A History of Windmill Harbour

My family has been a part of this wonderful island for many years. My Father and  Mother, Norris & Lois Richardson, moved our family to Hilton Head in 1955 where they built the island’s first grocery store, before the bridge.

Much has changed since the Richardson family first hung its shingle, and we should all be proud of the community Hilton Head Island has become. I know I am.  My career in the real estate business was shaped by Charles Fraser, who is the modern-day founder of the island. While I have done much in the business, Windmill Harbour has always had a special place in my heart.

There’s a great love of the sea here on the island, and from that love comes a very strong yachting and boating culture. When I first set out in 1981 with Charles Fraser and Andres Deutsch to build Windmill Harbour, we did so with that culture in mind. I wanted to give those boaters a place they could call their own. So rather than focusing on golf, we set out to develop a community around a world-class harbour. The spot we choose seemed tailor-made for what we were planning to accomplish. It had deepwater access of the Intracoastal Waterway which required very little dredging to accomplish our mission – to build a easily accessible harbour that would be minimally tidal and require little or no dredging in the future.

In a way, it was like the land itself had planned this out well before we ever did. And as luck would have it, the state of South Carolina had decided that this small – but growing island deserved a new and more accessible bridge. As a result, the state needed an enormous amount of fill dirt, and we needed a harbour dug. The island had given us the perfect place, and now its popularity had given us the perfect time.

To accomplish the mission of having no dredging and minimal tidal flows, we decided to engineer a lock at the entrance to the harbour. In 1981, this was truly a novel concept as it was only the second lock on the entire East Coast at the time. It was a marvel of engineering then, and it still is today. A boat can pull out of the slip, knowing that there isn’t an ounce of current, and navigate through the lock and into deep water within minutes. For a boater, that’s as good as it gets.

Beyond the lock, we knew we wanted a place both sailors and motor yachts could call home. So not only did we build the harbour large enough to accommodate the most boats in the area, we built The South Carolina Yacht Club to serve them. And around that harbour, around that boating culture, a true neighborhood emerged with beautiful Charleston-style homes overlooking the water, and the rest, as they say, is history.

From a simple dream in the early 80’s came a little slice of our island paradise that I’m immensely proud to have helped build.

Now, I invite you to experience Windmill Harbour for yourself and join so many who have made this special place their own.

JR Richardson, 2015