Landrum Wanderings: The white house on Trade, revisited

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Remember the big white house on Trade Street in Landrum?

Many columns ago, I described it: “There it sits, a grand old building, proudly looking over the railroad tracks to the smoky Blue Ridge Mountains.”

The house had been for sale for several years, and I was curious about its past. A visit with the realtor told me the appraisal listed the original date as 1857.

But its history as eluded me. In his book “The Who and Why of Landrum SC 29356,” James Walton Lawrence Sr. acknowledges the house’s presence the day the railroad opened and the first train arrived in 1877.

But there’s no reference to who built or lived in the big house.

My curiosity continued as the house took on a forlorn look, the white picket fence greyed and the yard overgrown.

One day, as I ambled along the sidewalk, my spirits soared when I noticed the “For Sale” sign was gone.

“Could it be?” I wondered. “Could it have sold?”

Some inquiries led me to Victoria Schneider.

Victoria had recently relocated to the Carolina Foothills. Like me, she was drawn to the house one day, and noticed the sign. She called the realtor, and now the house is hers.

Today, I’m stopping by to meet Victoria and see what’s happening at the old house.

I knock on one of the stately, wood front doors. She welcomes me into the ongoing restoration.

I learn that Victoria is from Connecticut. Her niece is an equine vet in our area and, like many of us, after a visit here, Victoria decided to make the Carolinas home.

“I’ve restored old houses before when I lived in Connecticut,” she tells me. “When I had my first look at this house, I was surprised to discover how well it’s survived the many years gone by. I could see that most of the needed restoration would be cosmetic.”

Victoria is used to restorations requiring major transformation.

“I usually have to tear out walls, redo electrical and plumbing systems. I was amazed to see that although the house has had various owners over the years, it was kept intact.”

“Frequently, a house this old would have walls taken down or added” she explains. “Fireplaces would be bricked up and covered completely. There are seven fireplaces in the house. They do all work, and each one is a different size.”

We wander through the rooms as she describes work that’s being done or has been completed.

“One of the biggest difficulties for me was knowing who I could trust to do work for me. In Connecticut, I had crews that I had relied on for my projects, but being new here, I was out of my comfort zone. One day, I went to Henson’s and was referred to Jerry Spur, of Carolina Home Improvements. They’ve been wonderful, and we’ve established a great working relationship.”

“I felt bad for this house,” she adds. “The wall colors were gaudy, the fireplace tile had been redone with unattractive tile that didn’t fit the era of the house. Chandeliers had been replaced with ceiling fans. It deserved to be restored to its original grandeur.”

Victoria has repainted the rooms with soft, restful colors, and had lighting typical of the period installed. Fireplaces are receiving mid-1800’s mantles and tile, and new hearths.

I ask her about the floors.

“The floors are original and are heart pine. They had been painted chocolate brown, but I knew that once stripped, they would be beautiful,” she smiles, as we enter a large room that has the newly stripped floors.

I remember from my previous visit with the realtor, that the bathrooms all needed extensive work. Although all were functional, the fixtures were unattractive and outdated.

As Victoria leads me to the different bathrooms, I’m delighted to see the creativity she’s employed to provide character to these small rooms.

An old treadle sewing machine has been altered into a receptacle for a basin. Another room has a restyled vintage dresser and mirror, creating a sink. An antique claw foot tub adorns another bath.

The kitchen and pantry are still a work in progress.

“I took everything out,” she shows me. “I have new cabinets coming. There was nothing usable left in here. Surprisingly, there is a large basement that one of the former owners had dug under the house.”

I inquire about the future of the house. Victoria doesn’t plan to reside here.

“No, this was just a project for me. I’m getting ready to start on a farm for my horses. Most people have dreams of it becoming a bed and breakfast, and I think that would be great. But I know nothing about operating a B&B. I would need to find an experienced couple to live here and run it.

“It will be listed as commercial property, as that is the zoning here. It could be offices, maybe a mix like some lawyer offices, a real estate office or possibly a counselor. I’ve even thought offices could be upstairs. The downstairs could be something like a weekend wine bar. It has so many possibilities. It should be ready to be listed in April.”

It’s time for me to leave this treasure that Victoria has so lovingly restored. It has a warm, inviting ambience, just what I had hoped for the first time I was allowed to tour the house with the realtor.

Anyone wishing to contact Victoria regarding this property can do so at PO Box 695, Landrum, SC 29356