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Bluffton’s Graves House coming back to life

A recent photo of the Graves House as photographed this month with a new foundation and porch.
A recent photo of the Graves House as photographed this month with a new foundation and porch. Town of Bluffton

The century-old Graves House in Old Town Bluffton, which some feared could be torn down , has a new lease on life.

The first portion of an extensive restoration and renovation project wrapped up earlier this month with the stabilization of the wobbly yet historic structure on a new foundation and the reconstruction of the home’s porches.

The house has always intrigued me. It's unique in both it’s history and architectural design.

Bluffton developer Thomas Viljac

The Graves House, built on Calhoun Street by a former Union Soldier around 1908, is owned by Bluffton United Methodist Church.

Over the past several years, the church has worked with a local developer and architect to preserve the home rather than raze it.

“The house has always intrigued me,” developer Thomas Viljac said Thursday. “It’s unique in both its history and architectural design.”

Because it was built by a Union soldier from Maine, the Graves House has elements of the northeastern cottage architectural style, which is very different from the Lowcountry barn style of buildings common in Bluffton’s Historic District, he said.

The home’s most recent occupant was Mary Graves, a World War II nurse. Graves died in 2009, but the home began showing signs of decay years before.

In 2012, the town’s Historic Preservation Commission deemed the home structurally unstable and voted to allow it to be demolished.

But rather than raze it, the church and its partners opted to move the home and set it down on a new, more stable foundation.

“This historic house was mistakenly written off as uninhabitable and unsound a few years ago, only to be brought back to life,” Hank McCracken, chairman of Bluffton’s Historic Preservation Commission, said in a recent town news release.

William Court, local architect and chairman of the Bluffton United Methodist Church council, said Thursday that the recently completed first phase of the restoration cost roughly $100,000.

“Shortly, we anticipate starting designing and working on the second phase of the project, which would be an addition to the home and renovations of the interior,” he said.

The ultimate goal is to renovate the interior enough to allow the church’s pastor to move into the home, Court said.

It is too early to estimate how much the full restoration will cost, but he said the second phase would “cost significantly more” than first phase.

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