An iconic Broad Street house is seeing new life after country star and Charleston native Darius Rucker completed extensive interior renovations. But the site’s yet-to-be completed exterior upgrades have some of his new neighbors upset.
Some nearby residents are worried the size of a proposed pool and two-story pool house will promote a party atmosphere and clash with the historic neighborhood’s architectural style.
The current plan also aims to keep in place a parking area from the large property’s previous use as a church administrative building.
“So many spaces are unnecessary and will only encourage large gatherings,” neighbor Carrie Agnew said in a written comment to the Charleston Board of Architectural Review.
“Perhaps this is the intent of the current owners, who are all in various aspects of the entertainment business,” she added.
Rucker, along with entrepreneur John McGrath, bought the house in 2018 for its full list price of $6.25 million, according to the deed filed with the county.
McGrath founded JEM Restaurant Group in 1998. The company has expanded over the last 2½ decades to include more than 100 Pizza Hut and Taco Bell franchise locations in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Known as the Morton Waring House, located at 119 Broad St., it was built between 1803 and 1807. The outside marble façade was added over brick in the early 1900s, according to the Charleston Museum.
The main house contains about 8,444 square feet of space. It’s located across from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and was previously used as an administrative building for the church.
The architect behind the renovations and the outdoor-area plans, Neil Stevenson, pushed back at the narrative that the property will be used as a “party house.”
“He’s got some fame but he’s been here for two years,” Stevenson said of Rucker at an Aug. 11 review board meeting. “He’s a very private person … I don’t see this as a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ party house.”
Stevenson added that Rucker has been living elsewhere in Charleston with no issue.
Twice since November 2021, the board has delayed plans for the proposed pool and pool house while citing historical inaccuracies and other concerns raised by neighbors about the scale of construction.
The original plan, proposed in November, included looping the driveway across the property to create two entrances on Broad Street and a pool house with two floors and large columns out front. Revised plans eliminated the second driveway entrance, added a trellis in front of the pool for privacy between the pool and Broad Street, and refined the style of the pool house to more closely match the main house. The proposed pool house is about 1,400 square feet.
Neighbors were still concerned the size of the pool and pool house are out of character for the area.
“The proposed pool house building has more square feet than our house,” neighbors Michael and Lara Commers wrote in a joint comment to the BAR. “This doesn’t seem logical to us to be classified as a pool house.”
Despite some pushback, Rucker’s work on the house has been celebrated by other locals. The renovations have been detailed extensively in a television show on The Design Network called “Rucker’s Reno.”
The show is backed by South Carolina’s tourism department and features local restaurants, attractions and other businesses in each episode. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg was featured in the final episode during a celebration of the interior work.
Rucker told Architectural Digest the project was all about taking the pre-Civil War-era home — “something that was once a painful reminder of that history,” and turning it into “someplace that people who look like me can be really proud of.”
When Stevenson presented updated pool and pool house plans on Aug. 11, the review board voted to defer its approval. It seemed close to approving the plans if some tweaks to building materials and minor design changes can be made.
In a win for the neighbors, Stevenson agreed to look into making the pool house 1½ stories rather than two stories. A house with a half story is shorter because the second floor is located beneath the slope of the house’s roof.
Although he still has reservations about what the house will be used for, neighbor Larry Wetzel said he thinks the recommendations from the BAR are an improvement.
“I think we have a reasonably good chance of getting something that we can all accept,” he said.
It is unclear when the BAR will next review plans for the house.
Reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.