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Real estate: Historic island house back on the market after 25 years

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Of the eight homes on Pawleys Island with state historical markers, only one has changed hands in the last 10 years. Only two in the last 20 years.

The house at 452 Myrtle Ave., known to history as the Joseph Blyth Allston House but better known as the Pawley House, is back on the market after a quarter century.

“The challenge is exposing it to the buyer who will be able to appreciate the historical aspect of it,” said Nancy Siau, an agent at The Lachicotte Co. who shares the listing with Lou Lachicotte, the company’s broker-in-charge.

“It’s different from the typical property,” Lachicotte said. “They’re so rare people don’t want to give them up.”

The house dates to the late 18th or early 19th century, but it doesn’t show up on plats until the mid-1860s, according to Katherine Richardson, who researched the home for the Pawleys Island Civic Association which sponsored the historic markers. Her work forms the basis for the book “Pawleys Island, Historically Speaking.”

Richardson suggests that the house might have been one of the older homes on the Allston property west of Pawleys Creek, which in the early 19th century was considered the “seashore.” The family built a house on the island in 1845.

Joseph Allston was the nephew of R.F.W. Allston, one of Georgetown County’s major rice planters who served a term as governor. It’s likely the house was moved to the island after Joseph acquired the land in 1866.

Despite its name, there is no evidence the house was ever owned by the Pawley family, Richardson found. Nor did the Pawley family ever own land on the island.

The house was the inspiration for the home featured in the 2005 novel “Pawleys Island” by the bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank.

The original house was one-and-half stories with two rooms downstairs and two upstairs, according to an archeological study conducted in the 1970s.

Roman numerals are scribed on the beams under the house to show how the mortise and tennon joints fit together to be pegged.

There were additions over the years, but by the late 1980s, when it was last sold, the house had come to epitomize the concept of “arrogantly shabby.”

The renovation and expansion that began the summer before Hurricane Hugo is a marriage of modern convenience and historical style.

“The current owner has preserved it and brought it up to the current century,” Siau said.

It has an elevator, central heat and air, and bathrooms in each of the five bedrooms. But the house also preserved the exposed pine beams and cypress siding in portions of the interior. The 1989 addition used the clapboard siding as an interior wall. It even preserved some of the graffiti that was left on the exposed wood by generations of summer visitors.

“So many homes on the island that have historical interest don’t have the modern conveniences,” Siau said.

“The amazing thing is the construction,” Lachicotte said.

Lee Lanford worked for Dean Player on the 1989 renovation. He returned for an open house last week held to show the property to other brokers. He recalled that when the house was raised, the original wood footings were still intact. They had remained wet in the high water table and never rotted. Although the house was worn, the frame was still square.

The house is priced at $2.89 million. It comes on the market at a time when sales on the island have picked up. There were seven sales on the island this year and there are currently 52 active listings, Siau said. She was the broker for a $1.8 million sale on the south end last month, the highest amount for a sale since 2010.

“This is quite an improvement and good news for island,” she said. “We’re excited to see the closing activity increasing.”

The Lachicotte Co. is an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, which gives the Pawley House global exposure.

However, Siau and Lachicotte expect that the property, .85 acre on the beach and 1.5 acres of marsh, will appeal to the same people who vacation on the island. It’s location in mid-island puts it behind some of the highest dunes on the South Carolina coast. “That’s protected the house,” Lachicotte said.

“I’m sure it will appeal to a generational visitor, someone who has been coming to the island for years,” Siau said. “We don’t have to sell Pawleys.”

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