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Thursday, January 12, 2006 - Last Updated: 7:17 AM

Home on peninsula sells for record $6.1 million


The Post and Courier


The top price ever paid for a house on the Charleston peninsula reached a new altitude last week, when one of the city's oldest and most historic residences changed hands for $6.1 million, shattering the previous record by about $1 million.

At least one prospective buyer was willing to pay several hundred thousand dollars more than that for the William Gibbes House, according to the real estate agent who listed the property.

The Gibbes House, at 64 South Battery St., is designated as a national landmark and is considered a prime example of pre-revolutionary Georgian architecture. The buyer was Charleston native J. Elizabeth Bradham, whose husband declined to comment about the purchase Wednesday. The sellers were Thomas and Susanne Trainer.

The home was built in the early 1770s by William Gibbes, a wealthy ship owner and merchant. At that time, Murray Boulevard did not exist, making the three-story house the westernmost residence on what is now South Battery.

"It was basically waterfront property," said Katherine Saunders of the Historic Charleston Foundation, which owned the

Gibbes House in the 1980s.

Gibbes was temporarily evicted from his home in 1780 while the British army used it as a hospital. Subsequent owners included the Rev. John Grimke Drayton, who owned Magnolia Plantation in the 1800s. Another was Cornelia Roebling, daughter-in-law of the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, according to Jonathan Poston's "The Buildings of Charleston." In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Roebling completed one of the two major renovations at the Gibbes House and commissioned the existing formal gardens.

The property's single-family residence status was endangered in the 1980s, when developers sought to convert the clapboard house into an inn or subdivide it for condominiums. "Sound familiar?" Saunders said.

Historic Charleston intervened and struck a deal with the owner, paying $750,000 for the house in 1984. It restored the home and resold it two years later to a preservation-minded buyer at a $95,000 loss, but not before putting permanent, legally binding restrictions on certain parts of the property.

"It's a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest designation you can get," Saunders said. "It's important nationally ... just like St. Michael's Church."

The property went on the market last year. It was listed at one point for $6.85 million.

Thomas Bennett of Carriage Properties, who represented the sellers in last week's sale, said a prospective buyer from New York was willing to buy the 12,000-square-foot house for $6.4 million if the original deal fell through.

"I wish I had three more of them," Bennett said, referring to the house and its quality.

The deal underscores the steadily rising demand for pricey historic homes south of Board Street and elsewhere on the lower peninsula.

According to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, 27 homes in that area sold for $2 million or more last year, compared to five such transactions in 2001.

The previous record home price for the historic area was set just down the street from the Gibbes House in August 2003, when the Col. John Ashe House at 32 South Battery fetched $5.1 million.

As of Thursday, the realtors' association's database of property listings showed that 103 million-dollar-plus residences are up for sale on the peninsula, including 43 with asking prices of more than $2 million.

Topping the list price-wise is a home north of the Crosstown Expressway. The 8,000-square-foot San Souci Street residence comes with five acres and a dock on the Ashley River. It's available for $5.2 million.



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