By Randolph Stewart
When you talk about the Pine House in Bluffton, you must talk about the people who lived on the land and how it came to be one of Bluffton’s most beautifully restored historic treasures. Sitting on the banks of May River and the Heyward Cove, this wooded land has magnificent live oaks and majestic magnolias signifying the centuries of those who inhabited this special place.
General Thomas Ferguson Drayton, of the Civil War fame, owned the original house on the property. His home was burned by Federal troops on June 4, 1862. The property was later owned by Doctor Hammond Eve (but there is some confusion here as Doctor William Raiford Eve, 1847-1916, appeared on the 1900 Bluffton census). Dr. Eve was married to Elizabeth Hammond, the daughter of Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina and, perhaps, this is where the Dr. Hammond Eve confusion occurs. I guess that means a trip to the courthouse to help clear up this bit of discrepancy and see who actually had the deed at that time, but rest assured, we will fill you in (my bet is Dr. William Eve). What we do know is that this house was facing Heyward Cove, not the May River, and it also later burned to the ground.
In 1904, Dr. Freeman Valentine Walker (1860-1933) and his wife, Mary McAlpin, of an old wealthy Savannah family purchased the property. Their house, built by a carpenter and member of a pioneer Bluffton family, Nathan Crosby, was finished in 1905. It was inspired by the New England shore “shingle style” homes where Dr. Walker grew up. The interior walls were fashioned with pine posts in-filled with 5/4” v-groove, tongue and groove heart of pine. It had high 13-foot ceilings and front and rear screened porches. There was a floored attic under the roofline (even though the door to access the attic at the top of the stairs was only five feet high), and a 14’x14’ full height basement (which was rare in the Lowcountry but common in New England). There were large double hung putty-glazed windows with two over two lite, full-size louvered shutters and latches and oversized transoms above. The living rooms had back-to-back fireplaces with distinctive stone arches and smooth slate hearths (again, the style is not typical in the South), gas wall lanterns for lighting in all rooms and, of course, heart of pine tongue and groove floors.
Now in comes Tommy, Guillard and Lucille Heyward’s youngest child. One cannot talk about The Pine House now or ever without mentioning Tommy Heyward. His father was born in January 1910 in the house across the cove, now belonging to George and Lillian Heyward. Perhaps the reason it is called Heyward Cove is the four generations of Heywards who lived and played there. In 1942 the Heywards bought Dr. Walker’s home and Tommy, at the age of two, and his three older sisters, Caroline, Anne and Dorothy, moved into the little brown house now called “The Pine House.” That old house would never be the same. Tommy could be found swinging off a rope into the cove, riding horses on Foot Point, camping out on the Ulmer’s Island, playing with the Cantrell, Walker, Miles, Gahagan, Graves and Ulmer boys, as well as all those kids who came from Savannah, Estill and Allendale, for the summer. What a way to grow up. Crabbing, hunting, fishing, shrimping and swimming in the May, always in some sort of mischief or another; perhaps he never really grew up, and truly loved life and this place called Bluffton.
It is now some 60 years later that Tommy and his wife, Joanie, began the restoration of The Pine House. Their dream was to keep much of the century-old homestead as original as possible, and to add elements that would allow them to share their home and entertain with their many friends on every occasion, which they so loved to do. They adhered to the Secretary of the Interiors Standards for Historic Restoration and South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office during the restoration. For the architectural design, Tommy and Joanie tapped nephew Brian Felder, AIA of Savannah, whose heart and soul was in the house, and what a masterpiece the restoration became.
“The Pine House has become a favorite of all the projects in my career. I think that’s for a lot of reasons. At the top of the list is that the project was for family members – Joanie and Tommy Heyward and working with my cousin, Matthew Schivera, who was the contractor, which completed the team,” said Felder. “Closely behind that was the long history that the house had in Tommy’s life. He lived there as a child, and every room, fixture, and detail had a memory.”
“In the design, we needed to accommodate modern living style, while not destroying the existing room arrangement or detailing. We did this by adding a large addition on the back, where a simple lean-to porch once stood. We retained the exterior wall, so you can still understand the boundaries of the historic house. That large addition is clearly modern, and provides enough volume to house a family room and a modern kitchen.”
The new changes included the raised rear porch ceiling and the pine and iron staircase that provided access to the “attic,” which now includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, dormers for light and fire egress. Extending the rear porch on the ground floor eight feet permitted a large working kitchen and family room. The original shingled back porch wall and windows were restored and left inside this wonderful space. When walking through the back door into the house, you get a sense of being outside. Even though there were new additions, they were designed to adapt to the old structure without altering the original look. The carriage house, apartments and brick and wood fencing enclosed the rear yard with a real “cement pond” and outdoor kitchen.
Windows were removed and restored. The pine wall slats were removed, numbered and placed back in the same exact location they have been for over 100 years. New shingles were stained to match the old ones. The kitchen cabinets were milled from floor joists that had deteriorated ends, the original gas lighting was converted to electricity, and an extended butler’s pantry, wet bar and powder room adjacent to the dining room was added (which was Guilliard and Lucille’s bedroom and bath).
In the butler’s pantry, a Victorian lions foot, tiger oak glass cabinet holds many of the wonderful treasures and artifacts that were found during restoration. Some of these include items that were excavated from General Drayton’s well, found on the west side of the property.
History has once again given us a little bit of our Bluffton heritage to learn from and appreciate. Tommy and Joanie Heyward understood the importance of historical preservation and we are grateful to them for sharing it with the Bluffton community.
Tommy will tell you he loved growing up here and being able to enjoy living in a small town as Bluffton. Joanie said he had the most endearing look in his eyes when he said, “It has had an enduring effect on my life. I have lived a very good live and have been blessed, so far.”