The Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science is located on the Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000 acre tract of undeveloped land along the Waccamaw Neck. In 1718 the land became a colonial land grant and was sold to be further subdivided into plantations. These plantations were profitable in the production of rice until beginning of the 20th century. In 1905 Benard Baruch, a Wall Street financer and advisor to presidents, purchased the land to be used as a winter hunting retreat. He sold the land 50 years later to his daughter Belle Baruch. Upon her death in 1964, Belle created a foundation to continue managing and conserve the property for future generations. She also invited the local colleges and universities of South Carolina to to use the land as an outdoor laboratory. This invitation resulted in the creation of the Belle W. Baruch Professorship of Forestry at Clemson in 1965. The Baruch lab was established in 1968 to take better advantage of the facilities at Hobcaw. Clemson assumed responsibility for conducting research and education in forestry, wildlife science, and beach stabilization at the property. Donald Hook was appointed as the Institute director in 1973 and more scientists joined the staff in 1974 and 1975, establishing a resident program at the lab. In 1975 a tripartite agreement was made between Clemson, University of South Carolina, and the Hobcaw Foundation further solidifying the earlier arrangements made in Belle's will and between the two schools. This agreement between Clemson and USC spelled out a working relationship and responsibilities of the labs on Hobcaw.
The facilities at Baruch provides Clemson with unique research opportunities in a coastal environment with high salinity estuary marshes, brackish water, and freshwater swamps. Topics of research deal with issues such as environmental impacts for changing land use patterns, costal resource conservation, maintaining water quality, and forest and watershed management. The researchers provide information about these studies to the public and policy makers to aid in making decisions about land use and urban growth.