Plans to turn historic Beaufort house into inn under review

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 15, 2014 

Vacant for years, the historic Anchorage House could get new occupants if plans are approved to turn the building into an inn again.

Amy Lesesne, one of the prospective business owners, is so excited about the idea she's already wearing an anchor necklace, project architect Cooter Ramsey said.

The project passed one hurdle Wednesday, with a site plan and renovations to the house at 1103 Bay St. approved by the city of Beaufort's Historic District Review Board.

The board put a condition on the approval: The Historic Beaufort Foundation must sign off on final plans. The foundation has a restrictive easement on the facade of the building.

The board also gave conceptual approval to the addition of a two-room, 570-square-foot cottage on the property.

Also known as the William Elliott House, the Anchorage was built in the 1770s and has undergone extensive renovations through the years, according to Historic Beaufort Foundation files.

In 1971, the building was slated for demolition, but the foundation saved it by orchestrating a sale to a private owner who signed restrictive easements that remain in place.

Over the years, it has been a private home, a Civil War hospital, the private Ribaut Club, and more recently, an inn and restaurant, according to The Beaufort Gazette archives.

Its most recognizable name, the Anchorage, pays homage to owner Rear Adm. Lester Anthony Beardsley, who did extensive remodeling inside and out in the late 1800s and filled the home with rare objects.

Frank and Amy Lesesne are negotiating to purchase the property from its current owner and convert it to a bed-and-breakfast. They are working with Allison Ramsey Architects on the inn plans, which have been scaled back in the past several months to focus on opening the main building, Ramsey said.

The original hope was for a summer opening, but Ramsey said that now appears unlikely and that he expects construction to take about four months once it starts.

The plan calls for about 13 rooms in the Anchorage, adding a garden and possibly the cottage.

A meeting in the fall included talk of an outside glass elevator, but that was removed from the plans. They now call for an interior elevator that would only go up to the third of four floors.

A pool and renovations to an existing small building also were removed from the plans.

The Lesesnes were unable to attend Wednesday's meeting because they were at a conference for innkeepers, Ramsey said.

All the rooms will have a similar decor, and the Lesesnes intend to find a way to pay homage to the building's rich history, Ramsey said.

Some details remain to be worked out with the Historic Beaufort Foundation, which is concerned renovations might damage the tabby foundation.

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