Restoring a neglected gem from the jazz age

The restoration of the early 20th century house at 463 Huger St. in Hampton Park Terrace has earned recent honors from both the Preservation Society and Historic Charleston Foundation.

When restoring a house whose defining architectural feature is circular rafter tails, it makes no sense to cut corners.

Ed and Marguerite Lenahan bought the unusual house at 463 Huger St. almost two years ago, got qualified for the state’s historic home tax credit and launched into a first-rate restoration with help from contractor Marc Engelke and architect Julia Martin.

The 1920 house is one of several in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood that typifies the Arts and Crafts Movement.

But the Historic Charleston Foundation notes 463 Huger is atypical because it reflects influences of two architectural styles that are relatively rare here — at least on the peninsula.

These include the Prairie style (long expanses of glass, a low roof, large eaves and parallel windowsills that stress the horizontal) and the Mission style (prominent round rafter tails and a rough stucco finish).

Lenahan grew up in Chicago and loves the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright but never expected to find something similar here.

“It’s a weird house for Charleston,” he says. “It’s really bizarre.”

The house had been neglected, which had its good and bad points. The good was that much of its original material survived. The bad included a boring white paint scheme, a clumsily enclosed carport, plus missing railings and pickets on the second-floor porch spaces.

The work addressed that — adding back the railings and adding new windows and realigning the windows in the old carport area to line up with those on the rest of the facade — even adding new ones on the eastern end.

But the greatest change may be in the house’s exterior, which now has five separate colors that emphasize its architecture.

They pored over books on paint schemes during the Arts and Crafts era, even learning that they evolved from an early yellow phase to a later green and brown phase.

Their house reflects more the latter, with olive window sashes, a red tin roof, cream-colored window trim and tan colored stucco and an even darker tan-almost brownish hue for the bricks.

“We bought 100 paint samples on the interior and exterior,” she says. “We went a little nuts.”

Their work has paid off with an unusual double honor. Not only did the Preservation Society present the Lenahans with a Carolopolis award, but the foundation also gave them a Robert N.S. and Patti Foos Whitelaw Award last week.

The foundation praised the Lenahans work on the house and grounds not only for its historically accurate manner, but also because they did not have to do it this way: The house sits several blocks north of the Board of Architectural Review’s jurisdiction for such restoration work.

Lenahan says he is taken aback by the foundation’s honor: “I have absolutely no idea how it came about.”

“Everything that happened surpassed all of our dreams,” Marguerite adds. “The reality beats the dream.”

Those hoping to see the house can get a good look on May 6, when the Preservation Society conducts a tour of it and other homes in Hampton Park Terrace from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets are available at www.preservationsociety.org.

Others honored at the Historic Charleston Foundation’s recent Charter Day awards included muralist David Boatwright, whose work graces several Charleston buildings, and the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, which is restoring the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley. Both won the foundation’s Samuel G. Stoney Conservation Craftsmanship Award.

The foundation also gave Whitelaw awards to Ashley Hall for its new dining commons and Husk restaurant for its rehabilitation of 76 Queen St. The Lowcountry Digital Library also received special recognition.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.