Drive down Florence Street between Richland and Hayne avenues and you’re likely to do a double-take.
At 135 Florence St. S.W., framed by a white picket fence and flanked by a brick pathway, is a two-story brick house. Next to it is a smaller, similar building.
The structures share many characteristics, including brick pillars, diamond shaped window panels and a unique trapezoid-like roofline.
Owners Bob and Mary Lee McQuinn purchased the home when they moved to Aiken in 2011, after the home had been purchased and restored by Aiken home builder Rusty Findley.
“It had fallen into some hard times,” Bob said of the home.
Last year, the home won a Historic Aiken Foundation award. This year, though, it’s the Garden House next to the home that won the Historic Aiken Foundation’s Leadership Award. The award recognizes “outstanding infill design for new construction compatible with existing historic structures in the immediate area.”
“This lot was empty,” Bob McQuinn said while standing at the brick pathway leading to the new building. “When we bought this home, we bought that lot. Part of our plan was to build this building.”
They broke ground on the building in June 2012 and finished construction around November. The striking similarities between the two buildings jump out.
“You look at the front view of the main house, and you look at the porch and the windows, you see the window up in the attic – we duplicated that to some extent,” Bob said. “We wanted to duplicate the look of the main house. If you stand on Florence and look at the them, it looks like a miniature version of the main house.”
The McQuinns first moved to Aiken in 1978 for Bob’s job with DuPont. They later moved to Washington state but returned to Aiken, then moved to New Mexico before coming back to Aiken in 2011.
While they love their home, it lacks in storage space and has an attic that is inaccessible. The new one-room 750-square-foot building has a wall of large closets and a large attic with a commercial-grade stairway. In addition to storage space, it also has work benches and counters for Bob and a gardening corner and sink for Mary Lee.
“It’s a garden center, it’s a shop. It’s a multipurpose building for us,” Bob said.
You can also add “party location” to that list. On Friday, the McQuinns were preparing to host an outdoor wedding shower at the Garden House.
On the back of the building is a screen porch with a dining area that overlooks the backyard and garden. Outside, the brick pathway leading from the front of the building becomes a trail of stones winding to the outdoor fire pit constructed from bricks and stones.
“A little bit of tropicals back here with these windmill palms,” Bob said. “It’s sort of a functional thing here with this row of evergreens that will grow tall and give us some privacy with the neighbor’s apartment.”