Palmetto Preservation Works, Historic Preservation Consulting, Historic Rehabilitation, Historic Investments, Greenville, Greer, Upstate, South Carolina

Owners trying to get Main Street building on historic sites list

Posted Thursday, January 22, 2004 - 11:06 pm
The Greenville News

By John Boyanoski

14 South Main Street, Greenville, SC listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Greg Saad holds a piece of original cornice trim from 1884 that will be used in the restoration of the building he co-owns at 14 S. Main St. (Patrick Collard/Staff)

With its gum-wood floors, pressed tin ceilings and Victorian influences, the three-story building at 14 S. Main St. in Greenville was a sight to behold when its double doors opened in 1884.

But the building aged, and a variety of owners made changes. By the time Greg Saad and Frank Whisnant bought it last summer, it barely resembled its original look.

The new owners decided to turn back the clock. At a cost that will exceed $1 million, they have set out to make it look like new.

And they're trying to get the building on the National Historic Registry because of its architectural and historical significance to Greenville.

Brad Sauls, State Historic Preservation Office spokesman, said that from what the owners have told him so far, it appears the building is eligible for the registry.

"It's a good example of architecture from that era," Sauls said. "The overall integrity is there."

Saad and Whisnant are filling out a nomination form that will be brought before the state review board.

That group of historians and preservation professionals will decide if the building should be sent to the National Register of Historic Places for consideration, Sauls said. The review board meets three times a year; July is the earliest Saad and Whisnant could go before it.

There are 57 Greenville historic districts and buildings on the national registry with 17 downtown, records show.

The building is one of two on Main Street dating back to the 19th century. The newest downtown buildings at Wachovia Place are going up across Main, just 50 feet away.

Greenville was honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with a 2003 Great American Main Street Award. Renovations like the one at 14 S. Main are examples of downtown's effort to preserve the past, said Richard Owens, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission.

The building was erected in 1884 as a dry-goods store, Whisnant said. At some point, its height grew about 10 feet. Bricked-in windows on the sides make it apparent there weren't any two-story buildings next door at the time it was built.

The new owners said they didn't realize the building's full historic potential when they first looked at it early last year.

"It's like a box you find in the attic and it just keeps opening up and you keep looking," Whisnant said.

The wood on the first floor came from native gum trees, , Saad said. They had to use stained maple planks to make repairs to the floorboards.

"You can't find gum wood anywhere," Saad said.

He said layers of "junk" had to be stripped from the hand-crafted hardwood beams on the second floor.

The front of the building is being restored to a mix of original granite, copper, columns, display cases in the windows and double doors, Saad said.

"There are a lot of little details in there that make it stand out from Main Street," Saad said.

Over the years, the building housed various department stores and, until 2002, a Belk office, he said.

Interest in the 17,000-square-foot building has been high, Saad said. Only about 1,500 feet on the ground floor are still available.

The building will house a health-aids store, a real estate office and two condo units when it's completed in March, he said.

John Boyanoski covers the city of Greenville. He can be reached at 298-4065.


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