton Head Island had its first rural mail route established.
1967 - Sea Pines Plantation installed the island's first gates.
1967 - The Palmetto Dunes area was acquired from the Hilton Head Agricultural Company by Palmetto Dunes Corporation, headed by William T. Gregory, for $1,000 per acre.
1967 - The Hilton Head Airport opened.
1969 - Harbour Town village was completed. The full-time population of the island was 2,500.
1969 - The first Heritage Golf Classic played at Sea Pine's Harbour Town Links.
1970 - Island Packet newspaper was first published.
1970 - The Hilton Head Company started Shipyard Plantation.
1971 - Sea Pines acquired land on the north end of the island, which was developed into Hilton Head Plantation.
1974 - The swing-bridge was struck by a barge which force island residents to travel off the island on a pontoon bridge constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The bridge was closed for six weeks.
1975 - The island's full-time population by this time was 6,500. Over 250,000 visitors came to Hilton Head.
1975 -Hilton Head Hospital was completed.
1979 - Hurricane David missed the island, but high winds left beached eroded and destroyed several Singleton Beach homes.
1982 - A four-lane bridge was built to replace the two-lane swing-bridge to the island. The island's full-time population was 12,500. More than 500,000 visitors came to Hilton Head in 1982.
1982 - Wexford Plantation and Long Cove Club were developed.
1983 - The Town of Hilton Head Island incorporated as a municipality.
1985 - Hilton Head's Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the town council. The population was over 17,000 full-time residents.
1987 - The town council passed the Land Management Ordinance of the Town of Hilton Head Island.
1989 - The Cross-Island Parkway project was approved. The Parkway's bridge spans Broad Creek and links the south end of the island to the north end.
1995 -The permanent year-round population exceeded 28,000 people. The island had over 1.5 million visitors.
1995 - Construction on the Cross-Island Parkway began.
1996 - The Master Land Use Plan for Ward One was started by the Town.
1997 - Cross Island Parkway opened in January. The total cost was $81 million for construction, land acquisition and planning.
In 1931, Wall Street tycoon, physicist, and patron of scientific research, Alfred Lee Loomis along with his brother-in-law and partner, Landon K. Thorne, purchased 17,000 acres (69 km2) on the island (over 63% of the total land mass) for about $120,000 to be used as a private game reserve.
On the Atlantic coast of the island are large concrete gun platforms that were built to defend against a possible invasion by the Axis powers of World War II. Platforms like these can be found all along the eastern seaboard.
In the early 1950's, three lumber mills contributed to the logging of 19,000 acres (77 km2) of the island. The island population was only 300 residents. Prior to 1956, access to Hilton Head was limited to private boats and a state-operated ferry. The island's economy centered on shipbuilding, cotton, lumbering, and fishing.
The James F. Byrnes Bridge was built in 1956. It was a two-lane toll swing bridge constructed at a cost of $1.5 million that opened the island to automobile traffic from the mainland. The swing bridge was hit by a barge in 1974 which shut down all vehicle traffic to the island until the Army Corps of Engineers built and manned a pontoon bridge while the bridge was being repaired. The swing bridge was replaced by the current four-lane bridge in 1982.
Fraser was a committed environmentalist who changed the whole configuration of the marina at Harbour Town to save an ancient live oak. It came to be known as the Liberty Oak, known to generations of children who watched singer and song writer Gregg Russell perform under the tree for over 25 years. Fraser was buried next to the tree when he died in 2002.
The Heritage Golf Classic was first played in Sea Pines Resort in 1969, and has been a regular stop on the PGA Tour ever since.
Also in 1969, the Hilton Head Island Community Association successfully fought off the development of a BASF chemical complex on the shores of Victoria Bluff (now Colleton River Plantation). Soon after, the association and other concerned citizens "south of the Broad" fought the development of off-shore oil platforms by Brown & Root (a division of Halliburton) and ten-story tall liquefied natural gas shipping spheres by Chicago Bridge & Iron. These events helped to polarize the community, and the Chamber of Commerce started drumming up support for the town to incorporate as a municipality. After the Four Seasons Resort (now Hilton Head Resort) was built along William Hilton Parkway, a referendum of incorporation was passed in May 1983. Hilton Head Island had become a town.
The Land Management Ordinance was passed by the Town Council in 1987. Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort opened in 1996. The Cross Island Parkway opened in January 1997. An indoor smoking ban in bars, restaurants, and public places took effect on May 1, 2007.
