Eighty-five years ago, a handwritten document was signed that would decide the future of Seabrook Island and the preservation of its natural beauty. It was in 1938 that Victor Morawetz, once a high-powered New York lawyer who had counted Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan among his clients, signed a handwritten codicil to his will directing that at the death of his younger wife Marjorie, the couple's several hundred acres of Seabrook Island would be deeded to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina for use as a summer camp for Charleston-area young people.
The couple, who had arrived in Charleston in the late 1920's, famously bought and restored Fenwick Hall as a winter residence. But in 1937, they purchased several hundred acres of the southern portion of Seabrook Island, then completely undeveloped, and converted an old Boys Club camp building on "Seabrook Beach", near where today's Pelican Watch Villas stand, into a cottage for beach weekends. Both Victor and Marjorie were ardent conservationists and feared Seabrook would be decimated by unregulated timbering if it wasn't protected.
Victor died a month after making his bequest to the Episcopal church. Thirteen years later, in 1951, Marjorie Morawetz honored her husband's wish and deeded over eight hundred acres of Seabrook Island to the church and its new Camp St. Christopher, reserving the couple's by-then substantial beach "Clubhouse" for her use during her lifetime. She passed away in 1958, leaving the ownership of Seabrook Island to the diocese, which set about creating Camp St. Christopher. With mounting maintenance costs and tax assessments, the diocese in 1970 sold all but 314 acres to the Seabrook Island Development Partnership, the ancestor of succeeding development entities that eventually led to the Town of Seabrook's incorporation in 1987.
SINHG has enjoyed a long relationship with Camp St. Christopher and its Barrier Island Environmental Education Center. Not long after SINHG was established in the early 1980's, members funded the first boardwalks along the Camp's fresh-water sloughs and provided reference materials for the Camp's library, along with the first computers ever used at the Camp. SINHG continues to partner with Camp St. Christopher and the Barrier Island Center by periodically including the Camp in its annual schedule of SINHG Trips for members. We're fortunate to have this reminder of Seabrook's less-developed past literally on our doorstep, thanks to the foresight and generosity of a northern couple who, like so many of us, fell in love with the Lowcountry.