Graves House owners consider relocating century-old home

bheffernan@islandpacket.comJune 29, 2013 

nwsGRAVES0630sw01

The Graves House is shown here Friday on Calhoun Street in Bluffton's Historic District.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver Buy Photo

More than a year after Bluffton's Historic Preservation Committee voted to allow the demolition of a century-old home, a new fate is being considered: Rather than razing it, the Graves House could be moved to a new site.

The Bluffton United Methodist Church, which purchased the home last summer, is in talks with people interested in relocating the building, according to William Court, a local architect and the church's chairman of long-range planning.

The church has made no commitments to anyone, but "if there's any way to find an alternative (to tearing it down) they are happy to consider it," he said.

The town's Historic Preservation Commission is expected to review one possible relocation site -- near the corner of Wharf and Lawrence streets -- at its July 10 meeting, though no vote is expected, town officials said.

That site belongs to Bluffton resident Garfield Moss, according to Councilman Ted Huffman, who said he is familiar with Moss' proposal.

Moss declined to comment on the proposal.

A move would require permits from the town, according to town official Shawn Leininger, and nobody has asked for one yet.

Moving the house could be feasible, Court said.

"It's not totally unlike having a modular home ... but obviously you have to take a little more care with a historic building," he said.

The church's role in financing or planning a relocation is not yet certain, Court said. Neither are plans for what would be built in house's place.

The church has proposed to "sympathetically dismantle" the building and reuse as much material from it as possible to rebuild a near-replica. The new building would be used for offices and community meeting rooms.

"The church is growing and needs to have all the opportunities on the table to serve the needs of the congregation and community," Court said.

Currently, "space is an issue," he said.

But the church's plan has aroused controversy.

The Historic Preservation Committee voted in May 2012 -- over objections of the town planning staff -- to allow the church to tear down the house, even though it is a contributing structure in the town's historic district.

The house had sat vacant for at least two years at that point and had structural flaws, but not everyone agreed it was beyond repair.

Former Mayor Emmett McCracken and Maureen Richards, executive director of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, were among those who argued the building should be preserved.

Court said people probably would have many opinions about whether moving the home would allow it to retain its historical significance.

Councilman Huffman said moving it could "diminish a bit of the gravitas with it being a contributing structure," but added "it might be a good compromise" for those who don't want it torn down.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

Related content:

Bluffton Town Council debates demolition measures, May 29

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service