Arts Center of Coastal CarolinaFormerly the Self Family Arts Center, the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina is a showcase for professional performing and visual arts, as well as cultural festivals and educational outreach. The Arts Center also offers community education, including Visual and Performing Arts Camps, Theater Camp, and other workshops and classes.
Coastal Discovery MuseumThe Coastal Discovery Museum, located at 70 Honey Horn Drive, offers a variety of programs, activities, and indoor and outdoor exhibits year-round to over 125,000 visitors. The Discovery House has permanent exhibitions about the natural history and cultural heritage of the Lowcountry, a gift store, Kids' Zone and a temporary gallery space. The Museum offers many tours of its 68 acre property that includes salt marsh boardwalks, trails, a native butterfly habitat and various gardens.
The Coastal Discovery Museum is open Monday — Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Hilton Head Choral Societyis a non-profit organization "open to community members who love to sing and enjoy good fellowship." The choirs of the Hilton Head Choral Society are known for their diverse musical repertoire including classical masterworks, pops concerts and lighter fare, patriotic and Americana, gospel and musical theatre, a 20-voice chamber choir and a youth choir. The 120-member full chorus presents four major programs per season: A Fall Pops Concert, The Christmas Concert, The Musical Masterworks Concert and a pair of Memorial Day concerts celebrating the art of American choral singing and a patriotic tribute.
Hilton Head Symphony OrchestraThe Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra was started 25 years ago by a handful of musicians and classical music aficionados who dreamed of bringing "big city" culture to Hilton Head. Since then, they have transformed from a small group of classical music lovers to a highly rated symphony orchestra. Their main performance hall is the First Presbyterian Church on William Hilton Parkway, next to Fire Station 3. A branch formed from the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is the Hilton Head Youth Orchestra, helping young musicians across the county with their love for music.
Arts Council of Beaufort CountyACBC's mission is to promote and foster the arts of Beaufort County, South Carolina, including Hilton Head Island. ACBC's vision is to position and maintain Beaufort County as a vibrant arts community and destination through active marketing, service to current arts organizations and artists and advocacy for the arts. ACBC programs include Quarterly Community Arts Grants, the Ever Expanding Arts Calendar, Get Your Art Out emerging artist initiative, the print publication ArtNews, and Arts of the Roundtables, which are free quarterly seminars exploring the business of art.
Main Street Youth TheatreThe Main Street Youth Theatre, located on the north end of the island on Main Street, is a non-profit community theatre dedicated to enriching the lives of the island's youth by providing a true theatrical experience. Each year, MSYT performs 4-5 Broadway quality shows that run about 2 months at a time. During the tourist season, MSYT is a major tourist attraction and is also a local hot spot year round. The organization also provides acting, dance, and vocal instruction after school and during the summer.
- Gullah Celebration - Although threatened by the rapid increase in tourism, Gullah culture can be seen at the annual Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration which is held at Shelter Cove Community Park in February. In the summer, the acclaimed Hallelujah Singers present a Gullah concert series at Hilton Head's Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.
- WineFest - The 25th Annual WineFest was held in Shelter Cove Community Park on March 6, 2010. It is the largest outdoor, tented wine tasting on the East Coast, featuring over 1,500 domestic and international wines.
- St. Patrick's Day Parade - The 24th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade was held on March 11, 2007. Joe Fraser, brother of Charles Fraser and former senior vice president of Sea Pines Plantation Co. was the grand marshal. Over 20,000 people attended the parade, prompting Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner and other officials to question whether the parade might have outgrown its route along Pope Avenue.
- WingFest - The 12th Annual Hargray WingFest was held at Shelter Cove Community Park on March 21, 2007. The event is operated by the Island Recreation Association, and all proceeds benefit the Island Recreation Scholarship Fund.
- HarbourFest - HarbourFest, now in its 19th season, ran every Tuesday night from June 5 - August 21 at Shelter Cove Marina, featuring arts & crafts, live entertainment, and fireworks at sunset. There is a special HarbourFest celebration on July 4. In addition, "Summertime at Shelter Cove" features five nights of family entertainment by Shannon Tanner, who plays two shows per night, 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Monday — Friday.
