Visit Bellefield to Discover the Legacy of Belle Baruch
By Kimberly Duncan
In the very early 1900s, Wall Street financier and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch purchased nearly 20,000 acres overlooking Winyah Bay between Georgetown and Pawleys Island. Known as Hobcaw Barony, the property served as a family haven in summers, as well as a hunting retreat where many famous guests — Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt among them — were entertained.
Baruch’s eldest child, his daughter Belle, grew especially fond of the place she eventually came to call the “the friendliest woods in the world.” Her family’s wealth allowed Belle to travel the world but did not curb her own ambition. Although she loved her father, she did not want to live in his shadow. As a result, she worked hard to make a name for herself and tackled many endeavors most women of her time did not even dream.
In her lifetime, Belle became an acclaimed sailor, world-class equestrian and pilot. Perhaps most notably, she lived in France for nearly 20 years where she nurtured a lasting passion for horses. She took part in world-class competitions alongside men and usually walked away with top prizes. She was offered exorbitant sums of money — by Adolf Hitler and friends of Mussolini, among others — to purchase her Anglo-Arab horse, Souriant III. It is said that when the Italians approached her about buying the horse, Belle inquired how much money was in the Italian bank. Then she informed them that amount would not be enough.
Belle eventually purchased the Barony from her father and made her permanent residence on a parcel of the larger estate. She called her home Bellefield after one of the original plantations. Since Belle did not expect to entertain as frequently as her father, her home was smaller and built to accommodate the property’s magnificent old oaks. In the end, she did entertain many famous people at Bellefield. As one example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited her home for cocktail hour every day of his famous monthlong stay in the spring of 1944.
At her death, The Belle W. Baruch Foundation was created to own and operate Hobcaw Barony as a center for environmental research and education. The vision and vigilance of one woman means Hobcaw Barony will always remain an unspoiled slice of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
Throughout the month of December, guests can step back in history in a two-hour tour of Belle Baruch’s home and surroundings. As the house awaits definitive plans for restoration, these tours provide a chance to walk the grounds, see the stables, dog kennels, garage and gardens of a once stately home. The gravesite of the famous Souriant is a special site. There will even be a quick peek inside the house to help visitors understand Belle's lifestyle and love of the Lowcountry. The cost is $20 per person and reservations are required. Call 843-546-4623, or visit HobcawBarony.org to see their current schedule of tours and events.