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Oct 27, 2022

Neighborhood Stroll: Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Village

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

Palmetto Bluff
Touring Lowcountry’s premier neighborhoods

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The 7.5-mile Inland Waterway meanders through Palmetto Bluff, from Wilson Village to Moreland Village and eventually, Anson. When completed, the waterway will be an estimated 12 miles.

Palmetto Bluff is among the most exceptional and inimitable of any Lowcountry community. A radiant residential and recreational preserve, its allure is enriched by its perpetuation of Lowcountry culture and Southern architecture, its commitment to the sporting life, and its promotion of community and connection.

All of this … and its higher purpose: to grant residents the experience of 20,000 magical acres and 32 expansive miles of riverfront in its ultimate form. Set amid three historic rivers and thousands of towering oaks, Palmetto Bluff’s seclusion affords a pristine, unspoiled beauty that is respected by those who build and those who live there.

“Palmetto Bluff is a place, not a project,” said W. Bryan Byrne, broker-in-charge, Palmetto Bluff Real Estate Company. “It’s been that way since day one—a real place—a village rather than a clubhouse community—with the discipline not to develop everything.”

New York banker, RT Wilson, purchased Palmetto Bluff in 1902. Several years later, the grand home that he built for his family tragically burned to the ground. The ruins of the home remain in Wilson Village today. 

Wilson Village is the first of three villages at Palmetto Bluff. (The other two are Moreland, which opened five years ago, and Anson, which is set for pre-sale within the next 18 months.) Wilson Village is the result of years of study and research into the small coastal towns of the South and their distinctive characteristics.

When he talks to people about life in Palmetto Bluff, Byrne says there are elements driving them to make this place home. The first is the sense of place. It feels familiar and comfortable and offers a wide range of experiences, river access and activities, a gourmet market, signature shops, and restaurants within easy walking distance of the Village Green.

FLOW Gallery + Workshop is a physical showcase of the Artist in Residence program and a curated collection of southern artists situated in a fun and engaging gallery setting in the heart of Wilson Village.

Bob and Mary-Jane Neubert, a retired Lowcountry gentleman and his wife, have lived in Palmetto Bluff for 14 years. They moved in June 2009 from Rhode Island and decided on Wilson Village after touring several communities.

“The beauty we encounter as we drive the four-and-a-half miles down Old Palmetto Bluff Rd. from May River Road never gets old,” Bob said. “The canopy live oaks are iconic. Then when we turn into Wilson Village, we are transported to a classic, timeless setting where we immediately feel at home.”

“Sometimes we don’t leave the property for a week,” Mary-Jane said. “We can walk anywhere we want to go, whether to RT’s, the specialty grocery, where we can even get hostess gifts for dinners at friends’ homes, or the May River, where sometimes we just go sit on the dock to watch the dolphins and the sun rise or set. It’s beautiful and quaint.”

William and Sharon Clinton first visited Palmetto Bluff in 2006 when they stayed in a home in Wilson Village. They were taken by the traditional layout of village, and while they explored other Lowcountry communities, like the Neuberts, nothing captured what they loved about Wilson Village. They immediately bought a lot on that first trip, which they kept until 2010 when the developers presented them with an opportunity to build a home on “Wilson’s Row.”

Comforting and elegant, The River House showcases a curated assembly of seasonal ingredients and vegetables served alongside thoughtfully sourced meats and seafood.

“That was a smart move for us,” William said. “We were able to have input on the design, still have the architectural layout set, and our home was finished in under a year. We believe so much in the neighborhood that we just built a very nice guest house with an art studio.”

The Clinton’s call the ease of navigating the Village the “Rule of Ten,” meaning they can walk anywhere they need to go in 10 minutes (or bike there in only two minutes).

“What we especially like about Wilson Village are the bike trails,” Sharon added. “We can ride anywhere. We don’t even have a golf cart, like many residents here do. We rarely even get into our car because we can bike wherever we want to go.”

The second element that drives folks to move to Wilson Village is the interplay between the built and unbuilt. The unbuilt environment is as critical to Wilson Village’s appeal as the architecture that everyone loves—a step back in time to a Lowcountry, understated elegance.

“If you go back a generation to real places, the waterfront is a place for everyone to enjoy,” Byrne said. “One of the best views is not from a window, but in a park on a high bluff overlooking May River—something everyone who lives here can enjoy.”

Ida George, a resident of Wilson Village since 2008, agrees. “Living here is phenomenal and offers just what the Lowcountry is noted for: marshes, big rivers, and oak trees beyond compare,” she said. “They are God’s gift to us. The developers did a wonderful job of laying out the Village so that the trees are emphasized. They bring an unparalleled grandeur to the place that’s humbling. I feel so blessed to call this home.”

Home to popular spots like Buffalo’s, FLOW Gallery, and the Village Green, Wilson Village is a hub of activity among both residents and visitors.

The planners were also careful to scale the village architecture. There are maximum sizes but there is no real minimum. If a property meets the architectural standards, it’s at home here, and residents love that not everything is a “McMansion.” From the intimate cottages found in Wilson Village proper to the vast, waterfront estates of May River Forest, there’s a neighborhood for every taste.

“True Lowcountry-inspired designs have an ebb and flow of scale,” Byrne said. “When you go to a traditional town, there is a movement of scale that looks organic and evolved, while also being relaxed, authentically detailed, regionally responsive and blended in with the natural landscape. You cannot get a better example of what Lowcountry architecture should be than in Wilson Village.”

The third appeal of Palmetto Bluff, according to Byrne, is that it has redefined the “sporting life” with offerings beyond the typical. “While there is the expected fitness center, pools, exceptional golf, tennis, racquetball, and pickleball courts, ours are above and beyond,” he said. “Our residents can enjoy shooting sports, boating, fishing, equestrian experiences, and miles of nature trails, all within a pedestrian scale community. Our club and community offerings are extraordinary. The passion and knowledge of our guides, club staff, and instructors are contagious. There is no better place to have fun.”

The Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, a community nonprofit, was founded in 2003 and conducts upwards of 300 programs a year. Its mission is to protect the ecological and environmental integrity of the lands at the confluence of the May, Cooper, and New Rivers, ensuring that the property is almost exactly as William Hilton saw it 400 years ago. The Conservancy and its archeological staff are the keepers of the nature and history of Palmetto Bluff, and they are responsible for educating everyone involved in the development of a new piece of property.

With an undercurrent of lifelong learning, Palmetto Bluff guests + residents also have access to an unparalleled food and wine program, amazing concerts, and cooking classes, along with world-class dining opportunities, whether their mood be upscale or casual. River House, the beloved dining venue overlooking the May River, has undergone a $4.5 million update. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide endless river views, and sweeping oak trees surround the elegant restaurant, which includes a trim 13-seat bar, leather banquettes and chairs, an al fresco lounge within a screened-in porch to enjoy cocktails, and a bourbon wall which serves as both a functional and focal piece of art within the space.

The menu, overseen by Chef de Cuisine Daniel Vesey, focuses on flavor, fine ingredients, and presentation. Signature dishes include oysters from both coasts, a fresh spin on Crab Louie, prime dry aged steaks, black truffle creamed corn, and a stunning seafood tower. The signature dessert, S’mores Baked Alaska, is a must have.

Alongside the stunning new restaurant which is open to both guests and residents, two new concepts round out guests’ overall experience from morning to night: Buzz coffee shop and Hush speakeasy. Buzz is where both guests and residents of Palmetto Bluff might begin their days, with fresh-brewed King Bean coffee and decadent pastries, while Hush is where they might end their evening. A cocktail-forward scene all its own, the venue is intentionally mysterious with a cocktail program that pays tribute to the Prohibition era. Hush also features an impressive $1M wine collection in its cellar, with choice finds from regions old and new, as well as spirits including Louis XIII cognac by Remy Martin and many high- end bourbons such as Pappy van Winkle.

The Canoe Club, a popular restaurant for Palmetto Bluff Club members, is situated on Boat House Row, with panoramic views of both the May River and the Palmetto Bluff inland waterway. Canoe Club restaurant offers “river-to-table” dining, with Lowcountry-inspired dishes that celebrate local seafood, drawing ingredients and inspiration from the May River. Partnering with the Palmetto Bluff Farm and other local farms, Canoe Club can source fresh vegetables, harvested on property, and local beef and poultry to create dishes that honor the bounty of South Carolina Lowcountry.

Palmetto Bluff Club Executive Chef, Rhy Waddington’s philosophy of using only the best products available driven by quality, locality and seasonality ensures Palmetto Bluff dining is of the highest quality in South Carolina. May River Grill and Buffalo’s (re-opening late 2022) offer elevated comfort food while staying true to Chef Rhy’s farm-to-table attitude.

In addition, an amazing arts program will inspire your creative side. As part of The Arts Initiative at Palmetto Bluff—the sweeping new program conceived to inspire and enrich lives through art at the famed Lowcountry community—FLOW Gallery + Workshop has opened in the heart of the property’s picturesque Wilson Village, overlooking the May River.

While Palmetto Bluff has a long history of sporting life and outdoor pursuits, we noticed that the creative resident base was looking for more cultural opportunities,” said Maggie Hackett, director of marketing for Palmetto Bluff. “The Arts Initiative was conceived to fill in that gap.”

A physical showcase of the initiative’s Artist in Residence program, the gallery features a collection of its acclaimed artists as well as other compelling Southern makers such as Blakely Little, Blown Studios, CHI Designs, Teresa Roche Art & Textiles, Paige Hathaway Thorn, and Shannon Whitworth. Work from this diverse lineup of talent includes a rotating series of exhibitions, workshops, and events featuring blue chip and emerging artists, craftsmen, musicians, makers, and chefs. 

FLOW welcomes residents and guests to foster immersive hands-on interactions and a deeper appreciation for the artists whose work represent the elements that comprise Palmetto Bluff—water, earth, fire, and air—which are present everywhere in their natural state, sustaining the surrounding environment and those who inhabit it.

“The FLOW gallery was successful from its inception as a curated experience for our residents and a place where guests can find meaningful mementos,” Hackett said. “The Artist in Residence program simply added another great layer. Each month, an artist will come in for an opening reception, then host a three-day workshop where, so far, our owners and guests have experienced hands-on painting, glass blowing, leather working, and jewelry making. We even had a famed milliner bring hats to which participants added custom elements.”

Sitting at the heart and social center of Wilson Village, FLOW Gallery + Workshop is the newest addition to the community’s fantastic slate of shops including Paris Market (a chic boutique inspired by the open-air markets of France) and Melt (a beloved ice cream destination with the best of Southern-produced ice cream, candy, and much more.

“Layering all these things gives people opportunities to both learn about where they live and get connected,” Byrne said. “The people who live here are cerebral people, and we give them plenty of ways to be stimulated.”

Ida George sums it up: “I draw sustenance and strength from this place. I love living here. I wake up every morning, and my first thought is, wow! Just look at this!”

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