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26 Church Street: The James Watt House is renovated, modern and ready for move-in

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There are a number of stunning historic homes in downtown Charleston.

The architecture and the finishes in these homes are irreplaceable. When you find one where the owners not only cherish and preserve the significance of these treasures, but bring in modern, move-in ready elements, the result is priceless perfection.

The James Watt house built in 1794 was recently renovated and the renovation included modernizing the most crucial aspects of such a landmark home – electrical, plumbing and structural components that needed to be done in order to bring it up to 21st century living. Located in one of the most sought-after areas in Charleston, it has always been an integral part of the Historic District.

“This pocket of the Historic District is filled with tucked away alleys, hidden gardens and patinated pre-revolutionary homes,” said Lyles Geer of William Means Real Estate. “People travel from all over the world to see this part of Charleston.”

On the corner of Church and Atlantic Streets, the regal home has double piazzas and the quintessential Charleston front door that leads onto the front, ground level piazza. What hasn’t changed is its original stone façade – through vastly improved and shored up to meet modern-day codes, the home’s personality is pure genteel Charleston.

The renovation -- exterior

“It was a dream-team collaboration of specialists known for upfitting historic homes responsible for the renovation,” Geer said.

That dream team included Tupper Builders and e.e. fava architects, well-known contractors and design experts of historic properties and commercial and residential projects throughout the Lowcountry. Landscape architect Glen Gardner created and oversaw renovating the grounds and gardens. Restored Charleston Grey brick patio spaces with private walled courtyards merge history and modernity.

Copper gas lanterns lend an old-world air while irrigated window boxes keep spring and fall plantings lovely year-round. A deft hand and keen eye was required to restore the original openings and piazza elements of this home. Special care was given to constructing the second floor rear balcony that overlooks the garden area.

Gardner redesigned the garden spaces to include a roomy driveway with automatic gates. The metal roof of the home was restored and repainted, as was all doors, windows and trim.

The perfect paring of old and new don’t stop there. Inside is a home that intersperses history with smart features, bringing the term “transitional” style to a whole new level.


The three-level home has been completely redone – from top to bottom. Understanding what a treasure the home was before and after its transformation, the owners applied for the prestigious Carolopolis Pro Merito Award. The award is from the Preservation Society of Charleston. To meet the stringent requirements of a Pro Merito Award, a property must have received a Carolopolis Award at least 20 years prior and maintain a high standard of preservation or undergo a second, significant exterior rehabilitation, restoration or preservation effort. The home at 26 Church Street was given the award in 2017.

The term “stunning” may be over-used, but it most assuredly applies to the interior of the home. From glossy, silver-leaf ceilings in the living and dining spaces to original chandeliers interplaying with dramatic modern lighting to restored antique sconces throughout, a nostalgic opulence is ever present.

The entry foyer has hand-painted wallpaper and heart pine flooring runs throughout, as does the original molding and wainscoting woodwork. All of the wood-burning fireplaces are operable, with the exception of the master bath. Each have custom brass inserts and the dining room fireplace has a King of Prussia marble firebox surround.

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The second floor houses the master bedroom suite. Subtle blue shows up on the smooth ceiling against creamy white walls and moldings. The master bath is nothing short of breathtaking. Large with a marble floor, double vanities, generous shower and separate soaking tub, it is an elegant masterpiece of different textures – glossy white-wood paneled ceilings, custom tiling, bricked walls and natural light everywhere. A set of French doors leads to a small porch outside. The master closet and dressing room offers tons of storage and a private living and study area complete the floor.

On the third floor are bedrooms that share a bathroom of grey-hued tile and large shower.

The rest

When asked what features of the home best marry the modern with Charleston-inspired finishes, Geer replied, “It’s hard to decide between the oversized master bath and the open kitchen. Obviously neither would be found in an original historic home of this age, yet they are integrated seamlessly.”

The heart of the home – the kitchen – is a one-of-a-kind wonderful space designed by Heidi Huddleston of Delicious Kitchens and Interiors. Original brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and a cozy sitting area with fireplace lead out to a paved patio area. French doors lead out to another outdoor area. Brass shows up on the fixtures, lighting and trim of the stove’s custom hood. Rustic open shelving, a waterfall marble island and rich teal-colored cabinetry present a playful and sophisticated vibe. Top-of-the-line appliances complete the kitchen, ideal for the home chef and lavish entertaining.

Combine smart features into the renovation and the owners of this home can lock and leave at any time. “With the touch of an iPhone app, one can turn lights on and off, change the television channel, lower the thermostat, see who rang the doorbell and turn off all the water in the house,” said Geer.

A full-service property management company ensures hassle-free solutions for second home owners, Geer said.

“This home allows for comfortable, modern living that today’s homeowner has come to appreciate and expect in a home of this caliber,” Geer said. “Incorporating the conveniences of a 21st century lifestyle while maintaining the historic character of a such a landmark Charleston home makes it very special.”

As of November 13, 2019, the 3,819 square foot home at 26 Church Street listed for $4.19 million.


Lyles Geer

William Means Real Estate, LLC


Reach Brigitte Surette at

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