Admiral’s House – North Charleston, South Carolina
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This oil rendering of what is commonly called the Admiral’s House on the former Navy Base in North Charleston depicts the Neo-Classical manse built in 1905 for the Commandant of the Charleston Navy Yard. Formally called Quarters A, the house boasts features that are indicative of its residents’ high rank.
The area designated as the Officers’ Quarters District was previously part of Chicora Park, a public park designed in 1896 by landscape architects John and Frederick Olmsted, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., designer New York’s Central Park. The Admiral’s House sits on a spacious lot on a hill, as do the homes of other high-ranking officers, looking over the quarters of lower-ranking officers which were built on smaller tracts below. A flagpole erected at Quarters A in 1943 distinguished the home as the Commandant’s, as did an anchor from World War I that marked the driveway. Neither of these features are seen in this painting, but the flagpole remains in the front yard today (the anchor has been moved).
Though the 7,391-square-foot house is Neo-Classical in style, it also bears some elements common to the Victorian era, such as asymmetry. Servants’ quarters – called stewards’ quarters – exist within the home as well as in separate outbuildings on the grounds. Also near the grounds of Quarters A stands a rectangular, windowless building of English bond known as the “Dead House,” possibly dating from the mid-to-late eighteenth century. Some believe the dead were stored here prior to burial, though others think the small brick building may have been a powder magazine.
Changes and additions were made to the home in the 1930s and 1940s; screens were added to the verandas in the early 1930s and an entire screened-in porch was added to the rear service wing in 1945. The porte-cochere was built in 1943, and the first floor received central air conditioning in 1944. The screens were removed in 1996. Historical photos shared from Cathleen Philip, whose mother lived in the Admiral’s House from 1931 through 1934, can be seen below.
When the Navy base closed in 1996, this home and other buildings on the former base became vacant, many eventually falling into disrepair. Quarters A, along with much of the former Navy Yard, was purchased by The Noisette Company – a development group – after the closing of the Navy Yard. The company foreclosed, however, and the former Noisette properties were purchased by the state with the intention of adding a new intermodal railway for transporting containers. However, the City of North Charleston strongly opposed the new railway, citing the loss of property value and quality of life in the area where the railway was planned. After negotiations, a settlement was reached in 2012 between the city and the state. Though a new railway will be developed on the old base, the Admiral’s House and several other historic properties are now owned by the city, which plans to preserve them. The Admiral’s House, specifically, will be used for events.
The Admiral’s House was previously on the Preservation Society of Charleston‘s “Seven to Save” list, which the society defines as “an annual outreach program … designed to focus the work of the organization in a proactive and constructive way, delivering intellectual and financial resources to raise awareness and support for key preservation projects in Charleston and the region.”
Quarter’s A is listed in the National Register as part of the Charleston Navy Yard Officers’ Quarters Historic District:
The Charleston Navy Yard Officers’ Quarters Historic District is nationally significant as a collection of historic resources representing the establishment, growth, and development of the upper echelon of senior military housing, support structures, sports facilities and recreational landscape features within a park setting at the Charleston Navy Yard (later the Charleston Naval Shipyard, and finally Naval Base Charleston) from 1901 through 1945. While some of the developments in housing were typical of those constructed at other navy yards elsewhere, the Charleston Navy Yard Officers’ Quarters Historic District stands out as a singularly unique prototype for elite residential planned communities.
This district is composed of forty buildings, structures, sites, and objects. Twenty-eight properties contribute to the historic and architectural character of the district, and twelve properties are noncontributing resources. Quarters and structures contributing to the significance of the district fall into three time periods and associated forms of architectural styles: 1) Base Acquisition and Construction through World War I, with late Victorian and early twentieth century eclectic designs such as the Italianate, Neo-Classical, Italian Renaissance Revival and Colonial Revival styles; 2) Inter-War and 1930s Expansion, with additional twentieth century eclectic designs such as the Colonial Revival style, several service buildings and New Deal Federal projects such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), with designs such as the Panama House style, and 3) World War II Expansion, with additional WPA designs, the Panama House Style, and twentieth century residential designs such as the Colonial Revival and Neo-Colonial styles.
Reflections on the Admiral’s House
Contributor Cathleen Philip, who sent the historical photos on this page, shares her personal connection to the Admiral’s House: “My mom lived in this house 1931 through 1934 until her father, Admiral James J. Raby, was killed in an auto accident near Savannah, Georgia. At the time, she attended the College of Charleston and graduated in the class of 1934. I remember seeing this house when I was a teen and yes, indeed, it is sad to see the home in such disrepair.”
The above photo shows Cathleen’s mother in front of the Admiral’s House: “I have attached a picture of mom in her Ford Roadster. Her daddy bought her this car to drive to school since it was not appropriate to use a government car or driver. You know how hot in is in the summer there in Charleston. I remember her telling me when it was really hot they slept on the porch. As you can see, in those days, the house was screened in on the upper and lower level.”
Admiral’s House Info
Address: 100 Navy Way, North Charleston, SC 29405
Admiral’s House Map
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