Take a walk through history

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Take a walk through history

Centuries-old homes on display during annual Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens in Beaufort
By JESSICA SPARKS
Special to the Packet and Gazette
Published Monday, October 22, 2012   |  645 Words  |  

When Peggy and Edward Simmer first toured the house they now own on Port Republic Street in Beaufort, there was water running down the stairs.

The home, which was built in the 1820s, was in need of major repairs and a lot of care, but that did not deter the Simmers from purchasing the historic home and making it livable once again.

On Saturday, the public is invited to tour the home as part of the Historic Beaufort Foundation's annual Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens.

"We are very excited about saving and sharing this wonderful piece of history and we hope our story will inspire others to save a 'this old house' of their own and to share that experience with others," Peggy Simmer said.

The tour of homes offers ticket holders an opportunity to explore several private historic homes and gardens in Beaufort's Historic Landmark District, the largest in the state, as well as other nearby areas.

"The point is for people to learn about Beaufort's unique style of architecture," said Isabella Reeves, coordinator of the event.

Money from the event goes toward preservation of historic properties in Beaufort. Unlike many similar events around the country, the groups of houses open to the public are different each day, giving history lovers a reason to attend all three days of tours.

Friday's walking tour offers people the opportunity to learn about Beaufort's history through a variety of architecture and styles the city has embraced in the last two centuries. Friday's $45 ticket also includes a tour of the Verdier House, which is the Historic Beaufort Foundation's house museum. Saturday's tour allows exploration in some city and country properties.

For the Simmers, Saturday will offer an opportunity to show off a year's worth of hard work. The Cuthbert-Scheper-Simmer house on Port Republic Street was built in 1820. During the Civil War, the house was used as a bakery for Union troops. Some believe Harriet Tubman was one of the people who baked in the house.

This is the second historic house the Simmers have renovated. Their first historic property is located in Suffolk, Va.

"We actually were not planning to purchase here," Peggy Simmer said. However, after falling in love with Beaufort, the couple found a house with good structure and started to make it their own.

"We kind of knew the direction we wanted to go," she said. "It's a lot of detail work ... There are a lot of things (we've done) that aren't necessarily visible."

This includes repairing a foundation that had built up problems over time, and fixing the roof. All of the repairs were done with period-appropriate materials and techniques.

Peggy Simmer said they were excited to show the work they had done to others during the tour, but she's also looking forward to touring the other homes.

"That's part of the fun," she said. "It's neat to see what other people have done and to learn the history of the surrounding houses."

Sunday's tour -- Kitchens & Cuisine -- will be just as much about the Lowcountry's culinary offerings as the architectural values of the area. Local chefs will be in five homes in Beaufort and on Lady's Island serving up a piece of culture to all of the senses.

"That's a lot of fun because the neighborhoods change each year," Reeves said. This year, the Newpoint neighborhood will be part of the tour. "Sunday's houses are generally newer ... Have a bite to eat, drink some wine at a couple houses then go on to the next one."

This year's festival is sponsored by BB&T, Lowcountry Real Estate, Hargray Communications, Publix and Spring Island.