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Renovation nears completion for historic Admiral's House on old North Charleston Navy base

Several historic structures once housing military personnel fell into disrepair after the Charleston Naval Base closed in 1996, but thanks to preservation efforts, many buildings have been renovated in recent years.

One of the structures, Quarters A, also known as the Admiral's House, will soon join the list of newly refurbished cottages and houses.

North Charleston's Finance Committee recently voted to pay the company Design Elements $350,000 to redesign the interior and its furnishings, another step toward the building's transformation from a military dwelling to a bed-and-breakfast.

Work on the 1905 house should be completed by late February, though it could be months before the inside is furnished and the B&B begins welcoming overnight guests. No explicit timeline has been established, according to city spokesman Ryan Johnson.

Admiral's House

Quarters A, also known as the Admiral's House, is under renovation and is nearing completion on the old Charleston Naval Base. Workers also are rebuilding the plaster cornices and decorative pieces. Brad Nettles/Staff

"We're getting into that home stretch," said Sean McDonell, Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority operations director and engineer.

Work on the two-story neoclassical building began over a year ago. The long-vacant century-old house had sagging floors and porches and significant structural issues.

The renovation team has been recycling original flooring, windows, doors, siding, hardware and other original materials, McDonell said. Workers also have strived to re-create the plaster moldings, plaster ceiling medallions, and newel post wooden urn caps, and to replace the standing-seam and flat-seam copper roofs and gutters.

Admiral's House

Renovation of Quarters A, also known as the Admiral's House, is nearing completion on the former Charleston Naval Base. Brad Nettles/Staff

They reinforced the large wooden columns fronting the house by installing steel poles and wrapping wood around the structures. 

The end result will be a five-bedroom facility that includes a dining room, kitchen and elevator.

“Our goal was to take it back to 1905 as much as we could, while making it code-compliant," McDonell said.

Interior plans by Design Elements call for a custom wall mural in the dining room depicting a panoramic view of the harbor and Navy base throughout history.

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The main living space will have seating and dining areas to allow for conversations. A reception area will welcome guests.

Karrie Britton, owner of North Charleston-based Design Elements, said the company is conducting extensive research on the history of the house, and on the various families who lived there.

Admiral's House

Renovation of Quarters A, also known as the Admiral's House, is nearing completion on the former Charleston Naval Base. The 7,000-square-foot house, which sits on one of the base's highest hills, was long vacant and dilapidated until work began about 16 months ago to revitalize the historic building. Brad Nettles/Staff

Navy admirals often were offered gifts from emperors and other world leaders, Britton noted. Her company is working to acquire artifacts that would help re-create that bygone era.

"I really want it to be a walking history of their experiences," she said.

The Admiral's House, built at a cost of $12,000, once was occupied by the commander of the Navy yard. 

The 7,000-square-foot mansion faces south and sits atop one of the biggest bluffs on the old base.

Servant's quarters, often referred to as steward's quarters in the Navy, exist both in the house and in separate structures nearby.

Admiral's House

Renovation of Quarters A, also known as the Admiral's House, is nearing completion on the former Charleston Naval Base. The 7,000-square-foot house, which sits on one of the base's highest hills, was long vacant and dilapidated until work began about 16 months ago to revitalize the historic building. Brad Nettles/Staff

The city already has renovated Quarters K, which was housing for officers and their families, and Quarters L, one of four Panama Houses that overlooks the city park along the Cooper River. Quarters K was transformed into an event venue for weddings, receptions and retreats and Quarters L now accommodates a cafe.

Buildings at the base’s northwest corner form a National Register Historic District and were placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered List years ago.

Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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