When Molly and Ted Fienning bought the Robert Smalls house there was only one inadequate bathroom and virtually no closets; typical in historic houses. The house’s history intrigued them. In 1839, Robert Smalls was born a slave on this property. In the civil was he became a U.S. Army captain. He went on to serve in the SC House of Representative, SC Senate and was a United States Congressman for 5 terms. After the civil war, Robert Smalls purchased this and adjacent properties. It is believed that this circa 1855 house was moved to the property as part of the Smalls estate. The original house was two rooms over two; it appears that a one story wing was added when the house was moved. The double front porches were removed many years ago and replaced with a small stoop. It is atypical of Beaufort houses because the porches are on the west instead of the south.
Robert Smalls is an important historical figure in South Carolina, so it was critical to respect the integrity of the house while providing the basic necessities in bathrooms and storage. We added a small L‐shaped second floor addition to house two new bathrooms, master bedroom closet and a small third bedroom. The addition backs up to the existing chimney and we left it exposed in the bathroom. We enclosed an existing small porch to create a breakfast room with a new porch beyond.
By restoring the double front porches, the house now looks like the typical Beaufort house that it is instead of some foreign transplant. The Fiennings’ desire for a screened porch was met with a free standing enclosure that respects the scale of the historic home and encloses a courtyard on the south of the house. The house was featured in the 2011 October/November issue of Home by Design