Editor's note: This is one story in a series highlighting the winners of the Historic Aiken Foundation's 2014 Preservation Awards.
Nestled on the 500 block of Sumter Street in the Historic Horse District among other Winter Colony homes, Ryefields is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and owners Jim and Sarah Wildasin were recognized for their efforts in preserving the original character of the 1931 home.
The Wildasins were recognized by the Historic Aiken Foundation with the 2014 Wilds-Lipe Treasured Home Award, one of the foundation's oldest awards whose recipient shows extraordinary effort in preservation. The award is named after the foundation's founders, Nancy Wilds and Dr. Bob Lipe.
“We're really concerned with the exterior, that it looks the way it looked originally – and even better in most cases,” said Robert Stack, vice president of the foundation. “We look for extraordinary effort in terms of preservation. The house stood out immediately for the extra lengths they went to preserve the original character.”
The Wildasins purchased the home in March 2013, but they've purchased other homes since moving to Aiken from Connecticut, and even won a Historic Aiken Foundation award for a barn they renovated on Two Notch Road.
“We came down here originally for two weeks, and two weeks became a month, a month became two months, and then we were here four months,” Jim Wildasin said. “We realized that we basically spend most of the year here.”
The two-story brick home was designed by renowned architect Willis Irvin and built in 1931 for Mrs. G. di Rosa. Samuel Cothran and his wife purchased Ryefields in 1968 when they came from Charleston so he could be editor and publisher of the Aiken Standard.
The home includes a large guest cottage, stables and two garages. Save for a few minor adjustments such as the antique clock face now situated on the outside of the stable, and a doorway that was moved a couple feet inside, the home's original design remains untouched.
Grant Larlee, of Larlee Construction, has helped the Wildasins renovate and restore their other homes. He said several people had looked at Ryefields.
“They all wanted to change everything,” he said. “The house works. Today, so many people want to change things and open them up.”
Outside, they painted the home, put on new shutters and installed new door hardware. Larlee said it was important to have hardware and light fixtures from the time period in which the home was built. They even had a specially-designed wooden fence placed at the end of the driveway.
The landscaping on the three-acre property is well-maintained and, like the home, is mostly unchanged. That made work on the water and sewer lines difficult.
“Anytime you go into these old houses, especially trying to make the old stuff work, there's things you have to have fabricated to make them work,” Larlee said. “One of the most difficult things was, you can't disturb the landscaping.”
Crews rewired the home and replaced the plumbing. All sinks, bathtubs, toilets and light fixtures are either original or from the same time period. They even found wallpaper from 1932 to put up.
“It was very important to keep everything old,” Larlee said. “A lot of these places in this area, they need the (tender loving care) and they need to be brought back to life. And when you get done, it's like, 'Wow, we brought that place back to life.'”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.
Editor's Note - The year in which Samuel Cothran and his wife purchased Ryefields was incorrect in a previous version of this article. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.