671 Cedar Point Drive — Marsh and water sights, quaint setting highlight 19th century James Island farmhouse with mystery builder

Three palmettos flank the front of the 2,544-square-foot house at 671 Cedar Point Drive on James Island’s eastern tip (Jim Parker/Staff 3-31-2015).

At some point in the property’s past, socialites would dress up and drive their fancy cars around and check in with the neighbors.

The tract also was home to a dairy farm, and stored grain in silos for the cows.

To see 671 Cedar Point Drive today, there’s a certain recognition of the past even as newer and larger homes sprung up nearby.

The house, built in 1891, traces its roots through ownership to the 1850s. A large parking area nowadays — “you can get five cars in here,” present owner Bernard Arnold says — calls to mind the nightly drives of days gone by. Also, a grassy front yard edging docks on tidal creeks to Clark Sound calls up the image of grazing bovine, although they wouldn’t have been close to the residence.

“This is the front of the house,” says Lawrence Richard, associate broker with Carolina One Real Estate, who was instrumental in uncovering historical tidbits about the property. “You want it facing the prettiest view.”

From the side facing the marsh, houses can be seen five miles away on Folly Beach. Turn to your left, and Morris Island Lighthouse stands above a grove of trees on an island in the distance.

“When you look out there, Morris Island, that’s the exact view 100 years (ago),” says Arnold, who extensively restored the residence. There’s a private dock, reachable from a 150-yard walkway.

The 2,544-square-foot house on three levels is priced for sale at $895,000.

“My wife and I wanted an old house, on the water, but away from downtown,” Arnold says. “It was perfect for us,” he says. The couple first saw 671 Cedar Point Drive on a house-hunting tour eight years ago. “We bought it that day. It looked like my grandparents’ home (on Wentworth Street),” he says.

Even with noted Charleston architect Myles Glick overseeing design work, the renovation project took three-and-a-half years. “It’s been completely restored, original floors, heart pine,” Arnold says.

He likes the location, too. “It’s very quiet.”

Georgia Richard, Realtor with Carolina One and listing agent, says she’s impressed that the original home survived “going through all the hurricanes. I think it’s something really amazing.”

During Hurricane Hugo in 1989, water rose about three feet in the ground floor rooms. The first level dates to the origins of the house, which was built on a slab.

When the Arnolds bought the place, they renovated the ground floor to include a kitchenette, living area, bedroom and full bath. They put in granite countertops among other improvements.

Georgia Richard notes that the residence, rather than a grand plantation style home, is relatively modest.

“Average people; you and I could have built this house,” she says.

The one-of-a-kind house dramatically showcases a behemoth live oak off the back entrance. “The oak tree must be 300 years old,” Arnold notes.

Sporting four bedrooms, the house would be workable for a family or a couple who enjoys entertaining and has relatives or other overnight guests visit, Georgia Richard says.

Lawrence Richard figures that the property would be ideal for a small family.

“When we lived here, our two children lived downstairs,” Arnold says.

Another prospective buyer type: “I think people who like historical (features) and don’t want to go downtown,” Georgia Richard says. “It would be great if we could find an engineer from Boeing,” she notes. “You are not going to find (another) home like this.”

Richard believes a dwelling is “just a house,” without its tales. “When you get history, it’s the soul in there,” she says.

The Richards described the house this way in their real estate listing:

“Beautiful marsh front property with majestic views of Clark Sound and Morris Island, a scene virtually unchanged since the home’s construction over 120 years ago.” They say just a handful of residences were built on James Island during the late 1800s. Curiously, the historians can trace the property’s roots to antebellum days but can’t pinpoint who built the home.

Upgrades over the past decade or so include a Rinnai tank-less water heater, central heating and air conditioning and top-notch appliances.

According to the Richards, “This home features beautiful heart-pine floors, double front porches, two fireplaces, original wood detail in moldings and trim, plus all of the modern conveniences one would expect.”

The house sits on the right side of a cul-de-sac in the Cedar Point neighborhood. From Charleston, take the James Island Connector to the Harbor View Road exit. Make a right onto Harbor View and continue to Fort Johnson Road. Turn right on Fort Johnson and proceed to Lighthouse Road just before the James Island Soccer Club property. Turn left on Lighthouse, which becomes Stonefield Avenue. Take a left on Clipper Street, then left on Leeward Avenue before jogging right onto Schooner Road. Turn right at the end of the road and make a right on Lynne Road. Steer right at Cedar Point Drive. Ahead on the left is 671 Cedar Point Drive.

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

Agents: Georgia Richard, Lawrence Richard

Office: Carolina One Real Estate

Phone: Georgia Richard 843-270-0503; Lawrence Richard 843-270-0127

Philosophy: “We’re not just selling homes, we’re building relationships. We truly appreciate the opportunity to help each and every one of our clients, and through our passion, dedication and expertise, we strive to deliver excellence each and every time.”