Restoration of Historic Bluffton structure underway

Ashworth Construction Group to assist in the restoration of the Rate, a 1940s grocery store 

  • Date: 2-11-19
  • From: Bluffton Today
By Dan Hunt  |  Bluffton Today A building that once was among Bluffton’s most active community centers is now crumbling and until recently was covered in ivy. But a California resident with ties to the area and a passion for restoring historic buildings plans to return the Rate to its original state. Originally called the Cut Rate, the structure at 45 Bridge St. in the heart of the historic district was built by Gaillard Heyward and George Grant in the 1940s as a grocery store. Over the years, the Rate would serve as a convenience store, an ice cream shop and eventually the town’s post office. The property was designated a significant site in a 1996 National Register of Historic Places nomination and a 2008 Historic Resource Survey. It also is designated a contributing structure to the Old Town historic district.
Originally called the Cut Rate, the structure at 45 Bridge St. in the heart of the historic district was built by Gaillard Heyward and George Grant in the 1940s as a grocery store.

Debbie Wunder wants to restore the building to the state it was in when Bluffton residents relied on it for some of the services the internet now provides. The plans are going through the town’s permitting process.

“Places like the Rate were kind of where the community would meet and find out information and things going on in the town,” said Wunder, a Los Angeles resident who attended Hilton Head Island High School and whose parents live in the area. “It was like a community center.”

Wunder said she and her husband recently were sad to see the state of “crumbling” historic buildings like the “red dot” liquor store on May River Road, which inspired her to buy and restore the Rate.

Other than adding a metal roof for longevity and a “low-profile” skylight, Wunder said, she plans to replicate the building’s original appearance. She is contracting the work with Amanda Jackson at Pearce Scott Architects, Edward Welch at Ashworth Construction Group and Josh Tiller at JK Tiller Associates.

Wunder’s said her research on the building led her to a study called “Rural Commerce in Context: South Carolina’s Country Stores, 1850-1950,” which outlines the importance a country store like the Rate could have in a town. She attached the study to her application with the town.

 

“I found in my research that everything about the Rate is purposeful, from where it fits on the block to it having a front gable roof,” she said. “It’s made out of concrete blocks and on one side there was no windows. That’s because they could have more shelves and put more items for sale there. You may think it’s just a cinderblock building, but really, the architecture is pinpointed to a specific period and was very purposeful. “I really want to respect that architecture, bring it back and make it a functioning building again.” The plans include stabilizing and restoring the exterior, stabilizing the interior walls, adding new doors, windows and trim designed to match the original appearance, and upgrades to meet modern electrical needs. Wunder and her team also plan to restore the once-bright colors and murals to the west and north sides of the building. The application was unanimously approved by the town’s historic preservation committee last week and it is headed to the development review committee in the coming weeks. “Hopefully the restoration of the Rate will be inspiration for other buildings of that kind being restored,” Wunder said. Wunder said there’s no hard timeframe for completing the restoration. “Obviously we want to get it done sooner than later. Realistically speaking, if everything was done by the end of the year I’d be thrilled, but we want to do this thing right,” she said.

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About Ashworth Construction Group

Ashworth Construction Group is a construction contractor company that specializes in a personalized design-build process for custom home builds and commercial construction in the Bluffton area. The firm was founded by Craig Whitley and Edward Welch, who have nearly 30 years of combined experience in the industry.

843-535-0449

P.O. Box 806 Bluffton, SC 29910