May 15, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) – The 1802 Anderson House in downtown Charleston, once in complete disrepair despite its historical significance, has found a new life as much-needed office space for the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Pharmacy.
Architect Whitney Powers, principal of Studio A in Charleston, designed the restoration and adaptive reuse of the 7300-square-foot Federal Style house originally built by Daniel Cannon, a sawmill owner and house builder for whom the city’s Cannonborough neighborhood is named.
“This is an extraordinary example of an original, Federal-style ‘suburban villa,’ “ Powers said. “The building’s perfect proportions lend a remarkable delicacy to this grand structure. Its wonderful craftsmanship and durability are a testimony to the attention to detail accomplished under Daniel Cannon’s guidance.”
In 1838, Southern industrialist William Gregg purchased the two-and-a-half story house. He made a number of technological modifications and introduced numerous elements of the then-fashionable Greek Revival style. By the time the College of Pharmacy purchased it, however, it was in serious need of a facelift and a total interior restoration.
A veteran of historic restoration, Powers knew she would have to balance the preservation of the house with the School of Pharmacy’s functional requirements. “So we worked closely with the staff to integrate the historic significance of the building into the school’s administrative needs,” she said.
On the exterior, the architect was careful not to reinforce the architectural significance of the building without highlighting any particular era of its evolution.
“We realized that the building was significant, not for any single period or style, but for its composite nature,” she said. “Our analysis of the existing conditions indicated that the ad hoc enclosures at the ground floor and the first floor piazza consisted of miscellaneous window sashes and other seemingly found materials, none of which were character-defining features.”
The piazza’s rooftop balustrade also was not historically significant and water frequently seeped in where the upright posts penetrated the roof. The Board of Architectural Review approved removing balustrade, which solved a long-term maintenance problem. Whitney also removed the ground level and piazza enclosures, which returned the piazza to its more historically accurate appearance.
The interior, which had undergone a litany of renovations and alterations over the years, required all-new electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems as well as repairs and refinishes to all of the walls, floors and ceilings.
Stylistically, “the original delicacy of the Adams-style details had been countered by the more robust Greek Revival alterations of the mid-19th Century,” Powers said. “We maintained these alterations as evidence of the house’s evolution over time. Then we specified new fittings and finishes that are historically appropriate for this remarkable interior.”
To the College of Pharmacy’s credit, the staff readily embraced many accommodations that will prevent wear and tear on the historic finishes, Powers said, including extensive use of task lighting and the arrangement of upper-level office areas.
The Historic Charleston Foundation recently described the building as one of the “…largest, most intact Federal period houses in the city with architectural details equaled only by those within the Nathaniel Russell House.”
Studio A’s work in sustainable design and historic preservation/restoration has received numerous design awards and has been featured in local, regional and national design magazines and journals. For more information, visit http://www.studioa-architecture.com.