Azalea Magazine Summerville The Lowcountry SC

Modern Living in the Old South

Modern Living in the Old South

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A True Classic Revival

The Cuddy House has known many names over the course of time but Gretchen and Brian Cuddy have made this house their own.

Although neurosurgeon Dr. Brian Cuddy and his wife Gretchen still consider themselves newcomers to Summerville, the home they moved into in February of 2021 has been a beloved fixture on the horizon since 1883. Holding down its corner in the very heart of the town’s Historic District, the home was once known as the Henry Middleton Manigault House and later as The Manigault Sisters House. Despite balancing busy schedules and the challenges of restoring the Grand Dame of a historic home, the couple has seamlessly transitioned from their residence on Daniel Island to the pace of Summerville.

Gretchen, an artist, floral designer, and former Pediatric ICU nurse at MUSC, and Brian, who in addition to his practice, served as chief of staff for Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, and has been the chairman of the Roper St. Francis Healthcare Board of Directors since 2015, are a welcome addition to the community. Gretchen’s sunny smile and Brian’s quick wit have already made the couple a favorite among their new neighbors.

Though today it has been thoroughly modernized, while making the stately white home their own, the Cuddy’s have stayed true to the integrity and character of the residence. “I like old houses,” says Gretchen. “My husband does too. They have so much personality.” She pauses before adding, “But you know they’re always a work in progress. That work has not been without its challenges, which began on moving day.”

The home sits on 1.7 acres, but the gates, which are original to the house, were sized for carriages rather than modern vehicles. “It had been pouring rain for three days when we moved from Daniel Island.The big moving van wouldn’t fit through either of the property’s narrow gates, so we had to make lots of trips with smaller trucks,” Gretchen remembers. “We had to block traffic on Central Avenue to back them in, and even holding back the iron gates, the smaller trucks only cleared the gates by inches.”

Gretchen’s creative gifts as an artist and floral designer helped her to fully imagine the house’s potential the first time she saw it. “Everything was just like builders white when we first saw it.” Now, warm with natural light from the many windows, the rich colors and textures of the home are a testament to the discerning taste of its owners. The flow of one room to the next invites visitors to linger. One cannot help but note the warmth and comfortable ambiance of every space, a feeling that perfectly reflects the sense of welcome they offer their guests. “It’s a great house for a party,” Gretchen says of the library, study and formal living room, and dining rooms off the central hallway. Sprawling porches are retreats of creating airy, open spaces.

The downstairs master bedroom was converted to a handsome office for Brian and the entire upstairs to a restful oasis for the couple. With their three children grown and on their own, the three-bedroom guest cottage out back offers the ideal space for the children to spread out when they come home. “One bedroom in the main house wouldn’t work for everybody, but it’s perfect for our needs.”

Stepping inside the guest house, a long, polished bar to one side is an unexpected and delightful element. It’s the legacy of one of the home’s previous owners. “Interestingly, the person who revamped the cottage was a Vice Admiral who was head of Naval Intelligence, and then became the National Security Advisor for the younger Bush administration,” Brian explains. We all immediately look over our shoulders. Remnants of the Vice Admiral’s Irish heritage remain in the beer taps that tease the promise of a cold one. “I’ve also found clumps of shamrocks growing in the yard.”

The cottage’s open-concept downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs, one of which Gretchen has converted to an art studio, continues the warm and welcoming tone of the main house. So it would be understandable if the kids wanted to visit as often as possible. “This is just a really comfortable space, and so when the children are here, or we have guests, they can stay here and have it to themselves. It’s nice because it has its own laundry room and also a half bath and a full kitchen.

As if the interiors of the Cuddy’s home weren’t perfect enough, we step outside, where camellia-blossomed nooks, an unexpected and fruit-rich orange tree, add a pop of color to the landscape. On one side of the lawn, the fireplace of a comfy outdoor room invites making s’mores, reading a book, taking a snooze, or enjoying late afternoon cocktails. Nearby, what Gretchen calls the garden shed is a “she-shack” too lovely to ever imagine potting plants inside. Here, she also teaches small floral design classes, which she also teaches at The Gibbes Museum of Art.

Heading to the other side of the yard, Brian grins as we head down a brick path and through a door into a cavernous space. The floor has been cleaned until it shines. Bright lights illuminate every spotlessly scrubbed surface, and it could almost work as a set for an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Everything appears ready for a major operation to take place. But then, Buster, the dog, ambles in the door, sniffs, and yawns. It isn’t a home-based operating room, though it might do in a pinch. Instead, it’s a workshop— the other place noted neurosurgeon Dr. Brian Cuddy goes to take things apart and put them back together. The good-natured doctor takes the ribbing in stride, and it’s evident that this is not the first he’s been handed. “What can I say,” he laughs. “I like things neat.”

Shortly after the Cuddy’s got settled in the house, they invited a dear friend to dinner who happened to be a Catholic Monsignor. Over the course of the evening, he spontaneously asked if they would like to have the house blessed. Of course, they were delighted, and the Monsignor went room to room, bestowing his blessing on their new residence. Perhaps this blessing explains the feelings of warmth and welcome that have made this The Cuddy House. But there is a fair chance that the Cuddy’s arrival in Summerville is the real blessing for us all. AM

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