Historic ‘Teacherage’ Berry House to be sold by Summerville

"The Teacherage", located next to Azalea Park on W. 5th South Street, which was previously owned by James and Hazel Berry before the Town of Summerville purchased it in 2008. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 6/11/12

— The quiet on Town Council told it all as the gavel slapped, officially allowing the sale of the historic Teacherage to private owners.

Lesson learned.

“I wanted to comment, but I’ve decided to hold my piece,” Brown said.

The town hopes to close in November on the sale of the 19th century home, also called the Berry House, that sits at the edge of the town’s signature Azalea Park. “Yes, we’re taking a bath on it,” Mayor Bill Collins conceded in a later interview.

A previous council had bought it for $700,000, hoping to create an events venue, just before the 2008 recession tumbled housing prices that still have not recovered to previous values.

The house, built in the 1870s, turned out to be too confined for a self-supporting venue hall and became a deteriorating white elephant with constant maintenance costs.

Brown had just taken a seat on that council when the purchase was made. He is the only member still serving.

Collins would not say how much the town expects to be paid for the house because the sale still pending.

“We’re selling it as is. We’re not going to spend any more money fixing it,” he said. “We either needed to keep spending money on it or get rid of it, and council had no appetite to keep spending on it.”

Despite the house’s period-piece charm, its quirky heritage of housing single, out-of-town teachers in the 1940s and an extensive camellia and azalea garden spilling onto park grounds, the Teacherage just didn’t have a justifiable public use. When Collins took office, he described it as a mess he had inherited that he had to fix.

Council and residents wrestled back and forth for months on what to do about the elephant without room. Debate wrangled on among preservation interests who wanted the home historically restored in public hands, budget-minded interests who saw it as a financial drain and private venue business who saw it as unfair competition.

Council approved the sale last week and immediately rezoned the property from public land to residential use.

The home’s historic value will be protected somewhat because it is located in the town’s historic district. Changes would be restricted.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.