- Heritage Golf Classic - This is one of the busiest times of the year in HHI. A lot of famous people can be seen at the heritage. The 41st Annual Heritage Classic golf tournament took place April 14–20, 2010, at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines Resort.
- Rib Burnoff & Barbecue Fest - The 10th Annual Rib Burnoff & Barbecue Fest was held May 19, 2007 at Honey Horn Plantation.
- Celebrity Golf Tournament - The 27th Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament was held August 31 - September 2, 2007, at the Golf Club at Indigo Run, the Robert Trent Jones course in Palmetto Dunes, and Harbour Town Golf Links. To date the tournament has contributed over $2,785,000 to 18 children's charities.
- FoodFest - FoodFest 2007 took place September 13–16, 2007. FoodFest celebrates the talent of the local hospitality industry and provides attendees with several spectator events including: The Best Bartender Drink Making Contest, The Hospitable Waiter’s Race, and The Tailgate Gourmet Challenge.
- Chili Cookoff - The 23rd Annual Chili Cookoff was held Saturday, October 6, 2007, at 12:00 p.m. at Honey Horn Plantation.
- Community Festival - The 7th Annual Community Festival took place Friday, October 19–20, 2007, from 5:30 - 9:30 p.m. at Honey Horn Plantation. It featured a "haunted trail" in the "haunted forest" presented by the Hilton Head Rotary Club and the Interact Clubs from Hilton Head High School and Hilton Head Prep.
- Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance - World-class automobiles will take center stage at the 12th annual Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance, November 2 & 3, 2013, at the Port Royal Golf Club. Playing host to some of the country's finest collector automobiles, Hilton Head Island sets a beautiful backdrop with its majestic live oaks and draping Spanish moss. With everything from jaw-dropping classics to two-wheeled machines to wooden boats to amazing beach mobiles, Hilton Head Island brings out the car lover in all of us.
- The Dove Street Festival of Lights - Started in 1990, takes place each December. More than 50 homes on Dove street decorate with holiday lights and the Glee Club of the Miami University of Ohio serenades residents with holiday songs. Town volunteers collect donations of money, food and toys at the festival that are given to The Deep Well Project, a local charity.
|Arthur Blank||owner NFL Atlanta Falcons & Home Depot, has a house in Sea Pines Resort|
|Patricia Cornwell||fiction author|
|Bobby Cremins||NCAA men's basketball coach, currently resides in Charleston, but maintains a home in Hilton Head||.|
|Jim Ferree||American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour|
|Trevor Hall||singer-songwriter, was raised in Hilton Head|
|Darrell Hedric||former head basketball coach at Miami University, former NBA head scout|
|John Jakes||author of historical fiction, resides in Hilton Head|
|Michael Jordan||former NBA player, sold his house on Hilton Head when his father died|
|John V. Lindsay||former mayor of New York City, died in Hilton Head on December 19, 2000|
|Mark Messier||NHL hockey player, part-time resident of Hilton Head|
|Michael Rowe||former NBA Team President, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Giants Stadium and Continental Airlines Arena, current President and Chief Executive Officer of Positive Impact Sports and Entertainment, part-owner of Yankee Global Enterprises, part-time resident of Hilton Head Island|
|Stan Smith||former Wimbledon, US Open and Davis Cup Champ and Tennis Pro|
|Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort||WWII hero, died in his home on Hilton Head in 1990 at the age of 75||
|Kathryn R. Wall||American author of mystery novels|
|Jayson Williams||former NBA Basketball player, owns a home on Hilton Head|
In popular cultureIn the popular television series, "A Different World", Whitley Gilbert's parents have a summer home there.
In "Big Trouble in Little Langley", an episode of American Dad!, Francine's birth parents Nick and Cassandra Dawson live there.
In the book By Order of the President, by W. E. B. Griffin, the President of the United States maintains a home on Hilton Head Island. This is where Charlie Castillo meets the President for the first time.
In the movie Parental Guidance, the parents visit Hilton Head Island for a conference. Aerial pans of Harbor Town are shown.
Hilton Head, SC Website
- ExploreHiltonHead.com - The Official Website of Hilton Head Island
- Town website
- Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Visitor and Convention Bureau
- Hilton Head Golf Guide
- The Island Packet - local newspaper
- Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce
- Hilton Head Monthly Magazine
- Hilton Head Lifestyle & Real Estate
- The Salty Dog Cafe - South Beach Marina, Sea Pines