Summerville will sell historic Berry House

The circa-1870 Teacherage, also known as the Berry House, is located next to Azalea Park on West 5th South Street. It was owned by James and Hazel Berry before the town of Summerville purchased it in 2008.

SUMMERVILLE — The old Teacherage had location, heritage and ambience. It just didn’t have enough space.

The town plans to sell the historic Azalea Park property, also known as the Berry House, as a private residence.

The Town Council decision Monday sounds the first buzzer, at least, to end months of council and public debate over what to do with the 19th century home. It sits at the edge of the town’s signature park, with an extensive camellia and azalea garden out back spilling onto park grounds.

Whether the town hangs on to all or a piece of that garden will come down to price points.

Council on Monday authorized Mayor Bill Collins to talk with real estate agents about listing prices.

The circa-1870 home is a prized charm of Summerville history, bought by school officials in the 1940s to house single, out-of-town teachers.

A previous council bought it for $700,000, hoping to create an events venue, just before the recent recession tumbled housing prices.

The property turned out not to be big enough for a self-supporting venue hall. It became a white elephant with constant maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, debate broke out between preservation interests who want the home historically restored in public hands, and budget-minded interests who see it as a financial drain.

“It’s just sitting there right now, deteriorating,” Collins said.

“Best decision we ever made,” Councilman Aaron Brown said about the Monday vote as he left his seat.

A sale “would be a real loss to Summerville,” said Beth Huggins of Elizabeth Huggins and Co. events management. A historic district resident, she talked with town officials about potential uses of the home.

It could have been the sole restored historic home regularly open to the public in the district, she said.

“I wish it could have been utilized to promote events in Summerville, and bring people to Summerville,” she said. “I hope whoever purchases it will love the older home as it should be loved.”

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

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