History of Sea View Inn
1937 – 1952
During the 1930’s, Pawleys Island had already become a place where the same families returned year after year. It could be said that everyone knew everyone else on any given week and knew what house they were staying in. The Clinkscales were no exception. They visited Pawleys regularly and considered their family and friends to be Pawleys people.
Celeste Clinkscales was from Spartanburg, S.C. and at some point moved to Morganton, NC. She was a school teacher and frequently tutored her grandchildren in reading and spelling. She was a natural born teacher. Will Clinkscales was from Spartanburg, SC and was a math professor at Duke University. At some point in the 1930’s, Mrs. Celeste Clinkscales took an interest in helping Ms. Kaminski run a bed and breakfast on Pawleys Island.
Then, in 1937, Celeste and Will Clinkscales financed and built Sea View Inn. Celeste Clinkscales was the driving force of this endeavor and ultimately became the “hostess” of Sea View during those years. Sea View was designed and built to be an inn at the outset. The clientele was intended to be their wide circle of friends and family, but also included many Pawleys regulars that wanted to try the new inn “in the middle of Pawleys Island”. Almost immediately, Sea View became a place where guests returned for the same week in the same room each and every year, just as it is today. For 3 weeks each summer, the Clinkscales friends and family would occupy the inn. For 2 of those weeks, they shared the inn with other guests. But for 1 week each summer, they would take over the place.
Celeste was also cordial with Mrs. Dingle who owned and operated the Tip Top Inn to the north. They collaborated to some extent and often talked about the inn keeping business. While there was some cooperation between the two, there was a different clientele between Sea View Inn and Tip Top. Tip Top attracted more people from North Carolina and most of Sea View’s patrons were from South Carolina.
Celeste and Will sat at a table on the northern side of the dining room table that was set in a small alcove. That was “their table” and this is where Celeste would frequently rise to engage the guests in conversation. She was gracious and said to be a consummate hostess. She was quiet, but could engage people very easily. And she was an interesting person. She set the “tone” of the place. Will was more on the quiet and unassuming side and did not engage as frequently. Will’s was very close to his brother George (and Nell) Clinkscales who purchased the house next door to Sea View to the south (present day Duck’s Nest). George was a professor at Converse and later Wofford College and an eccentric. In the 50’s, he reportedly would fire a cannon he had built toward the ocean during nap time and kept live turkey and chickens under his house.
Will and Celeste had one child by the name of Edward Clinkscales. He married Isbel Davis and they gave birth to Margaret Clinkscales Lofton. At some point, their marriage failed and they divorced. Edward later drowned at the beach at Pawley’s around the age of 25.
The Clinkscales kept Sea View for 15 years.
1954 – 1970
3 Ladies from Queens College
In April of 1954, Sea View Inn was sold to 3 ladies from Queens College. The three ladies informed the regular guests of Sea View that they had bought their “favorite vacation spot lock, stock, and both barrels!”
A gentleman named “Mr. Ryan” had taken over Sea View from Mrs. Clinkscales, but was transferred by his company to California. Mr. Ryan had known Miss Squires, the dietician at Queens College, for years, supplying as he did certain wholesale commodities for the Queens kitchen. When Miss Squires learned from Mr. Ryan that the Sea View could have new “protectors”, she called in her two friends (Thelma Albright and Alma Hull) who had been going to the Inn for the past thirteen years. The three of them decided to carry on the traditions of Sea view Inn. All of them were associated with Queens College: Miss Thelma Albright was Dean of Students, Miss Alma Hull was Director of Guidance, and Miss Loma Squires was the dietician.
The “Rocking Chair Times” newsletter was mailed to Sea View patrons once, and sometimes twice, each year. They were thoughtfully written and offered historical tidbits from the prior year, the upcoming calendar of events at Sea View, latest gossip, reservation forms, and hints of rising traditions that began to shape Sea View for many years to come. Some of these traditions include self service coffee prepared early each morning, delicious pancakes “passed” during breakfast, “low country” cuisine expertly prepared 3 times per day by Miss Loma Squires, and Saturday to Saturday stays.
During these years, Sea View guests were treated to the natural beauty of Pawleys and surrounding areas. Events such as guided nature expeditions, artist and photography workshops, and plantation tours offered guests a unique opportunity to see, learn, and experience Pawleys with a new perspective. These workshops and tours continue today.
Celeste Clinkscales remained cordial with the 3 ladies, particularly Thelma. They were both gentle, interesting, and engaging women. Celeste was around Sea View quite a bit after Will passed away in the early to mid-1950’s.
Hurricane Hazel struck Pawleys Island in October 1954. Sea View Inn was toppled and destroyed by the storm tide and wind. Pawleys Island suffered major damage and the future of Sea View was in the balance after this hurricane.
In a letter dated March 16, 1955, Thelma Albright informed Sea View patrons that they were “still smarting a bit from Hazel, and we have not recovered entirely from the shock of seeing the wreckage of Sea View after the hurricane…We are going to be back in business….Our loan has been approved….The plan is essentially the same as the old Sea View; the government required that and allowed practically no deviation…The house is going to be set back a bit farther from the beach.” The main building of Sea View was completed between 1954 – 1956 and remains the same structure that exists today and the original cottage remains as well.
1970 – 1978
Over the years, for one reason or another, Loma and Thelma went their separate ways, leaving Alma as sole Proprietor until 1978. Alma developed some interesting policies during her term.
Alma locked the doors of Sea View promptly at 10 p.m. each evening, and if you were late, that was just too bad. No liquor was served, but some guests brought their own refreshments which they enjoyed in their own rooms. One gentleman asked Alma if he could get some ice for at drink at 9:30 on evening. Alma replied by calling the man a degenerate! On rainy days she pre-addressed post cards (to her Congressman) passed around to guests so that they could write messages.
