House of Prayer

Calling on a higher power for direction, Tim and Ranai Kennedy were led to the home where they would raise their family, in the heart of Summerville’s historic district.

One gets the idea that builder Henry Oliver knew a thing or two about construction when he bought the ¾ acre plot of land at the corner of Doscher and Taylor Streets in Summerville and built his home. The land, first deeded in 1811, had been held by auspicious hands, including Reverend Phillip Gadsden, the historic founder and first rector of St. Paul’s Summerville. After Henry Oliver bought the parcel in 1887, he would go on to follow in the Reverend Gadsden’s footsteps, to a point, shaping religious life in the Lowcountry as a builder of  Charleston’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Though it would continue to be known as The Oliver House, the owners of the home would change many times over the next century, as would the names of the Summerville streets that flanked it. The pale yellow, late Victorian-era home now stands grandly at the corner of Charleston and Rutherford Streets; its distinctive mansard roof line and ornate trim making it a well-known and much-photographed ambassador of historic Summerville.

When Tim and Ranai Kennedy began their search for a home for their young family in 1995, both had a fascination with old homes, and had looked at a wide variety of houses from John’s Island, to Charleston, to Summerville. They were torn between the convenience of Charleston and the small-town, neighborhood feel of Summerville.

“We didn’t want to be a family that moved,” says Tim, a commercial builder. “We knew that we wanted a place to put down roots and grow, a house that our children could always come home to.”  

They were down to the wire when Ranai confided their uncertainty to a friend, who asked the young woman of deep faith, “Have you prayed about it, Ranai? Have you really, really prayed about it?”

And she did. The couple had a counter-offer pending on a house in Charleston when realtor Dan Beauchene took them to the Rutherford Street home. The contrast between the two locations was startling. College students peppered the sidewalk outside the Charleston home, their language far too salty for the ears of the Kennedys’ young children. “In Summerville,” says Ranai, “the birds were singing and flowers were blooming.”

Beauchene said simply, “I know you’re looking at a house in Charleston, too. But this really is the perfect place to raise your family.”

Ranai says that she knew in that moment that her prayers had been answered. “That’s it. I think God wants us to buy this house.”

The house had been beautifully maintained, but had not been renovated since the mid-1970s, so the Kennedys set about making the changes that would update it for their growing family. The town and the neighborhood proved to be all that they had hoped for, with good schools that their children, Christopher, Matthew and Lizzie, could walk to, wonderful neighbors, and by happy coincidence, a church family at St. Paul’s Summerville, the church founded by Reverend Phillip Gadsden.  

From day one, the Kennedys envisioned the stages of their lives that would play out on lawn and brick walkways, and the most dramatic vision finally came true this past year, when son Christopher and his fiancé Holly chose the home as the site of their wedding. The event spurred the latest renovation of the house, one that added space and light and offers room enough for children and future grandchildren.

The airy, white kitchen is lit by three bay windows original to the house, designed with squares of colored glass surrounding a clear, center panel. It provided the perfect setting for the home’s second appearance on the Dorchester Children Center’s Annual Scrumptious Kitchen Tour. The tour is one of the many worthy community projects to which Ranai has lent her leadership, and her understanding that the event provides the principal funding for the agency was a deciding factor for the couple to open up their home.

With their two youngest children still at home, the Kennedys look forward to making many more happy memories on the wide porches and in the happy halls of their corner of historic Summerville, and to continuing to give back to the community that has brought their family such joy.  

Truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. From Psalms 66:19, the words speak to the truth of the power of prayer. It is a truth that Tim and Ranai Kennedy trusted in when they turned to the wisdom of a higher power to guide them, leading their family to Rutherford Street, and a home that is in its truest sense, a house of prayer.  

By Susan Frampton