In early 1966, I drove my black 1962 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 convertible into Beaufort to join Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312. I was immediately struck with how beautiful it was. I have never changed my mind!
Yesterday on a fine spring afternoon I walked to the center of the Woods Bridge and took the picture of that same downtown below.
It shows a small picturesque residential, 18th Century, two story town.
Over the years local landowners have developed areas of historic Beaufort. In doing so they have behaved in a manner reminiscent of English footpath walkers who have the right to walk across the grounds of Windsor Castle, for instance, the Queen’s summer house, or Hughenden Manor, the country house of former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli near Beaconsfield. The rule and the law there is you can walk the paths but you cannot change or damage them. The property owners are also held to the Queens law and regulation. Thus far developers in historic Beaufort have seemed to follow that same general pattern: Use but do not change the essential nature of Beaufort’s historic sites.
Dick Stewart is allegedly about to change all that. Dick is a Bluffton boy who left the Low Country as a young man and returned years later after a highly successful career in Atlanta. Since then, he has done some excellent work in Beaufort which undoubtedly increased town and county revenue. Unfortunately, his projects also have had a downside: They increased traffic, homogenized (what I call “Mackie Donalded,” and “Holiday Inned”) the approaches to historic Beaufort, and hugely increased day trippers to downtown. I don’t think that’s all good for us residents! We tend to be older, more affluent, professional people, we have been here a long time and above all we love our town.
In all the world I have three places I really am in love with: downtown Beaufort, Chelsea in London, and Charleston south of Broad Street. What Dick Stewart is planning is something totally different: He is planning what I call the “Myrtle Beaching” of Beaufort, primarily a large hotel convention center, a four-story parking garage, and a large apartment building. These will destroy the historic downtown Beaufort atmosphere, the same as it would if carried out in old Charleston or Chelsea. In my opinion it will IRREVERSIBLY CHANGE Beaufort!
Below is his proposed layout. It shows (in red) a huge four-story parking garage (upper left), below that the apartment building (lower left), and the four-story Marriott Hotel (lower right), and in addition two much smaller buildings (yellow in the middle).
Below is a rendition of what Beaufort will look like with only the hotel in place from above the center of the Woods Bridge! You like it? Where will the visual emphasis be? The church steeples, the two-story buildings, the waterfront park? They will be totally submerged by the bloody great big modern buildings!
Now for the bottom line. Why have I written this? In my opinion the entire project has been secretive. Very little has been provided to the public. In my case, I had heard almost nothing about it until last Tuesday at lunch when I got briefed. At that time I decided that I would do what I could to spread the word. The best source I have found so far is The Beaufort Tribune. Read all of it on the Internet at https://beauforttribune.com. Read it cover to cover and subscribe online (it’s free). See who is already involved.
In other words. Please, please, please, get involved!
PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO OTHER BEAUFORTONIANS.
BEAUTIFUL BEAUFORT, ENJOY NOT DISTROY!
GK (Graham Kerr)
LtCol Graham Kerr USMC (Ret) was born in London England in 1939 five months before the outbreak of World War II. Due to his infancy, he was not evacuated from the ensuing London “Blitz” but stayed with his parents. His family left the UK in 1948 to escape the massive taxation of the incoming socialist Labor government. His father had been appointed by the UK Colonial Office as District Medical Officer of South Eleuthera, Bahamas. Graham was sent to boarding school in Florida and subsequently was graduated from Harvard College. As a Green Card holder, he was subject to the draft and first arrived in Beaufort in 1962 as a recruit at MCRD Parris Island. Subsequently, he returned to Beaufort for multiple tours as an F-4 Phantom pilot. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, flew 500 combat missions and was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He retired from the Marines in 1988 and joined Piedmont Regional Airline. He flew for Piedmont until his second retirement as a captain in 1990. He served multiple terms on the Beaufort County Airports Board and twice on the vestry of St Helena’s Anglican Church. He has been a resident of Beaufort since 1966 and has owned his riverbank family residence in the Pigeon Point residential neighborhood since 1974.
Editor’s Note: If you are concerned about the direction the City of Beaufort is taking, especially in its Historic District, you are automatically a member of the Beautiful Beaufort Alliance, sponsored by The Beaufort Tribune. Click here to see the goals of the Beautiful Beaufort Alliance and what you can do to help.