Santa's up on 266-year-old rooftop
A historic mansion is sporting a new lid, and it's stoking some serious holiday spirit in one of the peninsula's poshest neighborhoods.
Walking or driving near the corner of Meeting and Tradd streets, anyone who looks up can't miss Santa's big red hat adorning the rooftop of a 266-year-old Charleston home.
Rebekah Stewart, the owner of the house built in 1746, dreamed up the hat as a way to cover up a cone-shaped cupola that was added in the 1890s. That feature was part of a remodeling the house underwent to transform it to a Victorian style. The house, valued at about $2 million, is one of a kind in the neighborhood that's filled with Colonial-style structures.
“What do you do with the ugliest house in Charleston? Put a hat on it,” Stewart joked.
Tim Keane, director of planning, preservation and sustainability for the city of Charleston, said the decoration is fine.
“We do not regulate holiday decorations anywhere, including the historic districts. Our policy is to permit them everywhere,” he stated in an email.
Stewart had the tight-fitted hat custom made for the holidays. It's bright red with a white accent along its rim and a furry-looking pompom. It's 18 feet tall and 32 feet around.
“It was pretty rewarding to see it installed,” said the hat's maker, Sundance Rivera, owner of Coastal Cushion & Canvas in Mount Pleasant.
The hat took Rivera two days to design and three days to create using a vinyl-coated industrial fabric he described as having a rubberized texture.
“It's the most elaborate and largest piece I've done,” he said.
The aesthetic is only one part of the formula behind his design.
“It was unusual, but custom projects are always interesting, and the designing and engineering for the strength and integrity are a key component,” he said. “A great deal of mathematics was involved in pulling it off.”
Rivera worked hard to make sure the hat's placement would be safe, even taking wind direction into consideration when positioning the white ball. This time of year there's a prevalent northeast wind, he said, so he oriented the design of the ball on the hat to fall on the southwest side of the house.
Getting it up there wasn't as tough as it looks, said Stewart, who hired a contracting crew to put the hat up. Rivera created straps on the inside of the hat, so Stewart said it wasn't a big deal to install.
“Two hours, two men,” she said.
This holiday hat might be only the beginning for Stewart, who said for Halloween she'd like a witch hat to grace the cupola.
While Stewart's intentions might have started as a laughable attempt to disguise her home's Victorian assets, the big red hat might be spreading a little holiday good cheer as well.
“Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays, what religion you are, when you walk by and see that hat, you can't help but get a warm feeling,” Rivera said.