Ben and Jen Buy Coastal Empire Property - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/13/03

Ben and Jen Buy Coastal Empire Property

An aerial view of the couple's property. An aerial view of the couple's property.

For years the Coastal Empire has been a popular spot for making movies, and now the stars are starting to buy homes here as well. One of Hollywood's hottest couples, actor Ben Affleck and his singer-actress fiancee Jennifer Lopez shelled out millions recently, for the first two homes built on Hampton Island. It's an exclusive and reclusive hideaway near Savannah. WTOC set out to find the couple's new love nest, and found it located just 35 miles south of Savannah.

It's hidden away on a private island, so in order to see it, you have to view it from the sky. A pilot from Savannah Aviation took our crew for a fly-by. We saw twp new homes designed to look old. There's the main house and a camp home called the Oyster House, both 10,000 square feet. In all, Ben and J-lo bought up to 83 acres of property on a 2,300-acre exclusive oasis.

We found out that the couple lives just blocks from the city of Riceboro, so that's where we went. Surely Ben and Jen's next-door neighbors could point us in the right direction, so we could at least attempt to get to it from the ground. No one we spoke with knew the way, but they sure are excited about its new residents.

"That's really neat," said Riceboro resident Eric Mitchell. "It's really a nice place to come if you want to be out of the way."

It took us a while, but we finally found the entrance way to Hampton Island. We couldn't go too far. When we started seeing the no trespassing signs, we turned around and instead found one of the stars' closest neighbors, Linda Fagan.

"Never lived so close to Hollywood superstars, I probably will never see them, so it doesn't really matter," she told us. "But I'm excited to know that they are my neighbors."

Ben decided to call this place home after falling in love with the area while shooting the 1999 movie Forces of Nature in Savannah.

"This is really a nice place to live, it really is," said Fagan.

And as long as the couple lives here, Fagan's home may be a hotspot.

"I'll be kind of skeptical," she told us. "Only reason why I answered the door, because I saw you guys, WTOC-11."

Maybe we'll be just as lucky with Ben and Jen, when and if they say their I do's on the island. The couple is also building a wedding chapel on the grounds, leading many to speculate that they'll tie the knot in the Coastal Empire. When they do settle in, it won't be long before they have company. E. Wade Shealy, the developer of Hampton Island, has plans to build several multimillion dollar homes there.

Long before Hampton Island was home to the celebrity couple, it was a thriving rice plantation known as Hampton Pastures, dating back to the pre-Civil War period. In fact, several cannon entrenchments used during the war are still nearby. Slaves and Creek Indians worked the land, owned by Roswell King, the man for whom Roswell, Georgia, is named.

Today, Camp Blue Heron, a retreat for Boy Scouts and family campground, is located on property adjacent to Hampton Island. Roswell King's home was located here, while the slave quarters were actually on Hampton Island. An unmarked slave graveyard is located somewhere on the property between the main house and the island. Campers have also found the remnants of Creek Indian pottery buried on the grounds.

The site also boasts several live oak trees, some of which have been there as long as 400 years. Hampton Island and the thousands of acres surrounding it are also home to hundreds of species of wildlife ranging from deer, wild boars and bobcats to wild turkeys, wood ducks and alligators.

Reported by: Shannon Royster, sroyster@wtoc.com, & Tarcia Bush, tbush@wtoc.com

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