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Closing Notes: Layer upon layer of history at 13 Church St.

By Robert Salvo

Charleston’s beauty is evinced in both broad strokes and in fine detail. Though a quick visit to the Holy City is enough to make lifetime memories, even the oldest of residents know the feeling of discovering a new glimpse into a hitherto unknown garden, a surprising sightline where a towering steeple sneaks into postcard-perfect view or having a fine architectural element of slight scale popping into the passerby’s consciousness.

Nowhere is this scalar blend of beauty more apparent than in the historic homes of Charleston, as a recent walk through 13 Church St. — currently on offer through Angel Wilson and Katie Coleman of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty — so vividly brought to mind.

There’s interest and charm on the grand scale, to be sure. Located far South of Broad on the picturesque brick end of Church Street, the home dates to the Revolutionary era. It served as a dwelling for such illustrious families as the Balls, the Chisolms and the Gadsdens. Its double piazza is long and deep, offering shade and cool breezes for the first and second floors. An eye-catching third floor with a unique gambrel roof (likely added in the 1880s) offers the casual onlooker bold evidence of the care that’s been given to preserve the architecture of the home over the generations.

Delightful details abound: intricately-patterned mantelpieces and period mouldings offer interest and charm. Centuries-old hand-hewn beams in the ceiling complement the original heart of pine floors still support below. Sumptuous hand-painted wallpaper adorns the stair hall. The upstairs sleeping porch provides dramatic views of the neighborhood (including a unique perspective on the Williams Mansion) while serving as a sunny and textbook lesson in exercise and use of space.

All these special layers of history have been preserved and enhanced by the current owner, from the cleverly crafted solutions in the master suite (including a cedar-lined walk-in closet and room dividers in the ensuite bath that keep the space bright and airy yet full of convenient storage) to the gourmet kitchen that blends the modern convenience of a large Viking stove, a SubZero refrigerator and Miele dishwasher with the reclaimed wood protecting the original historical fabric of the home.

Nowhere else are these layers of history more evident than in the space adjoining thet kitchen: The original kitchen house, its original interior irreparably lost to the damages of time, was stunningly rescued and repurposed into a jaw-dropping family room. Every brick was repointed, steel reinforcing beams were expertly hidden, and the space was radically transformed while maintaining an astounding level of sensitivity to the legacy of the dwelling. The resulting space is a peerless space for entertaining and everyday living, complete with four fireplaces and two tiers of windows looking out to the garden.

The large features and attention to detail make 13 Church a perfect example of the best of South of Broad living. Traces of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries echo inside the home, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the slate driveway offering off-street parking or the lush garden, dominated by two of the oldest and grandest crepe myrtles I’ve ever seen. This unique home has welcomed owners to add their own special and tasteful touches for nearly 250 years and welcomes the discerning and intelligent prospective buyer to protect and cherish it in the new millennium.

Robert Salvo is a freelance writer with a special focus on real estate.


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