Thursday, June 13, 2013
Like the snare of mythical sirens, Jerry Musselman, riding in the back seat of a car with his wife Wally in1979, was lured by the outside charm of an old Summerville style cottage. He insists it “called me by name.” So of course he bought it. Wrote an earnest money check then and there, without even getting inside. His practical and frugal wife said at the time, his impulse “gave me apoplexy!”
Thirty-four years later they both cherish the 1860 home, known locally as The Rectory, which had served in that capacity for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church since 1870. To insure its historic importance was kept intact Jerry worked to have it listed on The National Registry of Historic Places He was so pleased and proud that he called and invited me back to see the recently installed official plaque.
In October 1989 I wrote a Journal Scene feature story about The Rectory, focusing on history and décor. The history is still fascinating; the décor still in-the-period lovely; and the future assuredly secured. The tale of how the Musselmans came to be in Summerville and how the then locals took them in warmly, reflects the hospitality of our town.
Coming from Florida for a house and garden tour in Charleston, the couple parked their camper in Ladson and explored the area. “We made the ‘mistake’ of coming to Summerville in the azalea season.” Said Jerry, “and loved it!” Attending St Luke’s Lutheran Church on Sunday, the visitors asked advice and directions for “what to see.” This led needlewoman Wally to Lila Cauthen’s Country Mouse shop.
They said they liked the town and Lila said she had a realtor friend who would be glad to show them around. “We’re not in the market for a house,” Jerry told her firmly. Lila said that didn’t matter and before they knew it realtor Doris Dean was ferrying them all over. Jerry reiterated that they were not looking, he was still in the Air Force and didn’t know when or where he would retire. Then Doris stopped in front of The Rectory saying it was coming up for sale. And history was remade.
A few months later, finally getting inside, Wally fell in love with the home’s layout and room proportions as well as the setting. Jerry says every time they came back to check on the house Doris was having a party and always invited them. By the time they moved in they knew a slew of Summervillians. After renting it out for seven years, the Musselmans, with their three sons, came permanently in 1986. The house was in the Historic District and Jerry initially assumed that included the Registry. After finding out that wasn’t so, he began the long process for the designation. “St. Paul’s, which had maintained it beautifully, generously allowed me to read the old Vestry records and I was able to pull together all the information required by the Department of Archives and History.” He was especially driven, by a section of This Old House magazine featuring pages of “re-muddled” homes. “When I saw some of the ways these houses had been ripped apart and ‘remodeled,’ I determined I didn’t want that future for this house. Once you’re on the Registry, that can’t happen.”
Those sirens sure pick the right people when they target preservationists!
Suggested cutline for plaque photo: This handsome black and gold metal relief with the palmetto tree background hangs by The Rectory front door.