For years, the fate of the historic Admiral’s House on the former Navy base was in doubt, as the grand 1905 structure went through a series of ownership changes while sitting neglected.
Preservationists are now confident it can be restored.
In fact, the interior of the building where visiting dignitaries were once entertained could be returned to its mid-1940s heyday for a modest amount of money “and a few coats of paint,” Professor Elizabeth Ryan told North Charleston City Council members Thursday night.
Ryan led a group of students from the Clemson University/College of Charleston Graduate Program in Historic Preservation who conducted an in-depth study of the building and its history, tracking down artifacts and researching things like the official Navy allowances for furnishings.
While they concluded that the interior of the building is in pretty good shape, it’s the exterior that poses expensive challenges.
The building is now back in North Charleston’s hands, following a recent settlement involving former Navy base land and the location of an intermodal rail yard. S.C. Public Railways, a division of the Commerce Department, owned the building before the settlement.
Now the city is considering a proposal from the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority that would involve the RDA taking charge of stabilizing the Admiral’s House structure, as part of a larger plan involving a number of historic buildings on the former base.
The RDA, which previously had an agreement with S.C. Public Railways involving several of the buildings, has committed up to $1 million to study, design and implement a stabilization plan for the Admiral’s House, and already has hired a firm to start that analysis.
Going forward, one question is what the building will ultimately be used for.
The graduate students’ preservation plan suggested that the building should be used as an event venue, as it often was.
“Any guests at the base would have stayed or been entertained at this house,” student Wendy Madill told council members.
The Naval Order of the United States, a history and heritage society, likes the restoration and event venue plan, said Don Campagna, a member of the group who attended the council meeting.
“We love what they’ve done,” he said.
Mayor Keith Summey said the city will consider the plan as work on the building moves forward.