131 Broad St. — Italianate style home, which traces roots to ‘Unionist’ lawyer Petigru, effectively melds upscale perks and historic looks

This 19th century house where prominent lawyer James Petigru lived faces Broad Street. Leroy Burnell/staff 1/9/2014

James L. Petigru died in Charleston nearly 151 years ago, a noted jurist who found himself outnumbered in his home town on the polarizing issues of the day.

Petigru was S.C. Attorney General in the 1820s, and as a “Unionist” would oppose the state’s “Nullifiers” and later secessionists.

He mused before the Civil War that secession was a “Lost Cause.” After the state seceded in 1860, he uttered the widely circulated remark, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”

Born in the Upstate, he moved to Charleston in middle age and lived on property that now encompasses 131 Broad St., not far from the city’s legal center.

According to a master-in-equity petition at the time, Petigru’s house stood at the corner of Broad and Friend (now Legare) streets. New Yorker William Laugley would build the existing 131 Broad Street house there in 1880.

Yet just as Petigru’s political legacy remains, his property stands the test of time. What’s now known as the Petigru-Laugley house “boasts as fascinating a history as the city itself,” says Dan Ravenel, owner of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty.

Among the fascinating aspects are the painstaking efforts of the home’s owners in the past three decades to not only preserve the four-bedroom house but restore a living room-parlor ceiling, first level piazza and kitchen chimney to its 19th century looks and style.

The Italianate/Victorian style house, lodged near the corner of Broad and Legare streets, lists for sale at $1,395,000.

“Almost 30 years we made our home here,”says Brenda Dukes, who with her husband own the two-story 3,298-square-foot dwelling.

“We loved it. We really feel like caretakers more than owners,” she says.

Among the “finds” over the years:

- Determined the ceilings near the front of the house weren’t original: Intricate stenciling appeared underneath after the owners pealed away layers of paint.

- Discovered the living room fireplace — which possessed a marble surround — actually had been built of slate designed in the Eastlake architectural style and covered over in later years.

- Took apart a walled-in space in the kitchen to uncover a fireplace’s proximate. The owners used original bricks and solid wood mantel, which had been kept in a pile in a lower part of the house, to rebuild the fireplace.

- Restored the main floor piazza to extend past the dining room on one end and to the front of the house on the other. It had been blocked off when the property was turned into a boarding house sometime after World War I.

The couple also did extensive landscaping, including to a manicured courtyard in back. “The camellias are very old,” perhaps 100 years, Dukes says.

“This is as perfect a location that you can get,” Ravenel says. He noted the federal post office as well as city hall, county courthouse and St. Michael’s church are in walking distance. King Street stands two blocks away.

“I think we are on a wonderful situation here in Charleston. The house is in excellent condition. You are going to have people driving by, (but) it’s not loud.” says Ravenel, who likewise lives on Broad Street.

He cites a host of features that show off the home’s at once historic and modern traits.

A metal roof, wood siding, brick patio and off-street parking highlight the exterior. On the first floor, French doors lead to porches. The interior includes heart pine floors and crown molding with gold and silver highlights. There’s a formal dining room with fireplace, powder room and smallish sitting room. The modern kitchen touts a gas cooktop and range, refrigerator, dishwasher and built in microwave. There’s also washer and dryer connections.

Distinguishing the second floor: the master suite with sprawling bedroom and large bath, three guest bedrooms and a shared bath with clawfoot shower- tub combination.

Dukes says the residence offers special features for potential buyers. “The master bedroom is on the front of the house, (offering) views.” Meanwhile the property sports a main staircase as well as a back set of stairs off the kitchen leading to bedrooms. “That’s one of the things that sells it,” she says. “You have the back staircase.”

The house sits on the south side of Broad Street. From downtown, take Ashley Avenue heading south and turn left on Broad just past Colonial Lake. Go about five blocks. On the right is 131 Broad St., across from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.

Agent: Dan Ravenel

Office: Daniel Ravenel and Associates Sotheby’s International Realty

Phone: 843-343-5944

Philosophy: As a ninth generation Charlestonian, Dan grew up in the Historic District and has long been a civic leader. His deep interest in real estate ethics has led him to chair several appropriate committees of Realtors and he serves as a mediator to resolve disputes between his colleagues.