By Robert Salvo

Good or bad, every built space has a personality. Perhaps its Craftsman cottage charm. Or masonry-built Colonial character. Others have Contemporary panache. We’ve even seen a McMansion or two with outright schizophrenia. Rare indeed is the home that’s a Hollywood-starlet kind of take-your-breath-away showstopper.

But if you’re lucky enough to step inside 104 Rutledge Ave., that’s exactly what you’ll experience: Beauty to take your breath away.

You’ll likely miss it at first; sitting at the corner of Rutledge and Bull, the understated neoclassical exterior turns its back to the street and has little to tempt the eye on the Bull street elevation. Fair enough; it trades a view — once of carriages now of cars — for a sunny southern orientation that stares directly into its own side garden. A three-story hexagonal tower fronts the two-story piazza, proof from the start that this isn’t just another Charleston single house.

Then you enter to find an interior of which more simply could not be asked. A keen eye from the present owners have lent it a pleasing color palate throughout and the hard architectural details are uplifting as well — high ceilings, fine wood floors, a striking winding stairhall and eight — eight — working gas fireplaces. And it’s here, the fireplaces, where we find the heart of 104 Rutledge’s personality — the home’s absolute showstopper.

It takes your eyes off the room’s delicate ceiling plasterwork, away from the carved molding surrounding the room and transfixes your vision on itself: A 300-year-old hand carved Italian mantelpiece of exquisite beauty and detail. The Smithsonian Institute commented on it at length in the 1930s, noting its details: “[the mantel has] a frieze and sculptured ornaments — including flowered rosettes, cornucopias, female figures garbed after the ancient fashion and other sculptured details …” They further compared it to a Georgian piece at Godmersham Park, Kent, and offered the suggestion that it likely took its Italian carver 15 years to complete. Featuring roses and lilies that look freshly plucked from some stone garden and caryatids carved not just in the front but in the back, it is, in short, majestic.

The home also bears in interesting history. Thomas Bannister Seabrook — uncle to noted South Carolina Governor Whitmarsh Seabrook and owner of an eponymous Edisto Island plantation — had it built as his Charleston residence in 1819. A cotton planter, he was married to Elizabeth Clark and had three daughters, Sarah, Elizabeth and Caroline. According to his will, 104 Rutledge was his primary residence.

Further, the will itself became a much-noted noted thing in the late 19th century. Tom Seabrook died in the 1839 and left the home to his daughter Elizabeth (it appears he was predeceased by his eldest daughter Sarah). When she died without issue, the house became part of a complicated legal battle started by Gilbert Geddes Dupont, son of Caroline Seabrook, that involved a forged will, elite handwriting experts and, finally, the state Supreme Court.

Located in calm and leafy Harleston Village, 104 Rutledge is within walking distance of the medical district, the College of Charleston and right in the middle of a vibrant and thriving residential neighborhood. It includes a detached garage with parking for two cars — an invaluable asset for urban life. The side yard sits behind a lovely stucco and iron fence and includes a number of handsome trees.

Inside there are four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. The master bath is especially noted for its luxurious scale and, yes, is home to one of those eight fireplaces. The well-appointed kitchen includes a generously-scaled island and farmhouse sink. The just-over 5,500-square foot home is currently on offer (at a notably attractive price point, too). If you’re ready to reside in a piece of Charleston history one with show-stopping flair — give Handsome Properties’ Diana Goff a call.

Mercury newspapers can be found at the following locations:


Buxton Books

Caviar & Bananas

The Meeting Street Inn (Rack)

Clair's Service Station, Folly Rd. (Rack)

Harris Teeter, Houston-Northcutt Blvd. (Rack)

Mt. Pleasant Library, Mathis Ferry Rd. (Rack)

Pitt St. Pharmacy

The Square Onion, I'On (Rack)