Imagine owning an island and dedicating your life to preserving its natural beauty and resources. For most of us, we think civilization is about getting rid of anything that dates back to ancient times. However, one billionaire thought he would enjoy a family vacation that made him forget about the busy city life for a while and thus bought an entire island. If you wonder why someone who could invest anywhere in the world chose to spend his money in preserving nature, maybe once you check out Ted Turner’s $23 million home in St. Philips Island, SC, it will give you a picture of what attracted him to it.
It was meant to be a family recreational home
According to Garden and Sun, Ted purchased the island to save it from development. He is known for his commitment to conserving the environment; hence even when he bought the island in 1979, he included a conservation easement to the title deed to prevent it from being turned into a golf resort in future and to also limit the number of structures that can be built on the island to ten residences. Ted put up the main house and a caretaker’s house on the 4680-acre piece of land hoping to make beautiful memories with his family.
The main house that measures 3800-square feet comprises five bedrooms, five baths, and a large screened porch that provides a spectacular view to the Atlantic Ocean. It also has a two-story living room and a fireplace to ease the cold that comes with the evening breeze. Of course, since Ted is a conservationist, then you will not find any electricity. Therefore, the family had to rely on solar, back up batteries, and a water tower. Spending family time included kayaking, hiking trails, fishing, and surfing.
Despite being worth millions of dollars, Ted remained friendly even with the locals, and his ex-wife Jane was a darling to the staff. His island manager Boogie Tudor, a native of St. Philips Island, is the one who took Ted on his first visit to the beautiful place. Therefore even after Ted purchased the island, he employed Tudor to be his caretaker, and the native built Ted’s home from scratch, according to WTIC. At the time, there was barely anything on the island, not even docks, such that Tudor feared his boat would not be on the shore once he returned to the beach later in the day.
Selling the island
After decades of enjoying the island’s beauty and ensuring that he left it better than he found it, Ted was ready to sell it. He said that he wanted other people to appreciate what the island had to offer, hence sold it to the South Carolina state. However, Ted did not get the amount he had been hoping for; when he put it up for sale, he asked for $23.777 million. He later sold it to South Carolina State for $4.9 million, which Bluffton Today says was a third of the island’s appraised value. Besides the five-bedroom home on the island and the caretaker’s house, the sale also included two vehicles and three boats. The state hoped that within six months, they would assess the resources to come up with a feasible development plan and, later on, an operational strategy.
Indeed a strategy was a priority since Ted’s son, Robert, confessed that running the place is quite expensive. With the lack of a bridge, electricity, or water line, the state must ensure the home remains operational with a solar grid, wind, and propane generator. Therefore upgrading the solar power grid had to be prioritized. Although the state planned on opening the island for public use, it still has to balance to ensure that the natural habitat is not destroyed by those who do not appreciate nature.
However, for those who love nature and historical sites, it is the ideal place to visit. Reportedly, Ted even managed to import southern fox squirrels and repopulate the island with loggerhead turtles and Indigo snakes while getting rid of feral hogs. Robert recalled that as children, they would not dare walk in the woods during summer to avoid the rattlesnakes while the air was infested with lots of deer flies horseflies.
You can check out the home in person
Tudor, the island’s former caretaker, revealed that he and his wife hoped that if the place were on sale, it would be used to show the public God’s wonderful creation. Their prayers have been answered, and the entire island is now open for use by the public; the main house can be rented as a single cabin, housing up to 12 people. However, anyone visiting has to remember that the bathrooms are portable. You can only access the island by boat, there is no running water or electricity, and there are no paved roads. Since the house is 4 miles inland, the state has added a tram for transporting visitors from the dock.
Although the state got the island at a heavily discounted price, visitors will have to dig deep into their pockets to taste what was once Ted Turner’s home. According to AJC, you should expect to pay more than what you would when visiting neighboring islands. However, it is not as expensive as it sounds; adults pay $45 while children who are 12 and below pay$25. With the current pandemic, the ferries can only carry 50% capacity, and one must wear a mask throughout during transportation.
You should note that the ferries do not wait for late arrival, so stick to the scheduled time. Of course, given the many insects Robert warned us about, insect repellent is a worthy investment. The state officials planned to have the island open for public use by spring, and by October 2020, they hoped to add even more features to the different packages. Those who prefer freshly cooked food will be provided with a food voucher so they can pre-order groceries. All in all, you can never get tired of admiring the island’s beautiful features, and even Phil Gaines, retired director of South Carolina State Parks is still in awe that the island is finally in the hands of South Carolina State.