Last fall’s king tides were some of the highest Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks co-owner Andrew Carmines had seen in his life.
And while Hudson’s prime waterfront real estate is one of its biggest assets, the Hilton Head Island restaurateur — who owns the restaurant at 1 Hudson Road, with his wife, Erin — knows it’s inevitable that water will seep into the building during abnormally high tides.
But when water soaks into carpet, it becomes a problem.
“Carpet retains odor and moisture, no matter how many times you clean it out,” Andrew Carmines said.
Hudson’s had carpeting throughout the restaurant’s interior up until recently, when the Carmines embarked on a month-and-a-half-long renovation in January.
The recently-completed interior overhaul includes hardwood floors, exposed beams, restained wood and renovated bathrooms.
Because the building was erected in 1912, the Carmines feared there would be major — and expensive — repairs. The renovation team, which included Hilton Head-based Liberty Oak Construction and J Banks Design Group, had to go through “years and years of patchwork,” Andrew Carmines said.
The project finished on deadline and without many unexpected fixes — a rarity in most renovations.
But during Hudson’s stripping-down process in the back dining room, a unique feature emerged. A high ceiling with exposed beams was contained beneath the restaurant’s former drop ceiling.
It pays special tribute to the restaurant’s history. It’s the same ceiling the oyster shuckers worked under in the 1920s.
Andrew Carmines, co-owner of Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks
It was the original ceiling from Hudson’s days as a seafood-processing facility, long before it became a restaurant in 1967. In those days, Hudson’s Oyster Factory was one of the island’s biggest employers, where oysters were shucked, processed and shipped.
The exposed ceiling quickly became the back dining room’s centerpiece.
“It pays special tribute to the restaurant’s history,” Andrew Carmines said. “It’s the same ceiling the oyster shuckers worked under in the 1920s.”
Andrew Carmines’ family bought the restaurant from the Hudsons in 1975. And while the restaurant has received minor upgrades over the years, he can’t recall a time when it had a complete makeover.
Things that have become part of Hudson’s character for the past 49 years will remain: original artwork, dramatic views of Port Royal Sound and an almost-imperceptible slant in the dining room floors as a result of the foundation being built on oyster shells — the same ones that have laid on the land for nearly a century.
“We wanted to keep it (as a low-key restaurant), but update it,” Erin Carmines said.
The new hardwood floors in the restaurant are water-resistant. In fact, in anticipation of future high tides, Andrew Carmines said the planks are removable. When water unexpectedly enters the building, the boards can be taken out, dried, then replaced once the tide recedes.
The Carmines plan to update the restaurant’s furniture next. The checked blue-and-white tablecloths will likely go, Erin Carmines said, and be replaced with new tables and chairs to tie into the restaurant’s upgraded interior. Andrew Carmines hopes the back dining room, with its new look, will be a place for more events and private functions.
Both owners said that while the restaurant was long-owed a renovation, it was imperative that its history wasn’t forgotten.
“This place was literally built on oysters,” Andrew Carmines said. “We want to pay homage to that.”