Historic financial building at 1 Broad St. changes hands; new owner plans restoration

The historic building at East Bay and Broad Streets that has mostly housed banks for the past 140 years will be revived soon by a Fort Mill businessman, who hopes to bring in retail on the ground floor and a family residence on the upper floors.

A historic financial building at 1 Broad St. that's been lifeless for about eight years should see some action again soon.

Its former owner Michael Bennett of Bennett Hospitality sold the 9,000-square-foot building last month for $4.8 million to Mark Beck, a managing member of the Fort Mill-based logistics firm Bridgetree Investments.

Bennett bought the building in 2004 when it was occupied by the bank formerly known as Carolina First. At the time, Bennett said it was a personal investment because he had always admired its architecture. The Broad Street building has stood vacant since Carolina First, now known as TD Bank, moved out in 2006.

Beck said he plans to renovate the building to reflect its original design, which could take up to two years.

"You have to know its history before you start restoring it, otherwise you make mistakes. So we'll be spending about six months just on planning," he said.

The first floor, which includes the basement with ornate executive offices, will likely be occupied by a wealth management firm or other financial business. The second floor may serve as office spaces, with separate residential dwellings on the top floor, Beck said.

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The brownstone was built on the East Bay Street corner in 1853 as the first Bank of South Carolina. Its architects were Edward D. Jones and Francis D. Lee, whose firm also designed the Unitarian Church on Archdale Street and the Farmers' and Exchange Bank on East Bay Street. Both are now listed as National Historic Landmarks.

"This building is one of the finest examples of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture in the United States," Beck said. "It's an exceptional building in an exceptional location."

Beck has some experience renovating historic structures, including a restoration project of an early 20th century building in Mooresville, N.C. that's now used as an office space for his data-mining firm. He said he plans to continue buying and restoring historic commercial properties throughout the Southeast.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail