Historic Graves House could become Bluffton Farmers Market headquarters

dburley@islandpacket.comApril 6, 2014 

A business owner wants to turn the historic Graves House into an office for the Farmers Market of Bluffton.

He plans to restore and relocate the largely deteriorated, century-old home from its spot on the corner of Calhoun and Allen streets to one of three lots he owns along Calhoun Street.

It could take five months and cost as much as $30,000, but Bluffton developer Thomas Viljac says he's up to the task.

"Working on old buildings, that's my passion," said Viljac, whose wife, Kim Viljac, runs the farmers market. "And how neat would it be to have the farmers market operating out of an old, restored structure?"

The town Historic Preservation Commission unanimously agreed last week to let Viljac restore the house and prepare it for a move down the road.

In the next four months, Viljac will replace rotten wood and remove the porches, which will be reconnected after the move.

He'll also brace it with steel rods, lift it with a jack and attach wheels to a steel frame undergirding the home, according to town documents.

He said he hopes to have it open by next fall.

Currently, his wife's 4-year-old market, which has exploded in popularity, is held at Viljac's tavern, the Old Town Dispensary.

He said the Graves House will give the market a central location.

"Really the goal is to find a physical home for the farmers market," he said.

The Bluffton United Methodist Church, which owns the Graves House, has agreed to give the home to Viljac at no cost, according to church member and local architect William Court.

"I think this is one of the best possible outcomes we can hope for," Court said.

He said the church will build offices and gathering space at the site after the house is gone.

Last fall, the church partnered with Bluffton resident Garfield Moss, who planned to wheel the home to property he owns on Lawrence and Wharf streets.

Moss received approval from the commission to move the home, but withdrew his application last month, according to town documents.

Attempts last week to reach Moss were unsuccessful.

The historic home has stirred controversy in recent years.

In May 2012, the commission -- over objections of the town planning staff -- voted to allow the church to tear it down, even though it is a contributing structure to 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.

It's historical significance compelled Moss to try to salvage it, he said in November.

It also compelled Viljac, the developer said last week.

Before he moves the home, he said, he'll return to the commission in the next few months so the panel can consider which lot to put it on.

"This will be good for Bluffton, to place this history back in front of people's eyes," Viljac said.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

Related content:

Bluffton resident receives approval to relocate Graves House. Nov. 6, 2013 Bluffton resident seeks town money to help relocate the Graves House, Oct. 2, 2013

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