Kevin Eberle served on the Preservation Society's board for many years before pushing for a tour of homes in his neighborhood near The Citadel.
The Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places around 1997, but Eberle is keenly aware that its architecture isn't as distinctively Charleston as the older parts of the city.
In fact, many of its homes resemble the kind of homes being built across the country in the early 20th century.
"There's such an embarrassment of riches downtown," Eberle says. "I love my neighborhood and do believe it's historic and all that, but it's not Tradd Street. There's no debating that."
Still, that's not to say this neighborhood is unimportant, or that it doesn't need enlightened property owners to remain intact.
So the society finally is granting Eberle's wish.
The April 26 tour of homes, priced at only $20 per person instead of the society's $45 candlelight tour price, is designed to draw more locals so they can get educated about this unique neighborhood north of Congress Street, west of Rutledge Avenue and south of Hampton Park.
If it's not the city's forgotten set of National Register homes, then it's easily the most overlooked.
While Hampton Park Terrace is dominated by American Foursquare homes (so named because they have four square rooms above three square rooms and an entrance hall), it also has a surprising architectural diversity.
Take the house at 478 Huger St., which not only sits on the middle of three large lots that together are about the same size as a football field, but its granite facade is unlike anything else downtown.
The house sat largely obscured by its overgrown shrubs until a few years ago, when Brian and Kim Ralph bought it at a foreclosure auction and began an extensive renovation.
Around 1937, the superintendent of a Standard Oil Refinery had it built for his family, and his New Jersey roots might explain why he opted for a stone facade (much more common up North, where builders actually can find quarries close by).
Among its nice touches are wrought iron window guards by blacksmith Philip Simmons, a granite-clad two-car garage and a black tile roof.
Another unusual house also on the April tour is the circa 1917 Tudor Revival home at 39 Parkwood Ave., with a brick loggia, a very open first-floor plan, a strikingly ornate slate roof — and dramatically colored powder rooms.
Eberle notes the neighborhood remained a solid middle-class neighborhood even as its demographic changed from almost exclusively white to predominantly black to the mix that it is today.
Ideally, Eberle wants some Board of Architectural Review here —not to pass on paint colors or other reversible changes —but to ensure property owners don't rip out windows or tear down their original garages —at least not without good cause.
"This tour is an opportunity to educate people that this neighborhood exists and it has meaningful architecture and historic significance," Eberle says. "This is where preservation is happening right now."
Events of interest
• Today marks the opening of the James Hoban Exhibit at the historic Charleston County Courthouse. Hoban, the architect of the White House, was in Charleston as the courthouse was being rebuilt and enlarged in the late 18th century. A full day of events and lectures are planned at the Mills House Hotel before the exhibit opening at 5 p.m.
• Indiana University professor Henry Glassie will talk about "Learning from the Vernacular" at 7 p.m. Thursday in the College of Charleston's Simons Center (Room 309). He also will sign books beginning at 6:15 p.m.
Both events are free and open to the public.
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