2023 Preservation Award | 1527 Gervais Street
Friday, May 12th 2023
WINNER | Preservation, Rehabilitation, or Restoration
(Commercial, Institutional, Rental, or Municipal)
W.B. Smith Whaley House
1527 Gervais Street
1527 Gervais Owner, LLC — Property Owners
Mashburn Construction Company — Contractor
Brennan Design, LLC — Architect
Rogers Lewis — Preservation Consultant
Built between 1892 and 1893, the W. B. Smith Whaley House recalls a period in Columbia’s evolution during which prosperous families erected stately Queen Anne style residences along Gervais Street. While named for its original owner textile engineer and architect William Burrows Smith Whaley, this landmark property has been more popularly known for its use as Dunbar Funeral Home from 1924 until 2008. Following Dunbar’s departure, the mansion stood vacant for over fifteen years, poised for a better future. Driven by a creative new purpose, the property’s current owners formed a team to reverse changes that had been made during the funeral home’s operation while ensuring that restorative efforts and rehabilitative work necessary for adaptive use met Department of Interior standards to qualify for tax credits.
In early 2022, architects with Brennan Design, LLC and contractors with Mashburn Construction began rehabilitation work under the guidance of preservation consultants with Rogers Lewis who meticulously coordinated with local, state, and federal preservation officers to ensure the character-defining facets of the house’s original design remained intact during the transformation.
The team’s plan involved partially returning the building to residential use while introducing a commercial aspect by way of a coffee shop in the foyer and parlors. In realizing this, the building’s floor plan remained largely unchanged. Only small modifications were made to spaces previously renovated during Dunbar’s tenure. While the coffee shop allowed the main rooms to remain public spaces, the remaining first-floor rooms became support spaces for the café, as well as two apartments, a fitness center, and a business center. Second-floor bedrooms were converted into three apartments. The third floor featured the most changes, including shifting a portion of the staircase to achieve necessary head height clearance as well as to create space for a three-bedroom apartment. Historic doors were retained throughout the home, sometimes locked in place and sheet rocked over on one side to maintain the appearance of the original flow while creating a more functional layout. Historic doors were reused where openings shifted or were newly created.
Outside, the original wraparound porch, enclosed during the 1950s, was reopened to reflect the building’s original historic design, based on historic photographs and physical evidence. The missing first-floor turret was rebuilt with new two-over-two wood windows to match the historic fenestration pattern. The porch’s balustrade was custom built to match the small remaining section at the front steps and new wood flooring replaced the 1950s-era cracked quarry tile flooring. The building’s east elevation received a ramp to heighten accessibility to both the café and an ADA unit. Today, this conspicuous landmark reflects the creative vision of its owners, whose dedication to preservation drove a sensitive rehabilitation of a one-of-a-kind historic property.
Preservation Award Plaque
While May is Preservation Month, Historic Columbia would like to encourage the community to recognize the significance of these award-winning projects all year. To that end, we have established a Preservation Plaque program. These plaques are designed for and available to past Preservation Award recipients.