After nearly 40 years in production, the popular home improvement show on PBS, “This Old House,” finally will feature two very old houses in Charleston.
“We had been hoping to get to Charleston for so long that it started before my tenure,” says the show's Kevin O’Connor, who took over as host in 2003.
“The stars finally aligned, which was great."
Filming started last April and lasted, on-and-off, for 10 months for the Massachusetts-based production.
Starting at 8 p.m. Thursday, the first of 10 episodes focusing on the renovations of two houses in Charleston will air on South Carolina ETV.
Normally, ETV airs the show, which has won 18 Emmy Awards, at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ETV’s Glenn Rawls says the network added the Thursday night shows to give South Carolinians an extra chance to see the Charleston episodes.
“Preserving these local historic homes while modernizing them is going to be a fascinating story,” Rawls says.
“The ‘This Old House’ crew has been terrific and their expertise really shows in these projects. We’re also thrilled that this is an educational project, not just for casual viewers, but in tandem with the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston.”
The primary focus of the show will be on a brick “single house,” built in the 1840s, owned by Dr. Scott and Kathleen Edwards on Hasell Street in the historic Ansonborough neighborhood.
The project includes renovation of wood floors, plaster and medallions, connecting the kitchen house to the main house, adding a dining room and living suite, as well as landscaping.
The other house is an 1890s “shotgun style” house in the Elliottborough neighborhood owned by Judith and Julia Aidoo-Saltus. The house has been owned by Judith’s family for generations, but has not been lived in for a decade.
While both houses will be featured in each episode, as demolition on parts of the Ellliotborough house began, it became clear that the renovation would take longer than the originally envisioned time frame. When the house is finished, the "This Old House" team will come back to film a follow-up, but it will not be this season.
Besides the projects, the episodes will put the American College of Building Arts in the national spotlight, which dovetails with the “This Old House” show’s Generation NEXT initiative to promote more young people getting involved in the skilled trades.
Longtime “This Old House” team member Tom Silva says the show recently started advocating for a return of vocational education.
“We’re making people aware that we need to get people back into working with their hands. There’s a lot of work out there in the service industry,” says Silva. “We need people and there are young kids out there who don’t know what they want to do yet.”
Silva hopes that by showcasing the building arts college that youth may realize there’s a place for advanced training.
Christina Butler, professor of historic preservation who worked closely with the production, says Generation NEXT dovetails with the mission of the college, which is “to educate the next generation of artisans.”
“There’s a skills gap throughout the nation and there’s so many good-paying trade and project management jobs available, with more forecasted to go unfilled in the years to come. … We’re a small college and are excited about the national attention, because it will bring more potential students our way who might not have found us otherwise.”
ACBA students built an iron gate and pergola for the Ansonborough house. The senior iron class, which had to go through the city’s permitting process, designed, fabricated and installed the gate. A student also was hired by Timber Artisans co-owner Bruno Sitter to help build the pergola. Sitter also serves as chairman of the wood department at the college.
But the locals who probably worked the most with the "This Old House" production are Andy Meihaus and Mark Regalbuto of Renew Urban, who served as the contractor on the Ansonborough project.
Because the production was working outside of its typical range in New England, Regalbuto says “they relied on us to drive the story line.” Regalbuto’s first foray into TV was a “phenomenal experience.”
“ 'This Old House’ is the real deal. There’s no false drama here,” says Regalbuto, who serves on the advisory board of the American College of Building Arts and helped foster the connection between the show and the school.
Regalbuto was particularly impressed with longtime "This Old House" team member Silva.
Silva says the challenges of renovating the house, such as falling plaster, dry rot and termite damage as well as a “really outdated bathroom," also included meeting the architectural regulations of the city of Charleston.
“They have real strict guidelines, but I like the fact that there are committees down the line that guide the reconstruction of these old houses,” says Silva. “I think all the challenges were met.”
Contractor Mark Regalbuto is trying to show homeowner Scott Edwards how he wants to handle two details with his historic downtown Charleston renovation, but it's taking a while.
In fact, it's taking several takes.
That's because there's a full television crew, not to mention a second contractor, Tom Silva, in the picture.
Yes, as the Emmy award-winning PBS show "This Old House" begins filming its 39th season, it's finally arrived in Charleston, a city known for its many old houses.
Show host Kevin O'Connor visited Charleston last year to speak to a trade group but also to scope out possible houses for the long-running show on home renovations. He didn't visit Edwards' property then, but he certainly sent the message back to show producers that there is a lot going on here.
Edwards, a Mount Pleasant physician, and his wife Kathleen recently finished a downtown renovation near King Street.
Then they began looking for a new project, a historic home of their own downtown, and eventually bought a 19th-century single house in Ansonborough that has seen little if any renovation as of late. The brick house doesn't even have central heating or air, and no one has used the kitchen building in back for years.
Meanwhile, Edwards signed up online to be considered as a "This Old House" project here.
"I've been watching 'This Old House' since it started. Every season," he says. "I thought, 'Well, what the heck?'"
He didn't hear anything for a few months, as he and his wife began planning their renovation with architect Bill Huey and Renew Urban contractors Regalbuto and Andy Meihaus.
Being chosen as a "This Old House" house requires a bit of luck, with the show and owner both deciding that the house, planned renovation, local contracting team, and timeline all make for a good fit. In this case, it was.
O'Connor says he's excited not only to be filming a house in Charleston but also such a classic single house: one room wide, side piazza, main entrance onto a stair hall off the piazza, and a small kitchen house in back.
"The cherry on the ice cream was that it was in really bad shape," he says. "It has kind of just been frozen in time."
Filming began May 1 for a few days and resumed this week. The production crew expects to return every few weeks until the end of the year to film further updates.
