308 Grove St. Developer patriarchs Charleston home boasts 30s Prairie-style design, high-end baubles
By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
Before exploring the 79-year-old brick house in Wagener Terrace with eyebrow roof line and bomb shelter, a history lesson may be in order.
John Charles Long married Alberta Mary Sottile in summer 1933 and the couple lived in the house at 308 Grove St. from 1934 to 1952.
Relocating with his family from Florida when he was 15, “J.C.” Long would emerge as a prominent developer, buying all the vacant land on the Isle of Palms to fashion a family vacation resort, building suburban Charleston neighborhoods such as Byrnes Downs, Ashley Forest and Waylyn and framing high-rise apartments including the Sergeant Jasper and Darlington (now Joseph Floyd Manor).
Alberta Long, daughter of developer Albert Sottile, would stay active in a host of community causes. The couple would raise two daughters at 308 Grove St., and both girls would marry. In the early 1950s, the Longs moved to Seaside Farms east of the Cooper.
J.C. Long’s real estate business continues as The Beach Co., run by an extended family including in-laws and grandchildren. The venture remains an influential developer, builder and home seller.
All the while, the Long’s first house at the corner of Wagener and Grove has gone through various transformations. The latest incarnation brought the house back to its roots: the owners wove in modern perks such as an updated kitchen while meticulously reclaiming the residence with original looks and feel.
“It’s like we are in a museum,” says Sis Marshall, listing agent with John Poston and Co. The 2,396-square-foot house, two blocks from the Ashley River, is on the market for $589,000.
J.C. Long, she says, had the wherewithal to build most any type of house he wanted. He chose the mission (or craftsman or Prairie) style, popularized in the 1930s by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Today’s owners restored the home in that style. They scraped off 18 layers of paint, replaced the wiring and otherwise took steps to make the property safe and useable while exposing the home’s original charm. Both when the house was built and in its restoration, the owners paid close attention to every detail.
Arched doorways and oak floors with mahogany inlay downstairs and pine upstairs are among the eye-catching features. There are unique ceiling styles from room to room: a diamond-shaped drop-down in the main hallway, oval-shaped indentation in the living room and a baffling curved ceiling in the dining room.
The octagonal glazed bay sunroom topped by a white-columned overlay dates to the home’s origins. The uncommon room touts folding French doors to close it off from the spacious living room, which showcases a decorative fireplace.
Stairs lead to a basement that could be converted to a wine cellar. One room has 18-inch thick concrete protection: It was built as a bomb shelter prior to World War II. “There’s electricity, everything,” Marshall says. “During a hurricane, you would be totally safe,” she says.
Underpinning the kitchen are stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, maple cabinets and lithe, brownish cork floors. “Nothing breaks, plus it’s good on your feet,” Marshall says. Off the kitchen is a small breakfast room.
The residence comprises three bedrooms upstairs, and extra storage space is reachable by ladder in the attic. The master bedroom is in the front west corner where oaks overhang. “That is my favorite room,” Marshall says. “This is in the trees.”
The two bathrooms upstairs were remodeled in keeping with the ’30s time period. The master bathroom has a small but significant feature showcasing the Longs’ wealth and stature in Depression-era times. “Two shower heads: Is that not unreal?” she says.
Off the back of the house is a “beautiful” brick deck and terrace, crafted in 2006, that’s landscaped with perennial shrubs and flowers, she says. Also on the deck is a large-sized storage shed.
The deck separates the house from the original garage, which has been turned into a 400-square-foot efficiency apartment with a bedroom, bath and small kitchen. In front, the large yard sports oaks, a lemon tree and a fig tree.
Among the architectural treats, the residence has a low-sloped hip and gable roof and projecting eaves. The “most distinguishing feature,” Marshall says in her listing, is on the second floor. It’s a barrel-shaped pent roof over an arched tripartite (three part) window. There’s also the curved eyebrow-like roofline that hooks around front windows.
Marshall says anyone interested in architecture, notably the Prairie and mission styles, could be possible buyers. Another perk is the house is minutes from downtown.
“It’s open, light and airy, even though it was built in 1933,” she says.
The J.C. Long house is on the west side of Wagener Terrace. Follow Rutledge Avenue north from the Crosstown. Go about a mile, passing Hampton Park, and take a left on Grove Street. Proceed six blocks. On the right at the corner with Wagener Avenue is 308 Grove St.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agent: Sis Marshall
Office: John Poston & Co.
Philosophy: “I love real estate because I can help clients buy or sell their ‘perfect home’ as I listen to their needs, while being tenacious and producing results they want in an ethical and professional manner.”