Blufton panel considers resident's plan for Graves house

Pictured is the Graves House on Calhoun Street in Bluffton's Historic District.
Pictured is the Graves House on Calhoun Street in Bluffton's Historic District. Staff photo

A plan by a Bluffton resident to move the century-old Graves house to property he owns got a positive reception from members of the town's Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday night.

Many details, however, remain unresolved.

The proposed site, near the corner of Wharf and Lawrence streets, belongs to Garfield Moss.

On Wednesday, Moss proposed subdividing the property into four lots, with an existing home and three new ones, including the Graves house. The plan also calls for a public road connecting Lawrence Street with an existing auxiliary road.

The Bluffton United Methodist Church purchased the home last summer and has been in talks with those interested in relocating it.

The commission voted in May 2012 -- over objections from the town's planning staff -- to allow the church to tear the house down despite the fact that it is a contributing structure in the 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, are among those who have argued to preserve it.

The commission -- which has new members -- agreed.

"If you can pull that off, you will be my hero," commissioner Hank McCracken told Moss Wednesday.

Added chairman Wallace Milling: "We appreciate the historic architecture and want to save it ... . I don't think anyone would disagree that moving the Graves house and saving it would be a good idea."

Moss declined to comment on the proposal after the meeting.

"We're still reasonably early in the process," said William Court, a local architect and the church's chairman of long-range planning. "If Garfield can get his approvals in place, then we certainly are supportive of that option. But there are a number of hoops to jump through yet."

The church will have to re-submit and the town amend the church's existing permit, which calls for dismantling the house on the condition it be rebuilt on church property using as much of the original material as possible.

Town officials -- including the Planning Commission and Development Review Committee -- would also have to sign off on Moss' proposed subdivision and the safety and feasibility of relocating the structure, said town planning and community development manager Shawn Leininger.

Court said Moss has hired two engineers and three building movers to develop plans for relocating the house.

The church's role in financing or planning that relocation have also not been determined, he said.

"Whether this takes place or not, the church is still planning to use the property for the expansion of its church campus for community meeting rooms and church offices," Court said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom

Related content:

Graves House owners consider relocating century-old home: June 29, 2013

Bluffton Town Council debates demolition measures: May 29, 2012

The Graves House