Buyer identified for Charleston mansion

Josiah Smith Tennent House in 2008.

The city of Charleston has found a buyer for a historic mansion downtown that officials have been trying to sell for some time.

Local attorney Akim Anastopoulo is slated to buy the four-story, 1859-era Josiah Smith Tennent House at 729 East Bay St.

The working purchase price is $1.2 million, according to city documents, which is less than the $1.4 million price the city paid in 2008.

Anastopoulo made the offer as part of an auction process the city has been running for some time. It was the only offer to come forward through two attempts.

If the bid is accepted, Anastopoulo expects to move in as many as 60 employees from his current office in North Charleston.

A key attraction point, he said, was securing that large a space - some 10,000 square feet - under one roof.

"It's really hard to find that kind of square footage downtown," he said.

The house is considered significant because of its historical and architectural link to the wealth that emerged in that part of the city before the Civil War.

The purchase offer will be considered next week by City Council's real estate committee.

Councilman Aubry Alexander, who heads the committee, said he wanted to discuss the offer with staff before deciding whether to endorse it.

In 2008, Charleston spent $1.4 million to buy the house when it was facing foreclosure. Previously, the building had fallen on hard times. In 1993 the building was owned by the city and was little more than an empty shell. At its worst condition, it was used as a garage for city trucks.

Recovery came when the city gave the property to the nonprofit group Elpis, an affiliate of the Rev. Dallas Wilson's Agape Ministries. Restoration followed. But the efforts could not be maintained. In 2008, Elpis defaulted on the mortgage, and the city stepped in.

City officials tried to keep the site going in recent years, including by leasing space to nonprofit groups.

One especially notable feature is that the small front yard of the building became the Philip Simmons Children's Garden, honoring the master blacksmith.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.