Draped in architectural grandeur and host to prominent South Carolinians throughout the ages, the Capers-Motte House in Charleston is on the open market for the first time in its 275-year history.
The oval pool was one of the first in downtown Charleston, added when the home underwent extensive renovations to return it to its original splendor in the 1970s. The privy houses a powder bath.
If walls could talk, these would tell tales. Older than the country itself, the Capers-Motte House, circa 1745, is a jewel among Charleston’s South of Broad estates. “The Capers-Motte House at 69 Church truly represents the best of Charleston architecture with its incredibly intact architectural details from the Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival and Gothic Revival periods,” says Winslow W. Hastie, Historic Charleston Foundation president and CEO.
Exquisite millwork is on view in the dining room.
Former home to powerful locals, including colony treasurer Jacob Motte (mid-18th century) and Charleston Renaissance painter Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (early 20th century), 69 Church St. is on the open real estate market for the first time—ever. “Homes with such historic significance rarely hit the market in Charleston,” says Maison Real Estate's Leslie Turner and Mary Lou Wertz. This one in particular, they note, “has only been owned by three families in the last 150 years.”
A shining example of the Holy City’s early residential architecture, the seven-bedroom, 8 ½-bath home’s pastel stucco-over-brick facade is a landmark along Church Street. “There are very few pre-Revolutionary houses in Charleston and this is one of the best. It has survived 275 years of wars, hurricanes, earthquakes and fires from shell bombardment. Many features are priceless, not just ‘luxury,’” the listing agents say.
Details abound, including in the original, handcarved mantels. There are 15 fireplaces throughout the home.
While thoroughly grand, the dwelling presents an aura of intimacy and comfort—combining the Georgian style in vogue during its construction with a twinge of the Federal period, during which it underwent extensive renovations. But in true Charleston nature, it’s the quaint garden path beyond a wrought-iron gate that beckons, leading into a private walled garden that feels like a hidden world all its own.
The structure, which encompasses the kitchen house and main residence, encircles the green space—spacious given area standards—providing a startling contrast of raw beauty meets polished ornamentation. “It’s a magical place,” Turner and Wertz say. “You walk in the house and you feel transported back in time.”
Where the main house is the belle of the ball in a confection of frosting-pink stucco, opulent reception rooms and double-sash windows, the kitchen house feels unfiltered and organic in such a mystifying juxtaposition, you can’t help but stare—bewildered. Inside, brick and horsehair plaster are left natural, exposed to splendid effect. A cozy sitting room leads to a large kitchen, where the mashup of old and new remains on stunning display. The Viking range feels as at home next to period-style cabinets and a fireplace that has witnessed the cooking stylings of well over two centuries as it would in a Michelin-starred gourmand’s kitchen.
The hyphen, which connects the main and kitchen houses, welcomes natural light through its lancet-arched, Gothic-style windows.
Beyond the entry and gilded sitting rooms, the most quiet elegance lies in the narrow vestibule, or hyphen, that connects the buildings. As the sun filters through the lancet-arched Gothic-style windows, flooding the stone floors, you’re reminded of the breadth of history this home has witnessed.
It’s a history of architectural elements showcased with the utmost admiration for artisans throughout the main house—without sacrificing 21st century comforts. From the original handcarved banister to the woodwork and plasterwork, which Hastie notes are “exceptional,” to the handpainted delft tiles surrounding the fireplaces, 69 Church is a love song to craftsmanship.
This Georgian double house, in fact, is one of the largest pre-Revolutionary residences in the city. Behind the restored Federal front door, a dream world of fine details awaits. On the main floor, the foyer leads to the central staircase thanked by four principal rooms, with each salon outfitted with exceptional mantelpieces and overmantels, paneling, wainscoting and cornices. The full splendor is on view in the drawing room, cypress-paneled library and sprawling second-floor ballroom, while, unique to the period, gracious 11-foot ceiling are present on all three floors—as are the full-height windows. And among the seven bedrooms, of which two are in the kitchen house, each boasts an en suite bathroom.
There is, of course, an endless list of features of historical note, not least of which is the location. “The location of 69 Church is one of the best in town,” Turner and Wertz say. “It’s an easy walk to Waterfront Park, White Point Garden, the Battery and many of Charleston’s best restaurants and shopping.” Like a stroll through Colonial America, the Capers-Motte is a slice of Southern heritage. $9.5 million, Leslie Turner and Mary Lou Wertz, Maison Real Estate, maisonchs.com
Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, "House Tops: View from 69 Church Street" (watercolor on paper), 13 ¾ inches by 9 ¼ inches. ALICE RAVENEL HUGER SMITH, "HOUSE TOPS: VIEW FROM 69 CHURCH STREET" COLLECTION OF CAROLINE PALMER
Lifelong Charlestonian and former resident of 69 Church St., Alice Ravenel Huger Smith was a fixture of the local arts scene—credited with leading the Charleston Renaissance, a group of artists, writers and creatives between the World Wars who sang the praises of the Lowcountry, encouraged tourism and pushed for historic preservation. Rumored to have painted many of her landscapes from the vantage point of the Capers-Motte House, Smith’s work will be on display in a joint exhibition at Middleton Place National Historical Landmark and the Edmondston-Alston House in downtown Charleston (March 1 through Jan. 5, 2022), timed with the launch of coffee-table book Alice: Alice Ravenel Huger Smith: Charleston Renaissance Artist (Evening Post Books).