Remember 1004 Alamo? Historic N. Charleston house used to look far worse before renovation

Brad Nettles/StaffDanielle Nichols and her dad are restoring this 1910 home at 1004 Alamo Street in North Charleston.

The unusual A-frame house at 1004 Alamo St. is considered one of North Charleston’s oldest surviving homes, built more than a half century before this city was a city.

And that’s one reason why its vacant and deteriorating condition was watched warily by Park Circle neighbors.

It’s highly visible, the first house seen by those approaching the neighborhood from the south on either Virginia Avenue or Noisette Boulevard. It is believed to be among the first built, sometime between 1910 and 1915, as the first neighborhood took shape north of the then-new Charleston Naval Base.

This house also played a role in more recent history, as an example of why the city should create a new historic district in this area.

The city took that step several years ago, passing a new ordinance that aims to safeguard the integrity of older homes by not allowing incompatible new ones next door.

For all these reasons, the home’s recent renovation is welcome news.

Danielle Nichols, a real estate agent, toured the house last year and quickly knew that she needed to convince her father, Chris, and his business partner Richard Huss, who are veterans of a few dozen home renovations, to take the plunge.

“This is probably the coolest house I’ve ever been in,” she says.

Not only is its A-frame atypical for the Lowcountry but its sunroom entrance and stuccoed gable are equally eye-catching. Its size, about 2,300 square feet, and details are a bit different than many of the older bungalow-style homes along the street.

A 1995 historical and architectural survey of North Charleston doesn’t single out 1004 Alamo but does talk about the significance of its Olde North Charleston neighborhood, a 1,516-acre planned community largely laid out and partly built during the first half of the 20th century.

The 1004 Alamo house sits on one of 129 lots in the city’s new neighborhood conservation district, 52 of which have homes built before 1956. While the district’s creation would likely block the house’s demolition, it didn’t assure its sensitive renovation.

Chris Nichols says he didn’t need historical review from the city since the work didn’t involve any changes to the house’s footprint. “They’re much more flexible than the city of Charleston,” he says. “I think it’s very positive.”

The Nichols’ renovation tried to keep those most distinct elements, and they even preserved the two-car garage, which was near collapsing.

Inside, they took a freer hand, as years of neglect and a prior conversion into multiple units had taken a toll. All the wiring, plumbing and heating and air were replaced, along with the roof and many windows. Also, they removed some wall sections to make the first floor living space feel larger, with a bit more of an open plan.

“We cleaned things up, getting them more livable for the next home buyer,” she says. “You’ve got to find that balance between keeping the original feel of the house but allowing people to live in it the way they’d want to today.”

Several historical details survive, such as the original fireplaces (though they’re not operable), a manual doorbell, as well as hardwood floors and wainscoting. One of the upstairs kitchen sinks was moved downstairs and now serves as a laundry sink, and the original clawfoot tub was preserved, inside a large glass-enclosed shower.

The Nichols took advantage of air conditioning by expanding the second floor into space that previously was an attic.

Some of the original windows were used in a new privacy fence that helps shield the backyard from the traffic along Virginia Avenue, while a bay window above the kitchen sink gives anyone doing dishes there a front-row seat to passing traffic.

The house shows how Charleston’s preservation ethic is moving northward, and it also could illustrate how property values are migrating upward as well. Danielle Nichols says she soon will list the renovated house — bought last year for $145,000 — for $535,000.

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre.