Hilton Head & Bluffton Custom Home Builder
SC Office:
19 Bow Circle, Hilton Head 29928
27 Mar 2017

History of Hilton Head Island

In 1663, English sea captain William Hilton landed on Hilton Head Island and, thus, the seeds of the first successful plantations were sown. Commissioned by a group of Barbados planters to find new land on which to plant sugar and indigo, Hilton soon claimed the Island in the name of the British Crown.

Hilton, however, was not the first European to visit the Island. In 1521, the Spanish were the first confirmed Island visitors, but many historians speculate that English explorer Sebastion Cabot may have sighted its shores during his expedition to the New World in 1497. In the 1560’s, French Huguenot colonists sought refuge on Hilton Head Island, fleeing persecution in their own Catholic homeland. The Huguenots christened Port Royale Harbour, now known as Port Royal Sound, and charted the Island on French maps as “Ile de la Riviere Grande” – Island of the Broad River. Soon they moved to more protected water, settling in an area that today is known as Beaufort, South Carolina.

Earliest Inhabitants
When Hilton landed on the Island in 1663, he was greeted by Spanish-speaking Indians from the Yemassee tribe who had migrated north from Florida a hundred years earlier at the behest of Spanish colonists. He also encountered the native Ewascus Indians, but little is known of the earlier native civilization which inhabited the Island 4,000 years ago. Remnants of mysterious shell rings, measuring up to 240 feet across and nine feet high, can still be found on the Island. Yet, like the enigmatic rocks of Stonehenge and the carvings of Easter Island, their secrets remain hidden from history. Today, visitors to Hilton Head Island can view these rings in Sea Pines Forest Preserve and on the north end of the Island off Squire Pope Road.

Plantation Life
In 1698, the English king granted several islands and some of the Lowcountry’s mainland to John Bayley. While the entire area was named Bayley’s Barony, Hilton Head Island was referred to as Trench’s Island, in honor of Alexander Trench, Bayley’s property agent and collector of landlease fees.

John Barnwell became Hilton Head Island’s first English settler in 1717 after receiving a grant of 500 acres in what is now Hilton Head Plantation. However, Hilton Head Island did not gain worldwide recognition until 1790 when another planter, William Elliott, successfully raised the first crop of long-stem Sea Island cotton. Elliott, with the help of his neighbor, Will Seabrook, pioneered a new type of fertilizer for the cotton, resulting in record crops and wide acclaim for the Sea Island cotton.

By 1860, 24 plantations were in operation on Hilton Head Island. Although the main crop was cotton, indigo, sugar cane, rice and other crops also were cultivated. Due to the land’s low elevation and hot summers, the wealthy landowners spent little time on the Island, opting to locate their beautiful townhouses in less tropical environments on the mainland.

Civil War
Seven months after South Carolina seceded from the Union, the shots fired on Fort Sumter reverberated on Hilton Head Island. On November 7, 1861, the Island became the scene of the largest naval battle fought in American waters. More than 12,000 Union soldiers and marines landed on the Island, and in less than five hours, the Union fleet captured both Fort Beauregard near Beaufort and Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island. The Island fell into the hands of Federal troops, forcing Island families to evacuate their plantation homes.

The Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery altered the prosperous and patrician lifestyle of the plantation owners forever. The boll weevil proved to be even more devastating, as the new technology took a fearful toll on Sea Island cotton. Consequently, Hilton Head Island lapsed into obscurity, remaining isolated for over 90 years.

During this period, the Island maintained a small population of mostly the descendants of former slaves. They survived modestly on small farms and as hunters and fisherman. Their culture and language, both known as Gullah, survive today as a living legacy of their strength and perseverance.

In the 1940’s, the Island experienced a sort of re-birth when a group of timbermen recognized great potential in the Island’s tall, straight pines. Popularly called sea pines, the trees produced lumber for a variety of uses.

The First Resort
In 1956, Charles Fraser, son of one of the families that owned the Island, realized that Hilton Head Island had more to offer than just timber. Armed with vision, energy, modern air conditioning and investment dollars, he created a master plan for a resort community. His efforts were aided by the construction of a bridge to the mainland the same year. Sea Pines Plantation became the prototype of the modern resort community, now copied around the world.

Incorporated as a town in 1983, Hilton Head Island is now home to several environmentally planned resort and residential communities, supporting more than 30,000 full-time residents. These communities have been named “plantations,” but cotton fields have been replaced by lush green golf courses, tennis courts, shimmering lakes and beautifully designed resorts and villas.

Despite this development, much of the Island remains as it was when sighted from William Hilton’s ship more than 300 years ago. Hilton Head Island’s natural beauty, spectacular seascapes and exceptional ecology now beckon a new generation of explorers.

–Article originally published by the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce & CVB

20 Jan 2017

Oceanfront Custom in Port Royal Plantation

They say referrals are the best endorsement a builder can have, and we would agree with that sentiment. However, there is something even more special to say about a client who has built two previous homes with us! Such is the case with the Sullivan family of Hilton Head. Cambridge Building Company is currently at work building the third home for the Sullivans. This one is an oceanfront beauty on a spectacular lot in Port Royal Plantation.

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10 Jan 2017
Affleck's Hampton Island GA Home

Affleck’s Greek-Revival Southern Home

“..The ’20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world.” So begins the IMDB plot summary for Ben Affleck’s latest film ‘Live by Night’. National release begins Friday, but the news reminds us of one of our favorite projects in the area. The film sets include many Coastal Georgia locations near the classically Greek-Revival (Hampton Island) home we did for the family.
11 Nov 2016

Why Design & Build Firms Make Sense

When building a new house, people often turn to architects to kick off the project. However, a different model is becoming quite popular: design-build. Instead of dividing tasks between separate architecture and construction companies, you can hire a full-service Hilton Head Island design-and-build company to complete your entire project, from initial sketches through final construction. Learn more about how to choose the right design-build professionals for your home project on Hilton Head Island.

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31 Oct 2016

Matthew Blows Through

Cambridge custom homes are engineered and built to withstand the test of time, and specifically tests of Mother Nature. Building oceanfront? You’ll want to talk to us first. With 35yrs experience and some of the most challenging engineering projects in the Southeast in our portfolio, we know you’ll rest easy when the next storm comes calling.

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04 Jul 2016

Experience, Scale and Trust. Build with the Best.

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16 Jun 2016

Daufuskie Island Clubhouse

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10 Jun 2016

10 Ideas for Landscaping Property Lines

Neutrum vero, inquit ille. Potius ergo illa dicantur: turpe esse, viri non esse debilitari dolore, frangi, succumbere. Tria genera bonorum; Neque enim disputari sine reprehensione nec cum iracundia aut pertinacia recte disputari potest. Nam illud vehementer repugnat, eundem beatum esse et multis malis oppressum. Estne, quaeso, inquam, sitienti in bibendo voluptas? Beatus sibi videtur esse moriens.

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