March 3, 2013
Contact: Maxine Lutz 843-379-3331
A restoration goal of Beaufort preservationists for thirty years has been purchased by a buyer who will begin work on the iconic historic structure within weeks.
The ca. 1852 McGrath-Scheper House at 807 North Street in the heart of Beaufort's National Historic Landmark District was purchased by Jim McCuistion of Houston Texas. It has been under lease by Historic Beaufort Foundation since 2003 and in 2005 underwent over $100,000 in stabilization repairs funded by the Foundation, a Federal grant through the SC Dept. of Archives & History and a grant by Beaufort County to the Foundation's Revolving Fund.
The highly visible one-and-a-half story cottage has attracted the attention of preservation-minded citizens and passers-by for years because it is the only remaining unrestored house of its style built in Beaufort before the Civil War. McCuistion, a frequent visitor to Beaufort, said he has repeatedly walked by it and he, "just fell in love with that little house."
The desirability of the cottage stems from its beautifully simple and classic design. Close examination reveals the quality of materials used by builder Patrick D. McGrath who bought the property and adjoining lots in 1841 from Beaufort College trustees. The interior is heart pine with single-width walls. The wide pine floors retain their deep red color. Original walls, mantles, doors and floor plan are in place, with no signs of remodeling in its 161-year history. Weather and neglect had taken a serious toll on the cottage before HBF stabilized it with a new roof, repaired piers and porch. It was last inhabited in the 1970s.
McGrath was known as "the carpenter of Beaufort" and is also thought to have built the house next door which he also owned. Historic Beaufort Foundation hopes eventually to determine what other structures he may have had a role in building during the boom of the 1840s-50s in Beaufort.
McGrath's family, including his wife Jane and children Mary and Elliott, lived in the house along with three slaves until Union troops arrived in 1861. Along with most other Beaufort properties, the property was confiscated by the Federal government in 1863 for nonpayment of $3.20 in back taxes.
McGrath died during the War and Jane McGrath redeemed their home when the confiscations were ruled illegal in the 1870s. Jane McGrath and her married daughter, Mary McGrath Powers, sold the cottage in 1875 to George Holmes, a real estate investor and local politician. It changed hands several times until McCuistion's purchase from the Julie Scheper Estate. Scheper inherited the house in the 1960s from her mother-in-law Helen Scheper who owned it and other properties in the block. HBF restored Helen Scheper's house at 502 Scott's Street in 1998.
Built in Beaufort's vernacular T-shape style, the house has two rooms upstairs over two rooms down, with a wide center hall. A small addition jutting from the rear, giving it the T-shape, is shown on the earliest insurance maps available. The addition was expanded in the 20th century to include a kitchen and bath that collapsed and were removed entirely by HBF. Plans by architect Ansley Manuel and contractor Beek Webb include replacing the addition.
"The significance of the historic district is defined as much by its smaller scale architecture as by its grander mansions," said HBF Board Chairman Conway Ivy, who steered the negotiations to put the house in the hands of a preservation-minded owner. "HBF welcomes the efforts of Mr. McCuistion to return this house to a cared-for home."