High-end Charleston real estate agency lists 280-year-old ‘historically significant’ residence at 59 Church St. for $5.6 million

Georgian architecture spotlights the two story Thomas Rose House built around 280 years ago at 59 Church St. downtown (Provided).

A drawing room extends the length of the 18th century house; yellow pine floors and cypress and walnut paneling gleam; and Georgian architecture dominates.

Meanwhile, owners added double porches close to a century after the initial construction, and such Charleston luminaries as architect Albert Simons and landscape architect Loutrel Briggs preserved and enhanced the property in later generations.

All this belongs to one property: the Thomas Rose House. Dating to around 1735 as “one of Charleston’s best preserved colonial dwellings,” the 59 Church St. address went on the market in March. The 4,239-square-foot home lists for $5.6 million. Helen Geer, owner of William Means Real Estate, is the selling agent (helengeer@williammeans.com or 843-224-7767).

The agency, which prepared a full history of the Thomas Rose House, calls 59 Church “one of Charleston’s most historically significant properties today.”

According to William Means, “the house has retained many of its original architectural elements, including extensive interior wood paneling, decorative mantelpieces and a unique full-width second-story drawing room unlike any other in the city.”

Another standout feature: “The building is associated with Charleston’s earliest acts of historic preservation,” according to William Means Real Estate. The house stands as one of the first residences included within Charleston’s Historic District. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The property consists of a double lot, and features an expansive Loutrel Briggs-designed garden and original outbuildings,” the agency notes. “The rear piazza enclosures and an addition to connect the outbuildings with the main house have allowed for extra living space without jeopardizing the dwelling’s esteemed historic character.”

The house preserves much of its original look, William Means Real Estate notes.

“The asymmetrical floor plan, yellow pine floors and simple yet robust paneling of cypress and walnut, the preferred material for finer Charleston woodwork prior to 1740, appear much as it was when Rose constructed the dwelling,” the agency points out in a colorful 25-page brochure of the house. “This is especially true in the larger first-floor front room, which retains an original mantel and wall paneling,” it says.

“One of the most striking interior features, however, is the second floor drawing or dining room, which stretches the entire width of the house and is the earliest surviving example of this plan in Charleston.”

The property cites a number of unusual or one-of-a-kind features. For instance, the Thomas Rose House was built on a lot granted through the King’s Lords Proprietor to Elizabeth Willis in 1680 — “one of the few grants given to a woman.”

The home’s building material was brick and oyster shell plaster, and its design, Georgian architecture and merchant house plan.

Although a well-preserved colonial residence, “the house looked significantly different on the exterior when Thomas Rose and new wife Beuler (Elliott) took residence in the 1730s.”

Later owners added piazzas in the 1800s that are still present today. The house most likely featured a two-tiered porch in its early years, according to William Means.

Not only is the Thomas Rose House a colonial architectural example, it also played a major role in Charleston’s pioneering historic preservation movement in the 1920s and 1930s, the agency says.

As part of plans in the 1950s for an elaborate garden, crews delivered topsoil from Johns Island as well as luster leaf holly from the Upstate and sweet bays from surrounding Lowcountry marshes.

The brochure includes a timeline. Among the highlights:

- 1680. Lot 61 in Grand Modell (narrow home sites on the peninsula) was granted to Elizabeth Willis.

- 1733. Beuler Elliott, a descendent of the second owner, married Thomas Rose and together they had seven children.

- 1734. Rose wrote from Charleston to his brother Richard Rose, in England, requesting four workmen for brick laying and to send over men willing to “sell them selves” for four years. This is most likely for the construction of his new house on Church Street.

- 1740. The house survived the great fire of 1740, which devastated the neighborhood.

- 1741. Thomas Rose and Beuler Elliott sold the house and lot to merchant Benjamin Savage.

- 1750. Benjamin Savage dies, and the property remains in the Savage family for the next 90 years.

- 1847. Subsequent owner the Baptist Church of Charleston sold the property to Jonathan Lucas, grandson of the Jonathan Lucas who established the first steam-powered rice mill in South Carolina.

- 1886. The structure survived the great earthquake of 1886.

- 1929. Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Whitman purchased 59 Church, and noted architect and preservationist Albert Simons restored the house.

- 1931. The Thomas Rose House was one of the first dwellings to be listed within Charleston’s Historic District.

- 1942. The Whitman family sold the house to Connecticut architect Henry P. Staats.

- 1954. The Staats’ purchased the dilapidated No. 57 Church Street next door and demolished it to create an expansive south lawn garden.

- 1960. The Church Street Historic Foundation was founded to help preserve the surrounding area of Church Street. The Thomas Rose House became the Foundation’s headquarters.

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