What would possess a successful young couple, with demanding careers and five children between them, to purchase and restore a Victorian home a five-hour drive away from their home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.?
Candice Temple and Steven Murray are the couple who recently purchased Hart House on Halifax Square, in Brunswick’s Old Town Historic District. Temple, the former public information officer for Glynn County, said the process began as a dream.
“Although I haven’t lived in the area full-time in several years, I consider Brunswick home,” she explained, adding that when she brought Murray to visit, he “got it” immediately. “Every trip, he’d comment on how I get more relaxed when my eyes see the marshland.”
The couple would wile away time driving around downtown and talking about how “cool” it would be to own a Victorian “someday.” Temple had always wanted a home with a big front porch, and when Murray’s parents retired to North Carolina last year, the couple began quickly to see Brunswick as a potential halfway point for family gatherings.
“In 2018, we did a family destination Thanksgiving and we all stayed at Brunswick Manor,” she said. “Then, last year, we attended PorchFest. We rented a big house in Old Town. We already loved downtown and have lots of friends there, but that event just make it sparkle.”
PorchFest made the couple inch a little closer to the first step – contacting a Realtor. In January, they made the call.
Murray was totally on board.
“I love the slower-paced atmosphere and the character that the downtown area, and specifically, the older Victorian houses have,” he said.
Murray said the pair’s offer was accepted in February and they closed in May.
Temple said the house was constructed in the Eastlake Victorian style, and a newel post, in the front foyer, was confirmation. The Hart family purchased the house in the 1950s.
“They were great caretakers of the house,” Temple said. “Even as improvements have been made over the years, the house has not been completely gutted, leaving many of the original features of the house, from door and window frames, to mantles and the staircase, intact.”
The little research they’ve been able to complete suggests that the house was likely built by William Bunkley of the Cumberland Island Bunkleys.
“County property records date the house as built in 1900, but we have found our address in the Brunswick City Directory as early as 1853,” Temple said. “We are still working to confirm the facts. Finding historical information through property tax records has been challenging, and due to COVID-19, we haven’t yet been able to physically visit the courts and libraries to search records. We hope to be able to do that and put all the pieces together.”
Once the closing occurred, the restoration was under way. Murray is careful to distinguish between the terms restoration and renovation.
“Restoration is bringing the house back to its original state using similar techniques as were in place to build her originally. Renovation is using modern techniques to update the house. Renovation typically removes so much of the uniqueness of the houses – we definitely lean more to the restoration side with our decisions.”—steven murray
Murray jokes that the easiest part of the process so far was signing the loan paperwork, but admits the easiest fix was repairing the foundations because he and Temple had the company lined up and ready to begin the day after closing.
Harder choices have to be made on a more frequent basis.
“The most difficult are the daily decisions to honor the history and craftsmanship of the house,” Murray said. “Balancing cost-efficiency and history is extremely difficult.”
Temple agrees and says it is important for them to honor the house, which they consider a treasure. (continued on next page)
“There are things that need to be done right away or they may get too far gone,” she said. “Of course, we have our personal style preferences, but I keep reminding everyone involved that we we didn’t buy an old house just to make it look brand new.”
Surprises and discoveries abound in a project such as this. The first, finding an original medallion on the kitchen ceiling, was found when a drop ceiling was removed. The second was how much care had been taken to preserve the original woodwork when the house was split into apartments.
“There have been so many,” Temple said, including the tank still on the wall where a high-tank toilet had been, and finding original hardwood floors underneath linoleum and tile. Temple hopes to restore the toilet and have it working again. “There have also been a couple of tiny things that the entire family has enjoyed finding – like a label to an old Scotch Whiskey bottle with a photo of a young girl on it we were later able to identify as Clelia Scott.”
And, when the family removed the carpet on the enclosed porch, they found several copies of The Brunswick News from 1959.
Temple and Murray have a little advice for those who want to undertake this sort of adventure.
“Talk to someone who’s done it,” said Temple. “Our Old Town neighbors have generously lent their experience, knowledge and resources. We really have the best neighborhood. Also, when it comes to budgeting, always include some extra padding. Nothing will go as planned.”
Murray, concurs and adds a caveat.
“Patience,” he cautions. “Rome wasn’t built in a day either.”
Temple says she and Murray have tried to involve their kids, especially their three youngest boys, in the project.
“They have helped demo and remove carpet,” she said. “One day, we kept them busy pulling nails from old boards that can possibly be reused. They love Old Town, and we hope they look back fondly on this time.
“This will be a part of our family’s legacy.”