Written by Jason Dougherty

On April 27, 2020

The River House at Crane Island

My Great Aunt Bimbie owned a weather-worn antebellum southern estate on deep water. In truth, its modesty held much in contrast to the image calling it an estate might conjure. We all referred to it simply as The Waterhouse. A century of great trees held council there. An ancient but sturdy dock ran from the edge of the open yard to the deepest of the blue green waterway. A coal-burning stove

– retrofitted for gas – squatted like a grinning, stone Buddha statue in the kitchen. The kitchen spilled out through sliding glass onto the back porch, providing the company of visitors assembling cold plates and those lounging in the sun uninterrupted space to chatter. Anyone might arrive at any moment. “Children, may I introduce Ms. Adair. She has just returned from a photography safari on the continent! She’s on her way to Charleston and brought me this lovely cape. The Triumph parked out front is hers. Don’t tinker with it!”

My aunt had been a professor of art history, then a curator, then an unpedigreed member of an informal consortium of southern eccentrics, artists, inventors, and philanthropists. For our extended family and a revolving cohort of best friends as we grew up, it was the place to which we clamored each spring. During summer’s dog days, we lingered on vague timelines. Our family once arrived for a week, my parents returned to the city, and we kids stayed the entire month of July. We stayed up late among the fireflies and napped through the afternoon’s heat. Our days there were saturated with sun, conversation, games, exercise, pranks, and floating on the water, as lazy as clouds. And, there were stories, told and retold. Relics who passed in and out of our young lives. I wondered often; can it be true? It was a time as fantastical as a sea voyage, as daring as a mountain climb, floodlit by the enchantment of prospect.

The Riverhouse is nestled at the heart of the Crane Island community. Crane Island’s character is discovered in its flow. The source of its design is derived from a sense of belonging. Its terms are set by the trees, the marsh, and the waterway on which it rests. It speaks in a grammar of stone, wood, sand, and water. It tells a tale. Inspired by the Dog Trot architecture of the deep south, it offers an invitation to something remembered, to something felt, a return to the freedom of being under the sun, at the water’s edge, among family – old and new. It is a place to celebrate, eat, sit, visit, exercise or idle. It is a place to run into somebody intriguing, grab a beer from the communal fridge and hear a new story.

THE GATHERING HALL: Great Aunt Bimbie’s kitchen was standing room only. In the next room was a wall of books around a great fireplace. The Riverhouse brings a fully functional kitchen and the hearth together into a spacious, airy great-room designed to gather, to prepare food and to eat it together, to fling open the doors onto the poolside patio and stay awhile.

FITNESS ROOM: Ships afloat too long in harbors gather barnacles. They are designed to move across water, for the weather and the open sea. Our bodies were made to move. The Riverhouse functional fitness center is equipped with the necessities you need to maintain mobility, get a good sweat on, or to dig deep and push your limits. Finish a good workout. Cool down in the breeze at the dock’s edge.

INFINITY POOL: The pool is designed perfectly to swim laps. It also has a wide entrance ideal for wading and cooling off. Running parallel to the waterway, its primal call is to return to the water.

Swimming is a choreography of ergonomic movement, economy, and breath. Reach. Stretch long like a blade. Pull. Breathe. A swimmer must let go to glide on the water’s terms. Trying too hard creates struggle and exhaustion. It holds a lesson about living. Along the pool’s infinity edge, in full view of the waterway, one might imagine he or she is swimming the wild waters – The English Channel perhaps – without the perilous currents or hypothermia!

THE DOCK: It is not out of the question that one summer evening, a patio full of residents, sporting scattered garb from swimsuit to seersucker, may witness a mysterious gentleman approach by water just in time for cocktail hour. From a distance, he slices at speed in approach. Then he slows, idling what appears to be a fully restored Chris Craft Runabout waving a Jolly Roger. The man bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Bond. He ties up, steps to, buttons his blue club blazer and asks, “Crane Island, I presume?” Equipped with a no-profile slip, the dock is designed to meander along and to relax on the water, but also to open the waterway to exploration, marine ferrying and grand entrances.

BOCCE: Along the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas, the Romans are rumored to have played a convivial sport now known as Bocce. It is a game of emperors, masons, and fishermen. On a court of natural soil, compacted flat, participants wage battles for prestige, bragging rights, and for the one throw of the afternoon that flies and falls as though I was born to do this. Just like they did in the days of the Roman Empire, Crane Island’s residents and guests bowl beneath the sun, the Intercoastal expanding before them with its reminders and promises.

FIRE PIT: Why is it that humans stare at flame? Entranced, the world around becomes silent. In the ancient world, one of four elements. A reminder. Fire was not invented, it was discovered. It is a mere spark pulled from the inferno of the universe. In a cozy nook by the water, at the patio’s edge, there is a quiet place to sit by the fire.

The Riverhouse is a microcosm within Crane Island. It summarizes life here. As I move or rest, speak or listen, observe, and absorb, a knowing settles. I sense at once that I have I both arrived here and that I have been here all my life. Possibly, I have finally returned.

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At the center of the community, we memorialize Miss Alice with Alice Park. All of Crane Island was once her park. We cherish a space at its very heart, in Alice’s name, to remember that no matter how far we have come, it all began here.

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At the center of the community, we memorialize Miss Alice with Alice Park. All of Crane Island was once her park. We cherish a space at its very heart, in Alice’s name, to remember that no matter how far we have come, it all began here.

Crane Island Docks

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Crane Island’s River House is the gathering place for the Island. A scale fitting of the 113 property owners who will live here. A place to meet friends, share the tales of the day. A place to work out, a place to swim a lap, a place to watch the sun go down and celebrate the day you just lived. Come and explore the details of The River House from detailed plans, animation and inspiration images. We hope you enjoy.