Restoration planned for historic Beaufort home

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Restoration planned for historic Beaufort home

By ERIN MOODY
emoody@beaufortgazette.com
Published Monday, December 26, 2011   |  700 Words  |  

A Beaufort resident almost 200 years old is getting a fresh start in the new year. The Scheper house at 915 Port Republic St. is being restored to a single-family home.

Marked by a sprawling live oak in the front yard, the house on the corner of Charles Street has been used as a bed-and-breakfast and professional offices for several years. It has been vacant for the past four or five years, according to its new owners.

Ed and Peggy Simmer, who moved to Beaufort a year and a half ago, took their time choosing the house they would call "home."

"(T)his is the one that talked to both of us," Peggy said.

"I'm not sure if it was saying buy me or help me," Ed joked.

The Simmers have been trying to buy the house for about six months and closed a week ago. They needed the City Council's permission to use the building as a residence, since it is in the core commercial district, where living quarters are not allowed on the first floor. A new ordinance allows the Scheper house and several other former residences in the district to be lived in, since that was their original use.

Built in 1820, the home originally belonged to Lucius Cuthbert and his family, until they fled to Aiken at the beginning of the Civil War, according to the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places Inventory.

The Union army used the home as a bakery while troops occupied Beaufort.

The family never returned, and the home was sold for $500 in 1875.

F.W. Scheper bought it one year later for $1,800. Photographs indicate a second-story porch, a two-story rear addition and a wrought-iron fence that encircles the yard were added after that purchase. The Simmers hope to reattach the original Scheper nameplate and coat of arms that broke off the gate.

When they first stepped inside the building, water from a leak in the roof ran down the main, wooden staircase. The roof was fixed and the second-floor porch stabilized before the Simmers' purchase.

Significant work remains, inside and out.

Now that they've bought the building for about $250,000, they intend to launch about $150,000 worth of repairs after the new year begins. The first phase will be by contractors, and the couple hopes to move into at least part of the building in the spring.

The rest will be an ongoing project, just like the 1910 colonial revival-style home they fixed up over 17 years in Suffolk, Va.

"With a 'This Old House,' it's a continuous project," Peggy Simmer said, a reference to the popular PBS home-improvement and remodeling show. "You pick a big project you'd like to focus on in the next year or two and you have an ongoing list."

Their goal is to restore as much as possible and, where possible, use period-appropriate fixtures and techniques. Bricks in the kitchen chimney damaged by hard mortar will be replaced with a soft mortar, like that originally used. Damaged ceilings will be fixed with lath and plaster, not modern plasterboard.

And the rooms and walls will be filled with all the local, historical items the Simmers find. Since Ed Simmer took a job as the executive officer of Naval Hospital Beaufort, they've combed the Internet and antique shops for items.

"If you come to either of our homes, here or in Virginia, we have a lot of history within. One of our work colleagues calls our house the Smithsonian of Beaufort," Peggy Simmer said.

They are seeking information on the house from its former residents and plan to compile it in some form.

"Some day we'd like to put a nice little plaque out there for when people are walking by, because we've already had a lot of foot traffic, so they can read about the house and if anybody has questions there will be the history," Peggy Simmer said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.