A pre-Revolutionary War plantation home in Charleston sold earlier this week for about $1 million more than the original asking price of $8.875 million.
A firm called By The Lords Proprietors in 1663 LLC bought the 7,818-square-foot Fenwick Hall manor house and 55-acre property on Johns Island for $9.75 million, according to former owner John C. Pernell.
The higher price includes a parcel that Pernell, the president of hedge fund sponsor Polaris Investment Partners, wanted to keep for his office space, but he sold it because the buyer wanted the entire property off River Road. That pushed the later listing price to $10.5 million, according to Patty Byrne with real estate firm Handsome Properties of Charleston, who represented the seller.
Not much is known about the new owners or what their plans are for the property as far as preserving or developing it. Pernell didn't know much about the group, saying he met them briefly.
"My understanding is they are going to keep it residential and bring in some horses," Pernell said.
Debbie Fisher, broker-in-charge for Handsome Properties, which handled the sale for the buyer as well, declined to comment about the new owners' plans.
"I guess history will tell," she said.
The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Preservation Society of Charleston did not immediately respond for comment about the sale. Last spring, the agency said it hopes the next owner will recognize the site’s significance and continue the preservation work Pernell started.
Pernell bought the historic plantation in 2000 for $3.6 million and operates his business from the site. He has been busy trying to restore the property for the past 18 years.
The home, with its heart pine floors and cypress paneling, remains in the throes of renovation.
The new owner of the manor, with its five bedrooms, four and a half baths and 13 fireplaces, will probably have to invest another $1.5 million to restore the house to its former glory, Pernell said during a tour of the house last spring.
Ripped-up carpet remnants and building materials littered many of the unfinished, empty rooms as they sat in disarray.
By the time Pernell purchased the property, the main house had sat empty for five years after the previous occupant moved out, its roof leaked and the entire parcel was overgrown and neglected.
Only one set of the magnificent two rows of oak trees leading to the house was visible, and the entire back side of the tract behind the house was filled with brush.
“I didn’t know the second row of trees was there,” Pernell said during the onsite spring interview when the property first went on the market. “I dug up over 1,200 trees, planted back about 400 and counted 285 oaks on the property.”
Now, with its driveway flanked by two easily visible rows of moss-dangling oaks and the surrounding grounds manicured, the site represents a slice of the past surrounded by the ever-encroaching development of the present. New subdivisions flank the property.
In addition to a restored carriage house, the site includes a rental cottage Pernell called “The Kitchen House” and several modern structures from the hospital era, now used mainly for storage. They include kitchens and amenities.
Dripping with history, the once-expansive plantation hugging the Stono River was occupied by British troops during the War of Independence and later used as a field hospital by Union forces during the Civil War.
Owners came and went after John Fenwick erected the original manor house around 1730. It was twice added onto, and much of the land was eventually sold off to developers.
The moss-flung plantation, framed by magnolias and home to resident geese, fell into neglect at the beginning and end of the last century, with leaks and overgrown brush masking the grandeur of the two-story mansion at the end of a long avenue of majestic oaks.
At one point in the late 1900s, the home off River Road served as a treatment center for alcohol and drug abuse victims, though alterations to the original cypress paneling and added fire suppression features disrupted the interior character somewhat.
The grounds have served as settings for special events, such as weddings, with tents set up near the allee of oaks.
Interestingly, Pernell, who lived on what remains of the once-extensive plantation, has never stayed in the manor. He resided in a restored, two-story carriage house beside the mansion.
Pernell plans to move to New Bern, N.C., eventually, but for now he is looking to rent a space at Fenwick while his new residence is being restored.