The work includes a full renovation with new wiring, plumbing and landscaping. The work will open the rear wall to allow inside access to both the upper and lower floors of the kitchen house, which will serve as a dining room below and new bedroom above.
"This Old House" crews are filming the renovation of this circa 1840s Ansonborough home. Brad Nettles/Staff
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As with many Charleston renovations, O'Connor says one of their biggest challenges will be how to weave new ducts and returns for an HVAC system as inconspicuously as possible.
"We are at demolition. We're peeling it apart," he says. "The homeowners are making decisions about how to put it back together."
And that led to last week's taped conversation between Edwards and Regalbuto and Silva in the first-floor room closest to Hasell Street.
The Edwards removed the failing plaster and plan to restore the interior so the bricks show. But that still leaves the issue of what to put between the ceiling joists to block dust and provide a little insulation — and how to handle the gap between the window moldings and the newly exposed old brick.
Regalbuto and Silva show Edwards how they propose handling these things, and he basically says, OK, great. At least three or four times, as the director and crew seek additional footage and takes.
So the novelty of filming while fixing is slowly sinking in.
"Candidly, I was a bit reticent ahead of time," Regalbuto says, "but after talking with everybody with 'This Old House,' it was really clear that they were there to observe and be supportive. They didn't want to manufacture drama. They wanted everything to be legit, and that's true. It's been terrific really."
Edwards acknowledges that filming 10 episodes adds another layer of complication to what can be an already stressful ordeal, but there's also a clear upside about having your home renovation subject to the "This Old House" treatment.
The show's production calls for filming to be done by December.
"This pushes them to stay on schedule," he says.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — The elegant buildings from different eras strut across Charleston’s downtown neighborhoods like notes on a major scale: the Gothic churches, the Greek Revival storefronts, the homes in vivid pastels exuding Queen Anne grace, Georgian symmetry and Italianate grandeur.
But these are days of bum notes and dissonance in historic Charleston, which is enjoying a robust economy and one of the most transformative regional population booms since the Civil War. Long accustomed to basing its reputation on the grandeur of its old buildings, the city now finds it almost impossible to agree on how to build new ones.
In recent months, traditionalists have blocked efforts to introduce contemporary architecture in the historic core, which was the first in the nation to be covered by a preservation ordinance.
Modernists are rolling their eyes at new buildings that copy traditional styles, arguing that they pervert a record of architectural progress long documented in mortar and stone.
And both sides agree that many of the buildings approved by the city’s Board of Architectural Review in recent years have been duds that tried, and failed, to have it both ways.Read More
Charleston, South Carolina, prides itself on history and historic preservation. Books are written about the intelligent urban design and charming original architecture of this Southern city’s bustling downtown—which is a full century older than our country. Thus it is definitely not customary (or even a good idea) to build a new home on these streets. But my husband and I were about to do it anyway. No pressure, or anything.
My husband, Ted, and I settled here three years ago and initially hoped to restore a “Charleston single”—a signature style of house one room wide, multiple rooms long, with double covered porches. Charleston porches serve a dual purpose: to take advantage of the passing breeze and to shade the interior rooms from sun on hot and humid Charleston days.
Ted is an aviator for the Marine Corps and a local Carolina boy. I am what the South calls a “damn Yankee”—as in, “Yankees visit, and damn Yankees stay”—a breed more and more common on the progressive and evolving streets of Charleston. Born and raised in New York City, I’m a cofounder of Babiators, a children’s sunglasses company I started with my husband and our college friends. We have two young boys and moved here for the outdoorsy and family-oriented lifestyle Charleston offers while still being an urban, culinary, and creative enclave.Read More
While apartment buildings have been around for close to two centuries (the earliest tenement in New York City dates to the 1820s), they really started to take off in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As city populations boomed, the need for concentrated housing in dense areas became imperative.
Now, people choose apartments over a house for many reasons, including lower rents, less maintenance, and prime locations. And while newer apartments may have amenities absent from older buildings, there are many benefits you can derive only from living in a historic apartment.
We’ve compiled a few reasons why living in a historic apartment is preferable to living in a newly constructed one.
1. Historic structures have irreplaceable character.
The decorative finishes on historic structures continue to impress. Intricate baseboards, parquet floors, and ornate decorative details from innovative products like terra cotta and cast stone create visually pleasing places to live. It’s hard to replicate that kind of quality in modern construction, where efficiency and cost effectiveness are often prioritized over aesthetics.
Additionally, building materials that are commonplace to us were once novelties. They were used in creative and innovative ways that often give historic structures unique qualities. Think cast iron, concrete, and masonry veneer. These are mundane today, but originally they were often used to simulate more expensive building techniques. As such, they maintained a level of craftsmanship and style sometimes lost in modern construction.Read More
This renovation incorporated mindful historic preservation of the circa 1880s masonry structure while incorporating modern elements like the construction of a new elevator core. 'After' photos taken by Stello Photography.
WINNER OF THE 2014 CAROLOPOLIS AWARD
This new construction condo is located in the heart of downtown Charleston. Building on the roof of the Apple Store will make this an exceptionally unique and exciting project. Check out architect Kevan Hoertdoerfer's blog for this property here .
Winner of the 2015 Design Excellence Award
RESIDENCE AND VACATION RENTAL
After our renovation, this property received a Carolopolis award by the Preservation Society of Charleston in 2012
"The two-and-a-half story stuccoed brick dwelling with a front facing Neoclassical piazza features corner quoining and a cross pediment with a well-detailed lunette window" - 'The Buildings of Charleston'; J.H. Poston, 1997
Winner of the 2012 Pro Merito Carolopolis Award