There is no doubt that Alma Hull was a character, but she certainly made Sea View become one of the respected inns on the island. Of course, the food helped make that reputation, and if Alma ran the inn, it was Geneva Polite who was queen of the kitchen. Geneva, who was in her 70’s, still cooked up a storm three times a day. The breakfast was eggs any style, grits, bacon, sausage, pancakes, toast, juice and good coffee (exactly as it remains today!) On Sundays, supper was served as a “bagged picnic”.
1978 – 2001
Page Oberlin came to Pawleys often as a child and returned occasionally as an adult. In the spring of 1978, she came to Pawleys with her children from Ohio, where Page had been running a restaurant. Page had inquired of a friend if there was employment available that summer which would be interesting; while there was nothing immediately intriguing, the friend passed on the news that the Sea View was up for sale.
While Page had never considered buying an inn, she decided to investigate and subsequently contacted Alma Hull, who was ill at the time and anxious to sell. It seems Alma Hull thought Page had all the qualifications and know-how, but unfortunately Sea View had been promised to someone else. So Page returned to Ohio, not thinking much more about it until late winter, when she again heard from Alma Hull. As it turned out, the original deal had fallen through, and Alma wanted to know if Page was still interested. Page knew she would never have another chance to live and work on Pawleys Island so she said “yes”.
Since the early days, many traditions have started and endured to this day. The standard breakfast fare, coffee on the back porch, dinner bells, Saturday to Saturday reservations, same families in the same rooms sitting at the same table during the same week every year, book reading on the front and back porch, naps after lunch, board games on the living room floor, cocktails and sunsets on the creek dock, white serving uniforms, low country food, and many more.
Hugo began as a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic and was a Category 4 storm by the time it made landfall near Sullivan’s Island on Sept. 22, 1989. Hugo produced the highest storm tide heights ever recorded along the U.S. East Coast, around 20 feet near Charleston, according to NOAA. Pawleys Island sustained significant damage, but Sea View Inn was still standing after the storm. It sustained a good bit of water damage and required considerable repairs before reopening in the Spring of 1990.
2002 – Present
In the spring of 2002, Sassy and Brian Henry took on the role as the new “protectors” of Sea View and have maintained the integrity and ambiance of what has become an institution for so many people. Their primary focus has been to refine without changing and subtly improving with an eye toward historical appreciation.
Sassy Carragher Henry was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and attended Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Sassy owned and operated a business called the Sassy Tree in the 1990s. She had a particular interest and talent in preparing cut flower and potted plant arrangements, landscape design, holiday home decorating, and antiques. In addition, Sassy worked as a chef’s apprentice at an executive dining room for 3 years. This experience provided her invaluable practical and professional expertise in food preparation and planning. Brian Henry was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana and attended LSU in Baton Rouge. After moving to Atlanta in 1990, Brian acquired professional experience with Andersen Consulting and Coca-Cola for 10 years with experience gained in organization, business, web site development, customer service, and management. Brian and Sassy were married in 1997 and had 2 children, May May (1999) and Camille (2001).
Sassy’s family had visited Pawleys Island since she was a baby. Her uncle Bill Stallworth owned a house on the south end of Pawleys for much of her childhood and some of her fondest memories were walking through Pawleys creek catching crabs with her dad. Brian joined the Carraghers on their family vacation to Pawleys Island in 1998. Initially, Brian was reluctant to go to Pawleys Island in favor of a visit to the gulf coast where his parents lived and where he had vacationed as a child. Sassy’s insistence paid off and Brian “passed the Pawleys test” after his first week there. They were now both in love with the island of rustic old houses, Atlantic sand, uncrowded beach, and creek pluff mud.
On their 2nd trip to Pawleys Island at the Happy Times, a family friend named Mary Dean Lachicotte mentioned that Sea View Inn was “quietly” for sale. While this made for interesting conversation, it was not discussed in the vein of a possible purchase at that time. However, the family did pay a visit to Sea View for some crab divine and, of course, an opportunity to “check it out” during their summer week. They believed it was a really unique and special place, and they made particular note of the “tag bar” that was on the back porch.
Once they crossed the causeway and departed Pawleys that season, the conversation about Sea View Inn did not resurface again until the summer of 2001. At that time, the Henrys lived just north of downtown Atlanta and on the south side of “Buckhead”. They felt like they “would win the lottery” if they could make this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a reality. They believed that their combined talents would be ideally suited us for such an endeavor. Sassy’s culinary talent, knack for planning great parties, and undeniable style; coupled with Brian’s business experience, charismatic personality, and service background…why not? They would sell themselves to Page as a “package deal”. That decision to “go for it” led to a memorable first meeting with Page over lunch at the inn in August 2001. Then followed numerous phone calls, overnighted proposals, and an unwavering hope that they could successfully overcome the odds and reach a deal. And on December 7th, they met with Page Oberlin and were informed that they were the ones. The “Pawleys Pull” was irresistible.They loaded up their belongings, 1 and 3 year old daughters and headed for Pawleys.
They left behind a house full of furniture and belongings in hopes they would later return to retrieve it once they found a home of their own. They spent the first week staying in the Cottage. Brian took charge of business operations, marketing, reservations, website, newsletters, and guest host, while Sassy focused on food planning and preparation, flowers, decorating, and also guest hosting.
Myrtle and Vertrella have been the cooks at Sea View since the early 1980’s. Their brand of lowcountry cuisine and consistent hands in the kitchen have made Sea View’s menu a favorite of Sea View guests and visitors alike. Upon arriving in 2001, Sassy Henry change the menu to include more meals that Myrtle and Vertrella would cook at their houses, and this has been very well received by the staff and guests.