Overhaul continues at historic building

AIKEN --- For more than a year, the Rye Patch in Aiken has been undergoing extensive structural renovations, the first in nearly 81 years.

"The city is going through this process where we're recognizing historic properties, and we're designating them as such," said Glenn Parker, the director of parks and recreation. "The city felt like we needed to take the lead in that whole process, so we chose to do this at Rye Patch."

The former winter home on Berrie Road next to Hopelands Gardens was formerly owned by winter residents Edmund and Dorothy Rogers of New York. Mrs. Rogers died in 1980, and her children bequeathed the property to the city in 1981, according to city records.

The last major structural renovations took place in 1927, three years after Charles G. Taylor bought the home. The Rogerses bought the home from the Taylor family about 10 years later.

The home is now a public facility available to rent for a variety of occasions.

The first phase of the renovation, which began in January 2007, was to remove exterior vinyl siding that the city installed in 1984.

"A lot of what you see is the original wood that was on the house," Mr. Parker said, gesturing to the freshly painted facility. Some of the wood needed to be repaired or replaced, he said.

The city also installed copper guttering, added a handicap ramp to the front of the house, caulked the windows and repaired the chimney. Inside, walls were painted, bookcases were removed and new curtains and hardwood floors were installed.

"The floors in the downstairs had been sanded so many times they couldn't be sanded anymore," said Joseph Spencer, the president of the Friends of Hopelands and Rye Patch, which worked with the city and provided input on the look and feel of the house.

Mr. Parker said that when they ripped up the floors they discovered why the house had problems with its heating and air conditioning: The duct work was lying on the ground under the house.

The city fixed the duct work and installed a gleaming maple-type of flooring common to when the home was built.

Mr. Parker said the renovations cost about $827,000, and the city isn't finished. The city's budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year has money available to install storm windows and to renovate an upstairs area that hasn't been used since the city acquired the house.

"There's three offices up there," Mr. Parker said. "City staff will end up being in those offices, and there's also a couple of small areas we're going to provide to the Friends of Hopelands for storage."

Having those offices occupied on a daily basis will help the house be better maintained, Mr. Parker said.

"We see it as an investment," he said. "One of the reasons we keep Rye Patch is the city wants this to be a location for folks who can't afford a country club, who aren't a member of a country club or who just want this atmosphere (and) can have some place to go."

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com

TIMELINE

LATE 1800s: Rye Patch is built

1924: Charles G. Taylor, of Connecticut, buys Rye Patch

1927: Mr. Taylor has extensive renovations made

1933: Mr. Taylor dies

1935: Wife, Virginia Davidge Taylor, dies

c. 1936: Edmund and Dorothy Rogers of New York purchase Rye Patch

c. 1937: Arches along brick wall between Whiskey Road and Rye Patch are filled in for the duke of Windsor's visit

JANUARY, 1938: Edward, duke of Windsor and the former king of England, and his wife, Wallis Simpson, visit Rye Patch

1980: Mrs. Rogers dies

1981: Mrs. Rogers' children donate Rye Patch to the city of Aiken

1984: The city conducts a minor renovation by installing vinyl siding

2007: The city begins extensive structural renovations

Sources: Augusta Chronicle archives and Friends of Hopelands and Rye Patch