At 41 years of age Charles Wilson Doughtie is an exuberant, cultivated man who has a wife and five children, a protean and spacious zest for living and, for the time being anyway, no job. A year ago he had a paid-for house in New Canaan, Conn., was working for a major Madison Avenue advertising agency (as creative supervisor he was responsible for such snappers as "Bring out the best in bourbon—bring out the Bellows"), had an income of $35,000 and, by calculations he enjoys retailing, a vested interest in the New Haven Railroad, on whose commuter trains he had sat for an elapsed time of 2� years, or, in mileage, the equivalent of 16 times around the earth. Suddenly, sizing up these facts and figures as ridiculous propositions, he chucked his job, sold the house and moved his family to a piece of South Carolina real estate named Hilton Head Island, which, in recent years, has been reclaimed from swamps and boll weevils looking for a home. The site Doughtie found and bought (for $9,000) faces the Atlantic Ocean and lies within an area on the island called Sea Pines Plantation. For settling there, Doughtie's friends said right out loud that he had lost his mind. He replied that if he's crazy it is only to the extent that he waited so long to make his break with civilization.
Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island is a housing development, although one manifestly distinct from the developments commonly seen nowadays. The island is a strikingly comely parcel of land (see map page 58) lying a few leagues off the Carolina mainland about 30 miles north of Savannah, Ga. At Sea Pines the ocean pounds against four miles of pearl-gray, slate-smooth sand; live oaks, Sabal palms and magnolias sough soulfully in the forests; a golf course makes its way lazily over lagoons and through the woods; roads, with no place to go, go placidly; and the birds make music all the day. The climate is subtropical (53.4� is the wintertime average) and, for the young, the middle-aged and the retired, the rich and not rich, who live there, there is nothing much to do but enjoy yourself—your work as well as your leisure. These people have, accordingly, found what more and more Americans now seem to be seeking: an escape from overpopulated, over-mechanized, overregimented urban and suburban centers. They have found not only a place to live but, in the bargain, a place to play golf, fish and sail, swim, ride horseback, even pick oysters and hunt—and all just around the neighborhood corner.
Such leisure-oriented communities as Sea Pines, or recreational land developments, as they are called, are flourishing like green stamps and are being opened up on both coasts and in between. Different in particulars, they share in generalities. They are not the fashionable, financially and socially exclusive Newports and Tuxedo Parks of 60 years ago or the Sea Islands that developed in the 1920s. And they are not merely bedroom communities with a neighborhood gym, or impersonal resorts to be visited on the fly. Ideally, the new leisure communities strive to capture the best of suburb and resort, and, for those succeeding, the future looks like the kind that will send the developers themselves off to early retirement.
The safest risks, perhaps, are those communities convenient to cities—where the homeowner can pretty nearly have his cake and eat it. The more isolated developments, like Sea Pines, anticipate the day when shock waves of the population explosion will engulf them. Meanwhile, they depend on hard-sell promotion to tap the booming growth of Americans' discretionary or disposable income—that income not specifically tagged for the necessities of food, clothing and shelter. By 1970, market research predictions run, Americans will earn as much disposable income as they spent altogether eight years ago. And 80% of this throw-away money will be earned by people making $10,000 and up—precisely the sports-prone people Sea Pines and similar developments are after. These upper-income families who once bought a second car can even now afford a second boat beside their second house.
Such people are moving into communities like these: Marin Bay—Consisting of almost 2,300 handsomely turned out acres of shoreland and wooded hills, this community sits on a spit of land in San Pablo Bay about 30 minutes by car north of San Francisco. The salubrious life here will revolve around golf (with homesites on the fairway borders), swimming, boating, fishing, riding and country club activities. The architecture of the homes (80 are built) is controlled by the developers to assure that it is "consonant with the beauty of the land," which no PR man has to say is socko. Because of the proximity of San Francisco and Oakland, it ought to be a simple matter for commuters to live here, and to afford the land that ranges from $9,000 to $35,000 per lot. Lou Perini, part-owner of the Milwaukee Braves, is co-developer of Marin Bay.
