Friendship, small town charm and the perfect house draw Canadans Henry and Kelley Johnson back home to Summerville
The home on the corner of South Main and West Fifth South Street has seen many changes come to the town since its construction in the 1920s. From its perch atop the area’s highest point, referred to as Clay Hill by Summerville natives, the stately white house watched as Azalea Park was planted with its trademark flowers and saw Main Street move from dirt road to paved highway. Time has been very kind to the house on the hill, and through the years its walls recall the happy sounds of several generations of Summerville families.
Originally from Canada, H.enry and Kelley Johnson first came to Summerville in 2000. Avid tennis players, they lived in Pine Forest for seven years. But when they had the opportunity to transfer with Henry’s job to Brussels, Belgium, they jumped at the chance. After five years abroad, they returned to the area, and though they could have chosen the beach or Mt. Pleasant, Summerville called them back. “There is just something about Summerville. People stay here. And we had so many good friends here,” Kelley says.
When the Main Street house came became available, the timing could not have been better. It was an ideal location for them to settle with their two children, Charles and Grace, with the park and tennis courts right next door and downtown just a short walk or bike ride away. “We rode our bikes everywhere when we were in Europe,” Kelley says, “so having the farmer’s market and downtown close by makes us feel right at home in this neighborhood.”
“We knew wanted to be in old Summerville, but we weren’t in the market for a fixer-upper,” Henry says. The house had undergone an extensive renovation in 2000. In addition to upgrading the electrical and HVAC systems, a new family room and master suite rounded out the new and improved floorplan. The home also features a full basement – a rarity in the Lowcountry.
Throughout the house, a lovely collection of antiques pieces the couple acquired in Belgium provide functional duties as well as a European flavor. “These older houses don’t have much closet space, so the large pieces work beautifully,” Kelley says of two Hungarian armoires in the master bedroom. The two worked with interior designer Laura Jones to create a perfect blend of comfortable elegance throughout, with contemporary art adding a modern touch.
Sitting on almost an acre of beautifully landscaped property, the home also boasts what is thought to be the oldest in-ground pool in Summerville; completely restored in 2000. Several years later, the existing pool house was demolished to make room for what some might consider the property’s pièce de résistance – a 966 square foot pool/guest house with tongue and groove walls and ceilings, and exposed wooden beams, repurposed from a textile mill.
In addition to a spacious bedroom, the airy, open space features a custom built bar, sauna, steam room and state-of-the-art entertainment system. The couple’s love of art is obvious here, where a stylized bulldog – Kelley’s nod to Henry’s passion for the Georgia Bulldogs – hangs not far from one of their favorite acquisitions, a watercolor by Canadian artist Daniel Barkley. “We sat and looked at this painting for 2 hours before we decided on it,” Henry says of the oversized piece.
With their son Charles attending school in Montreal and much of their family in Canada, Kelley north returns often. Though Henry’s work regularly takes him back to their native country, it seems that Summerville has worked its magic on the couple, and they are happily settled in the house on the hill. “We are very happy to be back.”
By Susan Frampton