A historic pre-Revolutionary War house that served as a principal Confederate headquarters during the Civil War fetched the second-highest amount ever for a residential property on peninsular Charleston on Tuesday.
The James Simmons House at 37 Meeting St., a stately gray mansion guarded by ornate wrought iron gates, sold for $7.51 million, according to Lyles Geer of William Means Real Estate, which handled the sale for the sellers. Robert and Melissa Smith, who live on the peninsula, bought the home after deciding to relocate, Geer said.
“This house is a historic gem in the heart of downtown Charleston,” Geer said. “The rare architecture, beautiful gardens and storied past make this house a classic Charleston home.”
Robert Smith hails from the Baltimore-area family that started and still controls Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., one of the nation’s largest television station owners. Among the Hunt Valley, Md.-based company’s holdings are the local ABC affiliate in Mount Pleasant, WCIV-TV 4.
Smith has been on Sinclair’s board of directors since 1986, and he worked as vice president and treasurer of the company from 1988 to 1998. He left after starting RSMK LLC, a commercial real estate investment business, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
He owns about 20 percent of the voting stock of the broadcasting giant, which has 172 stations in 81 U.S. markets.
The James Simmons House, an 8,384-square-foot residence, was previously owned by William and Nancy Longfield, who bought the house for nearly $7.4 million in 2009, the highest ever in downtown Charleston at that time.
The latest sale is not the highest ever for the peninsula, though it comes close. The Colonel John Ashe House at 32 South Battery changed hands for $7.72 million last year.
The history of the 37 Meeting St. property dates back to the 1760s when Charleston attorney James Simmons had the structure built. In the 1800s, it served as the residence of noted Charleston merchant Otis Mills, builder of the nearby Mills House.
The home features a Georgian-era floor plan with a central hall and four flanking formal rooms. In the mid-19th century, a double-breasted addition to the facade made it a rarity in what is now the historic district.
After the earthquake of 1886, the house was categorized as “badly injured” in city records and in need of a “thorough overhauling.” The house sustained $3,750 worth of damage to the exterior walls and chimneys — the equivalent of about $100,000 today. At the time, the house was the primary residence of Confederate Army leader James O’Conner.
In 2000, the house underwent a major exterior restoration.
Geer said the high-end market “is especially strong for homes that are fully renovated. The homes that require a lot of renovations don’t sell as well. The turnkey homes are the ones I see selling more frequently.”
John McDermott of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 843 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.