Victor and Marjorie Nott Morawetz
In April 1930, the Morawetzes purchased Fenwick Hall, a circa-1730 plantation on John’s Island. They hired noted Charleston architect Albert Simons to fully refurbish and update the Georgian manor, documented circa 1933 for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Image courtesy of Library of Congress
As general council for the Santa Fe Railroad Company, Victor Morawetz (above) helped reorganize the industry—which was teetering on insolvency in the 1890s—and reaped a fortune for his efforts. Upon his retirement at age 51, he reportedly had an annual income of $100,000.
The Pink House at 17 Chalmers Street documented in 1933 for the Historic American Buildings Survey; image courtesy of Library of Congress
The Pink House today
Fenwick Hall Plantation (pictured in disrepair in the early 1920s) is one of the earliest remaining examples of Georgian architecture in the state.
The estate in 1933 after the Morawetz restoration led by architect Albert Simons; image courtesy of Library of Congress
A look inside Fenwick Hall in 1933
The original Fenwick Hall Plantation included 7,000 acres on John’s Island.
Victor’s passion for horticulture manifested in the more formal walled garden...
...and especially the unique cactus garden, one of the largest private collections of cacti in the world.
German botanist and cacti expert Curt Backeberg, who helped plant the cactus garden at Fenwick Hall, named Morawetzia sericata for Victor.
The Morawetzes’ beach house on Seabrook; the couple purchased much of the island to preserve its natural beauty. In 1958, Marjorie deeded it to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Camp St. Christopher remains there today as a retreat and conference center.
Campers pictured in 1952
In 1935, Victor had 200 magnolias planted along Maybank Highway “to assure an avenue of loveliness for all who pass that way.”
Victor gifted numerous artworks to the Gibbes, including the 1809 marble relief The Wreck of the Rose in Bloom by Belgian artist John Devaere and...
...the 1711 pastel-on-paper portrait Henriette Charlotte Chastaigner (Mrs. Nathaniel Broughton) by Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering Johnston, who is considered to be the first female artist in the United States.
Millionaire’s Playground: Victor and Marjorie Morawetz were among a fortunate group of wealthy Northerners who discovered the South Carolina Lowcountry in the 1920s and 1930s as a perfect place for winter homes and/or hunting retreats. Like the Morawetzes’ restoration of Fenwick Hall, the monies brought by members of this “second Northern invasion” saved many of the area’s historic properties, which were then in imminent danger of destruction by neglect. Many still flourish from the generosity of their benefactors, and some, including the former Mepkin Plantation (pictured here) are open to the public.
Mepkin Plantation on the Cooper River, home of Revolutionary War statesman Henry Laurens, was purchased by magazine publisher Henry Luce and his wife, Clare Booth Luce, in 1936 as a winter hunting retreat. In 1949, the plantation was donated to the Trappist Order of Cistercians Monks. Today, we know this beautiful property as Mepkin Abbey. While it is an active monastery, portions of the plantation, including the extensive botanical gardens created by Mrs. Luce, are open to the public. http://mepkinabbey.org/wordpress/
Hobcaw Barony Plantation on Winyah Bay near Georgetown was likewise the winter retreat of investor and philanthropist Dr. Bernard Baruch and later, his daughter, Belle. Today, the plantation is under the auspices of the Belle W. Baruch Foundation and the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Preserve and open regularly for nature tours and other programs. http://hobcawbarony.org/
The remote barrier island, Bulls Island, once a hunting preserve of New York banker and broker Gayer Dominick in the 1930s, is now part of the 62,000-acre pristine wilderness known as the Cape Romain National Wildlife Preserve. Under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, the island is accessible for day use only by boat. Coastal Expeditions’ Bulls Island Ferry makes regular runs from its Awendaw dock. https://www.fws.gov/ & http://www.bullsislandferry.com/