Ginger Creek—All townsfolk dream of living in the country, claim the developers of this village off in one corner of Paul Butler's mammoth, $200 million Oak Brook development outside Chicago (SI, Oct. 22). However, only 181 country-dreaming families can be accommodated in Ginger Creek ("It was planned that way to preserve the natural tranquillity," says a brochure) and so far 42 have bought lots and 20 homes are built or are abuilding. Ginger Creek, a leisure community within the pulsing Oak Brook complex of play and profit, can offer residents three golf courses, a private airport, fox hunting and game shooting, water sports and, should the demand arise, 14 polo fields. Chicago's Loop, where the money is, is 20 minutes away. New Seabury—The developers of this community on the south shore of Cape Cod are so determined to preserve the natural good looks of their holdings that contractors are fined $100 per caliper inch for the first tree they maim or kill and are fired outright for the second. There are 16 miles of waterfront, plus forests, cranberry bogs, salt marshes and wildlife sanctuaries in the 3,000-acre community between Falmouth and Hyannis, now in its second year of development. Sixty-five lots have been sold at New Seabury and 10 houses built. The pitch here is to 16,000 Americans "who don't want to join the herd, but who don't want to become hermits, either," and planned for those who qualify are two golf courses, four beach clubs, "Woodland Walkways" and an inland waterway gas-lighted for nighttime sailors. Not wishing to become all things to all men, New Seabury talks of separate villages, with characteristics and recreation facilities of their own.
—The idea behind this huge development—virtually a city—45 miles south of Los Angeles, was of a community that a person would never have to leave to find recreation. Laguna Niguel, when fully developed, will have lake boating, ocean swimming, golf, horseback riding, tennis and hiking trails. Ultimately, the company hopes, the number of people who will avail themselves of these facilities will come to 30,000. Architectural controls are applied to all housing, and costs cover a wide latitude of middle and upper incomes. Because of its size and location (a freeway whistles along one side and a six-lane road will run through the heart of the project), Laguna Niguel is not exactly a sheltered retreat, but then we're talking a bout southern California, a contradiction of the term.
The Sea Pines development is second to none of these. The 5,200 acres that comprise it are situated on shoe-shaped Hilton Head from the southerly toe up to the bottom laces. A city of comparable size, Trenton, N.J., say, might squeeze in as many as 115,000 residents, but Sea Pines, under current plans, will limit itself to 1,200 homes. Building lots face the ocean or a backside bay, the golf course fairways or, through a shield of forest, one another and range from $2,500 to $11,000 with an average cost of $4,500. Total value, at today's selling prices, comes to $7� million. So far (Sea Pines is barely five years old), 400 lots have been sold to 300 owners from 31 states and seven countries. Seventy-four homes, from year-round houses to vacation cottages, have been built on land that before was uninhabited and as feral as the deer still stalking it.
Charles Doughtie is not, of course, the sort you will spot behind every tree on Hilton Head Island—for the time being, anyway. It takes a bold man to uproot a seven-member family and forswear the big city's profits and pressures. But Doughtie, fairly overflowing in boldness, expects others to follow his example. "Those who stayed behind to laugh," says he, "are beginning to think I outsmarted them—which I did. When they make up their minds to move here, too, somebody's got to sell them the land, so it might as well be me." In the meantime, Doughtie and his wife Sallie have other plans. They soon will open a shop in Sea Pines where, "like Indians in blankets," they will sell books, antiques and paintings sent to them by Doughtie's advertising art director friends still shackled to their Madison Avenue drawing boards. Doughtie will also continue to write children's books; he has had three published already. "If once, just once, I begin to miss New York, I'll know I'm coming down with some tropical island bug," he says. "I've never had so much fun before in my life."
Others already at Sea Pines seem to share the Doughties' satisfaction. One Schenectady couple, for example, spent 10 years scouting Florida for a retirement home, decided to build on Hilton Head the first time they saw it. Another man, not about to retire (he's 27), has built a $60,000 home on the beach for weekends and vacations from his executive job in nearby Savannah. A third, aberrant when it comes to golf, lives in St. Paul, Minn. but is building a home facing a Sea Pines fairway. A fourth, a fisherman, lived in Boston, now has built a house in Sea Pines just yards from the ocean's edge. An artist, who left a family chemical business to move to the island to paint, says: "It was a frightening idea at first, but we have never regretted the decision since." One way the company hopes to prevent later regrets by Sea Pines homeowners is by screening prospective buyers for what it subjectively judges to be community compatibility. There are many people who don't care about passing such a test but, refreshingly, any considerations of conspicuous affluence and religion are given no weight by the Sea Pines management.