Flood-prone historic Charleston home gets a raise

Rutledge Avenue House Lifted (WCIV)

A home in Downtown Charleston was raised to new heights. Crews lifted a Rutledge Avenue house several feet off the ground on Tuesday. The home sits near Colonial Lake, an area prone to flooding. It’s the first time a historic Charleston home was approved for a lifting project by the Board of Architectural Review.

Late last year, a fire destroyed much of the home. When it came to renovating, the owner, Jack Margoelis, wanted to prepare the home from anything Mother Nature threw its way.

“You know, BAR, initially just said ‘no’, you know, it was very, very simple,” Margoelis said. “They said it would make your house six inches higher than your neighbor’s house which is unacceptable to us.”

Margoelis wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s spent the last year fighting to raise the home. He was on-site for the lifting and said it was a relief.

There are still charred remains and smoke damage to all three floors. But, there’s still plenty to salvage. Gary Walters, President of Southern Cross Home Improvement Contractors, said this home is a special project worth saving. He said it was a complicated process, they had to build a new foundation to meet the new design flood elevation, as required by FEMA and the City of Charleston.

“For me, the excitement is the history, the historic value of the home and bringing the house back to its former glory, it was built back in 1859,” said Walters. “But also, we’re preserving the house, protecting it from any potential flooding or whatever.”

Walters said it’s much more than a facelift, rather more about merging past and present. Although the BAR signed off on the lift, the group still upholds strict exterior standards.

“We have to leave the front steps, the brick steps and the front door to the piazza in the same location and raise the house around it, so when you look at the street, all the front doors are on the same level,” Walters said.

For the Margoelis family, Tuesday’s work provided a sign of progress. Their home will now have quite a story.

“We’ve been here since ’91. This is our home, we enjoy living here, we have lovely neighbors and this is our home,” said Margoelis. “So, we wanted to fight to allow us to live here for a long time.”

All together the home was raised six-feet, making it 14-feet above sea level. Margoelis said the flood insurance will now be several thousand dollars less.

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