As a young sailor home on shore leave, I once took my pet dog on a very long walk. I knew it had a beginning (morning) and an end (darkness) but the bit in between was indistinct and unplanned. Historic Restoration is a similar experience. It has a beginning and an intended result but in between runs a path that can be a bit of a ramble. We recently took this journey, as we took the historic Gadsden House and returned it to its elegant former glory. Here are some highlights ...
We will soon obtain a final Certificate of Occupation for the Gadsden House. Work is now completed and since has hosted a handful of large successful events. An air of calmness pervades the site as the old home now sits comfortable and resplendent in her new clothes. A property that over the past two centuries has weathered a storm or two and although well-loved of late, now has seen the necessary investment and resources to return it to its place in history.
At the height of the renovation we were operating around 1000 man hours per week over a 6-day week of 12 hour days. We found some 2000 feet of 200 year old heart pine to match and replace floors, 2000 old Charleston bricks to repair a crumbling garden wall, 0.5 tons of hydrated lime to repair walls, 52 windows were removed and 50 restored to working order. We made 11 foot height 6 panel doors, a Federal era fireplace, crown molding an exact match to the original and many new ceiling medallions where history had been lost. All doors were removed, repaired and new hardware added. Phillip Simmons gates were restored and other ironware repaired or renewed. Over 30 trees were planted around the grounds to add privacy and shade where there was none before. Piazza columns were all structurally restored and the roof line leveled as well as the deck bolted through in to the house. Re-coated roves, new HVAC, wiring, plumbing - no system left untouched.
We found a child’s toy lead soldiers behind walls and Indian Head pennies in cracks. We found coins and bottles and horse shoes in the yard. The cellar yielded Sharps Rifle ammunition and spent bullets. Under the piazza stairs we found 2500 year-old shards of pottery from the Woodland people. The old home was generous in how she gave up her secrets. We even had a distant descendant of Christopher Gadsden attend a party, hearing aid in hand!
Generous also was the help given by Historic Charleston Foundation and various departments within the City of Charleston as well as the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) in support of our work. Generous was the support from the Ansonborough neighborhood whose members often called to view progress and the wider population for their interest in our regular blog posts chronicling the work.
A good restoration from our crew and a now a grand event facility for the people of Charleston, standing ready and welcoming for busy wedding seasons ahead. Weddings are a fitting life for this venue - they are all about hope, happiness, love and the future. What a beautiful use for such a new and splendid Charleston town home.
Thank you all for your support along the journey.
NOTE: We've created a short film to share the restoration journey that this grand old house underwent. Take a look at our documentary "The Revival of the Gadsden House."
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