A happy home inside

She saw me on the porch and stopped on the sidewalk at the base of the steps. Elderly, elegant, she stood with her summer scarf billowing around her. She smiled as she looked up through the open front door.

“It’s a really happy home inside,” she said.

I could see memories ignite of her decades-long friendship with the family who had lived here before us and of the times she had spent inside. She was on her way home, four doors down, but wanted to introduce herself. We were her new neighbors.

Tracy and Ian Huckabee on the steps of the Chadwick House. The home is an American Foursquare, a two-story house with a rectangular footprint and a front porch that runs along the full width of the house. It’s a variation on the Colonial Revival style.

My wife Tracy and I bought the W.S. Chadwick House in May of 2021, after it had been on the market for a year and a half. In the weeks right after we moved in, we hardly ran into anyone who hadn’t seen the inside of the home — or who didn’t know something about its less than move-in-ready condition. Many had attended the estate sale a few years earlier. And a surprising number of our friends, it turns out, had looked at the home to purchase. Their reactions when we told them we had bought it were all the same: the pull of air through gritted teeth followed by, “Yeah, you’ve taken on quite a lot with that one.”

Restoring and renovating a historic 1910 Colonial Revival isn’t for everyone. Cracked plaster walls, a metal roof too old even to repair, a later-era kitchen and main bath from the 60s and 70s that have no place in the 20s can certainly daunt the less blithely. But for Tracy and me, it was easy to imagine the transformation. After a series of inspections and putting pencil to paper, the chance to bring this place back to life was something we jumped at.

The walls are original plaster, shown here cracked from age. The floors, in need of refinishing, appear to be heart pine — heartwood from the pine tree, preferred by builders because of its strength and hardness. Today, floors like this are typically refinished to their natural golden red coloration. 

I came down off the porch and introduced myself to my neighbor and learned her family had lived in their home for four generations. She pointed out that we were only the fourth family to live in Chadwick, and her high regard for the previous owners, Charles and Geraldine Aquadro, underscored for me the responsibility we had taken on to the home and neighborhood.

W.S. Chadwick House, c. 1910

In 1908, the previous home on this lot appeared on a town map as “ruins of a fire.” The fire, described at the time as “the most horrible fire in Beaufort’s history,” occurred in April 1908, taking the life of Miss Henrietta Roberson, who had inherited the home from her mother. Later, Winfield Scott Chadwick purchased the property from the Roberson family, and by 1913, a new map showed two new houses side by side on the same lot, one on the corner and the W.S. Chadwick House, which sits next to it.*

W.S. Chadwick House, c. 1910

In 1908, the previous home on this lot appeared on a town map as “ruins of a fire.” The fire, described at the time as “the most horrible fire in Beaufort’s history,” occurred in April 1908, taking the life of Miss Henrietta Roberson, who had inherited the home from her mother. Later, Winfield Scott Chadwick purchased the property from the Roberson family, and by 1913, a new map showed two new houses side by side on the same lot, one on the corner and the W.S. Chadwick House, which sits next to it.*

Restoration and renovation in real time

This is the first in a series of posts in which I’ll share all the fun and surprising details about the restoration and renovation of this happy home. We’ll go behind walls and into showrooms so you can see how we bring our style of laid-back simplicity to a historic property like this one.

We’re doing the renovation in phases.

  • In the first phase, we’ll restore the main, original part of this American Foursquare home, including repairing plaster, refinishing floors, updating electrical fixtures, and brightening up the place with a fresh coat of paint.
  • In the second phase, we tackle the downstairs back part of the house which was added years later; in this phase we’ll expand the kitchen and add a full bath, and we’ll replace the storage garage with a screen porch that will serve as the perfect transition from the interior of the home to the property’s unique and expansive backyard.
  • In the third phase (I dare not call it the final phase), we take on the back part of the upstairs, reconfiguring the owners’ bathroom and ensuite area, adding a laundry room, and renovating a shared bathroom.

I’m really excited about this project and hope you’ll join Tracy and me here as we share our progress and the bits of history we learn about this home along the way.

The carport in the foreground will be removed. The storage garage, next in, will be replaced with a screen porch in its footprint. In the next section, the kitchen downstairs and the owners’ suite upstairs will be remodeled.

The set-up

We moved here to Beaufort, NC, in the spring of 2020 to ride out Covid-19. Little did we know we would end up staying. We owned a small vacation rental cottage, and all the rentals dropped out because of the pandemic and its lockdowns. So we thought we’d take advantage of working from home for as long as we could, then resume our lives back in North Carolina’s Triangle region. But in less than three weeks, we made the decision to stay.

We tried to squeeze ourselves into that two-bedroom cottage right at a time when the demands of the home were changing. As we worked from home, ran a business, took online high school and college classes, and of course cooked, read, slept and binged on Netflix, it felt like the place was getting smaller by the day.

The hand-carved bannister was crafted in the home. The heavy original pocket doors between the parlor and the den provide quite a bit of soundproofing.

We had to move. The Chadwick House had the room we needed in a location we loved, but it looked like it was in rocky shape. However, the seller’s agent very wisely had had a thorough home inspection performed. And once I got my hands on the report, we realized that what was in front of us was manageable, and we were able to put a project plan together for what needed to be done.

In the next article, I’ll describe just what we found in that inspection report and why it gave us the confidence to purchase the home, and I’ll take you through phase one of our renovation, with lots of before and after photos and some funny anecdotes.

Below: Areas ripe for transformation include the laundry, the owners’ bath, and the kitchen. Please stay tuned.

* Source: Historic Beaufort: A Unique Coastal Village Preserved, by Mary Faith Warshaw