The 2021-22 Guide to Richmond Hill, Georgia 2021-22 - Page 82

PLAY LIKE A LOCAL
are much needed to restore the mansion to its former state of beauty . Ford ’ s laboratory , a former rice mill in which the first Ford-Ferguson tractor was assembled , has been similarly neglected . The walls of the once-beautiful garden have crumbled . The garden itself , like the grounds around it , is overgrown with weeds .”
Local resident Dan Collins remembers that time , “ The rumor was that the mansion and course would be the home of the LPGA . During the early stages of the course development , a worker was killed in an accident out there that shut the operation down . A developer / investor ( A . G . Proctor Co .) from St . Simons bought the property and turned the mansion into a restaurant .” Though short-lived , the restaurant brought new life to the old Ford mansion .

The 1980s brought a new decade of change . This time , it was Saudi Arabian businessman Ghaith Pharaon who was enchanted by the “ beauty , splendor and serenity ” of Richmond Hill Plantation , then on the National Register of Historic Places . In 1981 , Pharaon purchased the partially restored home and accompanying 1,800 acres . He began an extensive restoration of the home , which included replacing over 500 windowpanes , refurbishing the wood floors , and returning the Savannah Grey bricks to their former glory . He also replaced the broad wooden steps leading to the entrance of the home with marble . But Pharaon made the most dramatic changes to the grounds and facade of the estate . In the book The View From Sterling Bluff , author Glenn McCaskey described some of the additions : “ On the river side of the house , a large pool with a black bottom to reflect the sky had been added . In the center of the pool stands Gazzeri ’ s 1860 marble sculpture of ‘ The Lovers .’ In the front , a pair of large , ornamental iron gates rescued from

Once a year , the Richmond Hill Historical Society strives to host a tour through The Ford Field and River Club . Watch Reflections Community Calendar for a future tour to be announced .
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GO . SEE . DO . a New Orleans mansion has been installed to give a sense of entry . Gardens with life-size statuary and fountains have been created . Stables for Arabian stallions and Argentinian Polo ponies were installed .” Despite not a golfer himself , Pharaon was the one to finally create the golf course that developers had been dreaming about for 40 years . He hired renowned golf course architect Pete Dye to create a state-of-the-art course for a reported cost of $ 11 million . Once again , the antebellum rice fields-turned lettuce fields had been reclaimed , this time as one of the finest golf courses in the south .

In August , 1991 , Peter Applebome reported for The

New York Times that some of Pharaon ’ s parties at the Richmond Hill Plantation were just as lavish as his yard decor . “ In the 1980s , the rich and famous — Saudi princes , Pakistani financiers , Chinese television stars and American politicians from Alexander Haig to Andrew Young — flocked here to an improbable social whirl that updated the Great Gatsby to the era of Eurodollars , international trade , arms dealers and drug cartels . Mr . Pharaon is said to have booked every limousine from Jacksonville to Charleston for his out-of-town guests , and people remember them roaring down Ford Avenue to the Pharaon mansion .”
While in Richmond Hill , Pharaon set up headquarters for his InterRedec , holding company , in the old rice mill that Henry Ford had converted to a powerhouse and personal laboratory . Ten years after his initial purchase of the plantation , Pharaon was indicted on federal criminal charges of fraud and racketeering relating to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal .
In 1998 , yet another group of investors came calling . Sterling Bluff Associates of South Carolina purchased Richmond Hill Plantation and it ’ s 1,800 acres from InterRedec for a reported $ 47 million . Sterling Bluff Associates developed the property into a 400-home private sporting community called The Ford Field and River Club .
Today , the Fords ’ Richmond Hill residence , often referred to as the “ Main House ,” is now the crown jewel
78 A Guide To Richmond Hill Georgia | 2021