Neighborhood of the Week: Olde Town

Rick and Melissa Keuroglian looked at more than 100 homes before they found the prairie-style house on Greene Street they both fell in love with.


It had everything they wanted: an office for her Internet business, close proximity to First Presbyterian Church (where Rick is the director of evangelism and director of community development), space to entertain and a basement.

And they wanted a neighborhood with a sense of community.

"We found a diamond in the rough," Rick said.

"We were very lucky to find this home, because it is in such good shape," Melissa said.

Rick never considered himself a history buff, but after finding artifacts from an old Augusta dairy in the attic, his curiosity about the home's past was piqued.

The property originally belonged to John Sancken, a German entrepreneur who immigrated to the area when he was 16. He bought several dairy farms and established Sancken's Dairy, Rick said.

The couple found old trays and milk bottles bearing the brand in their attic and incorporated them into their contemporary décor.

Sancken built the house in 1917 to replace an original home that was burned in the fire of 1916. when 25 city blocks were destroyed.

Rick said he doesn't know much about the original house, but he does know that it was smaller and was built between 1884 and 1890.

The house was constructed of hollow tile and stucco in an effort make it fire resistant, and cost $5,500 to build in 1917. It still has many of the original features such as pocket doors, original kitchen cabinets, original white antique oak flooring downstairs and heart-pine floors upstairs.

The foyer creates a dramatic entrance. White columns flank the first landing of a wide staircase that winds to the second floor. A large window overlooks the second landing and can be opened, along with the door to the second floor's sleeping porch, to create a cooling draft in the summer.

An original light fixture powered by knob and tube electrical wiring lights the room.

Melissa said probably 20 percent of the home is still powered by the old electric system.

"All the major outlets and electrical things are converted. It's just the things that aren't used very much that haven't been converted yet," she said.

A small bell in the floor of the dining room hearkens to the home's more affluent days, when it summoned servants from the kitchen and butler's pantry, Rick said.

The home was designed with two master bedrooms on the second floor, each with large closets.

"Back then, they would pay taxes according to how many rooms you had. For this they would actually pay more because this was considered a room and not a closet," Rick said.

The Keuroglians' home was about 70 percent restored when the they bought it, Rick said. They have since installed a second bathroom, stripped paint off the floors and stripped some of the interior wall paint.

The couple loves the wide streets, and the porches that allow neighbors to visit each other.

As president of the Olde Town Neighbor-hood Association, Rick envisions a thriving neighborhood in which neighbors feel safe and help one another.

Just like in the old days.

"For the first time, throughout all the (places) I've ever lived, I know all my neighbors," Rick said.

"We're hoping that more couples will want to come down and make over these old homes," Melissa said.

The Family: Rick and Melissa Keuroglian, Riley, 9, and Cooper, 6

The home: 3,600 square feet, four bedrooms and two full and one half-bath

It's a fact: Prairie-style homes, designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, were popular in the early 1900s. Typical characteristics are horizontal lines, built-in furniture, simple materials, flat roofs, open, flowing indoor spaces and rows of windows.


Neighborhood history

- Olde Town was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

- The neighborhood was once known as Pinched Gut. There are two theories about the origin of the name. One is that is it was derived from the hourglass figures of the fashionable women in the area. The other is that it came from the contracted stomachs of stranded residents during a flood.

- Pinched Gut/Olde Town is Augusta's largest, most-intact historical residential neighborhood. It encompasses 50 city blocks and contains two cemeteries and a city park.

- Elaborate homes once stood along the banks of the Savannah River on the neighborhood's north side. They gave way to the levee, which was built between 1908 and 1918.

- Every domestic architectural style from the early 1800s to the 1930s is represented here. Most of the homes south of the Greene Street median were built before 1916. Most homes north of the Greene Street median were built between 1916 and 1930.

- Augusta's first co-ed grammar school, Houghton Institute, was established in Pinched Gut and was one of the first schools in the present-day Richmond County School System. The original building was destroyed by the fire in 1916. The current building houses Heritage Academy.

Source: Historic Augusta