Sandee and John Wilkerson describe their River Hills home site as a “lemon.”
“This lot was on the market for 22 years before we bought it!” Sandee said. “It had a big gully running through it, and was overgrown. It was one of the last remaining empty lots in River Hills. Nobody wanted it.”
You’d never know that now.
The Wilkersons have transformed the property, located on Holly Berry Woods, by building a beautiful home that overlooks a pond and the eighth fairway on the River Hills golf course. The backyard is a piece of paradise, with a covered living area overlooking their swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees and a view of the golf course.
Sandee and John were two of the “original” residents of River Hills. John, about to celebrate his 90th birthday later this summer, is a York County native.
“I grew up in Hickory Grove, one of eight children,” said John. He graduated from Clemson University, and served in the Navy during World War II. He and his brother started Wilkerson Fuel Company in Rock Hill, providing oil and gas to homeowners and businesses.
“My whole family was made up of entrepreneurs,” he said.
The Wilkerson brothers sold the fuel company, and John moved his family to River Hills in the early 1970s to “retire.” However, his retirement didn’t last long.
Sea Pines Plantation Company, a resort developer out of Hilton Head, was developing River Hills at that time. When Sea Pines pulled out in the late 1970’s, a friend convinced John to take over real estate sales for the development. He got his real estate license and purchased River Hills Plantation Realty Sales from Sea Pines. He operated the company from his office near the marina for a couple of years.
“Once River Hills became more developed, it made sense to move the realty office outside the gates. We renamed the company First Properties of the Carolinas, and built an office in Lake Wylie and another in Tega Cay,” said John. The Lake Wylie building is across from River Hills, and has several office suites that have housed many businesses over the years. The Lake Wylie Pilot and the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce were originally located in the Wilkersons’ building.
John sold the agency and retired, again, in 2004.
Having watched River Hills and all of York County grow and change around him, John researched and wrote a history booklet about York County. He has been very involved in building and bettering the community of Lake Wylie.
Meanwhile, Sandee had moved from Miami to the Lake Wylie area to work with the Sea Pines Company as a sales agent. She remembers operating out of the old Belk Mansion, located in what now is River Hills. Later she went to work as a realtor for Allen Tate.
“John and I were actually competitors!” she laughed. She and John married about 20 years ago. Sandee now works for First Properties at the office on Highway 49.
They got married at John’s home on Heritage Drive in River Hills. “Since we both knew so many people, we had about 250 guests. Parking was a challenge, so we rented several limos and shuttled people from a parking lot outside of River Hills.” The Wilkersons continued to live in that home for about three years.
John and Sandee had each moved around a few times within River Hills, and were ready for a new home for John’s “real” retirement. They searched for a while, looking for an existing home or perhaps one to renovate. “We knew what we wanted,” said Sandee, “and decided that we wanted to build.”
From their experience in real estate, they were able to visualize real possibility for the “lemon lot” on Holly Berry Woods. The location on the golf course and view of the pond were a plus, and the challenging topography could be graded to suit. Their new home, built by Shannon Miller, was completed in 2001.
The Wilkerson’s home was truly designed with entertainment in mind. With such a beautiful setting, the outdoor area is a showplace. The pool was designed with built-in seating in the shallow areas, so a dozen people could sit and relax in the water. For parties and special occasions, the pool has a fountain in the center that can be turned on.
A covered porch overlooks the pool, with a dining area and additional seating around a fire pit. In warm weather, the fire pit can be covered with a table top.
The front door of the Wilkerson’s home is glass, and as guests approach they can look straight through the foyer to the outdoor porch and pool on the opposite side.
The Wilkersons spend a lot of time outdoors sitting by the fire to keep them toasty in the wintertime, and lounging in the pool to keep them cool in the summer. They even have an outdoor television and stereo system to enjoy while they’re on the porch.
Inside, the Wilkersons designed the home for single level living, with guest rooms upstairs. The master bedroom is on the main level, and overlooks the pool.
“I love waking up to that view every day,” said Sandee.
The spacious great room incorporates the kitchen, living, and an eating area. There’s a formal dining room for special occasions, but Sandee and John spend the majority of time in the great room when they’re indoors. The Wilkersons have been fortunate enough to travel to many places around the world, and large framed pictures from their vacations decorate the home.
“The pictures remind us of happy memories,” Sandee said.
They entertain frequently, and most parties flow inside and out.
“Once we were asked to host a party to introduce Nikki Haley, long before she was governor. I think we had over a hundred people here,” said Sandee. “We’ve had some good times in this home!”