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Charleston students, graduates and craftsmen collaborate to revive a Charlotte Street home

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The entrance to the home at 40 Charlotte St., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Charleston. The home project manages to balance new accommodations and features that are desirable in a modern home while using sustainable and historically accurate building techniques to stay true to the character of the structure's history. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

John Paul Huguley cares about his former students. 

The founder of the American College of the Building Arts knows that jobs can be hard to come by, especially when new graduates are clamoring for experience in a turbulent economy.

Which is why he cares so much about his property at 40 Charlotte St., one of the oldest Greek Revival-style homes in Charleston. 

Huguley, while no longer employed by the college, operates the Building Art Hive LLC, which gathers together instructors, interns and graduates from the American College of the Building Arts, as well as artisan craftsmen, to revive old homes and build new ones.  

Their home project on 40 Charlotte St. manages to balance new accommodations and features that are desirable in a modern home while using sustainable and historically accurate building techniques to stay true to the character of the structure's history. 

"I have looked for over 10 years to find a property where I will build with my graduates something that will show their skills in masonry, stone carving, timber-framing, plastering, carpentry and blacksmithing," Huguley said. "This was meant to be the place we need to continue to demonstrate the quality and beauty of the building arts throughout Charleston's history."

Huguley owns the building as an investment opportunity, but he also sees it as an educational one. The attention to historic detail is shown throughout the home.


John Paul Huguley, operator of Building Art Hive, discusses the history and construction of the property at 40 Charlotte St. on Wednesday Aug. 12, 2020, in Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

It starts at the front porch, where the original black-and-white marble welcomes guests to the home. And the front door, painted a rich orange-and-red color stands out in the street.

The hue didn't come by the gallon from Home Depot. The color was painstakingly reconstructed by Joanne Barry, a pigment analyst and paint conservator. 

"There's a lot of homes in Charleston that try to pull off the red door," Barry said. "It's a long route to get the right color. We like to see vibrant hues. That's what's required to get pizazz." 

She altered the pigment of a can of "chili red"-type paint from the store and she enriched it with artists paints to get the ideal shade she wanted. 

"The house has a story," Barry added. "From the entryway to the way that the marble was laid, it had my attention."

The Bakers, the family that owned the home before Huguley, let him know it was available before they put in on the market. After purchasing it, Huguley learned the home's original owner was involved with a lumber mill. 

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That history is evident in the 18-foot-long pine boards that make up the main floor and the heavy timber joists in the basement, which are original to the home.

The house also has secrets. A hall tree in the foyer is pushed aside to reveal a passageway to the kitchen and a stairway to the basement, which is being converted to a wine cellar. 


A lizard crawls along the wall outside the home at 40 Charlotte St. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Charleston. John Paul Huguley, operator of the Building Art Hive, used a straw-bale technique to construct the wall. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The basement currently offers space for students at the American College of the Building Arts to work on drawings for their internships.

Martyn Delo is conducting an internship at the house and works on the computer in the wine cellar to sketch conceptual drawings, such as a carriage house on the adjacent lot. 

"I don't like the idea of working on modern homes," Delo said. "And coming to work in this house and this basement is so unique." 

These students and graduates have breathed life into the home. 

On the second story of the home, a hallway closet complete with swiveling doors to hide the secret space, was added to serve as a connector between two massive bedrooms. The graduates helped size and hang industrial warehouse timbers to support the floor. 

But nothing is more emblematic of the partnership between the students and the construction of the home than the 81-foot straw-bale garden wall in the back courtyard. 

Huguley said garden walls such as the one in the backyard of the Charlotte Street property can cost upward of $60,000 or more. 

But by using traditional methods that required tying together massive bales of straw and securing them with lime stucco, they created a wall that was not only cost-efficient (less than $30,000) but used sustainable materials that will last for hundreds of years.

Students and graduates helped plaster the wall with the lime stucco mixture and used it as a hands-on learning opportunity to talk about preservation. 

"Historic preservation is the most green thing you can do," Huguley said. "If your building doesn't fall down in 25 years or 40 years, and it lasts for 400 years, then it is not going to a landfill."

Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

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