Built in 1813, Whitehall is Greenville's oldest home

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Whitehall located on West Earle Street is Greenville's oldest home.

Whitehall was built in 1813 by Henry Middleton on what would become Earle Street.

This Lowcountry planter and his large family were anxious to escape from their Ashley River plantation to a healthier climate in the summer months.

Middleton, who was born in London, may have taken the name from that section of government buildings in London that stretch from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. In 1820, Whitehall became the property of George Washington Earle, who left it to his daughter, Eugenia Earle Stone. Her descendants have continued to occupy the residence.

In Rita and Chuck Stone's home, it's hard to discern where past ends and present begins. An original 19th-century fireplace is finished with modern marble, an original door remains attached to a bright pink bedroom that screams teenage girl, and a 3-year-old addition that includes a den is the perfect display spot for century-old relics.

If the centuries seem to flow into one another, it's only because the Stones have worked very hard to make it that way.

The Stone family has lived in Whitehall, considered by many Greenville's oldest house, for 14 years. In that time, Rita Stone's main goal has been preserving the historic home that dates to 1813 while still making it livable for a family of six.

You can't just add anything to a house like Whitehall, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, but you also can't expect kids to live in a museum.

"I couldn't live like that," Stone says. "Especially with young children, how do you do that? If there's one thing I want it to be, it's comfortable and practical at the same time."

Stone appreciates her modern amenities but that doesn't mean they should show. A flat screen TV, for instance, is hidden behind custom cabinetry that displays the "treasures" the Stones found during their first renovation of Whitehall 14 years ago. And in the older part of the house (the front parlor and the dining room), Stone has left the rooms as original as possible, following the mindset of knowing when to quit.

Because Whitehall is in a historic district, changes had to be OK'd by a local architecture review board. The Stones' architect, Bill Cullum, presented the proposed changes and all were accepted.

That part actually wasn't as touchy as convincing family of the proposed changes, says Stone.

Agnes Stone Dawsy, from whom Chuck inherited the house, was none too keen on changing anything, so most of the renovation was done after it could be worked out with her.

"That generation was kind of set," Stone says. "You know, it was good enough for us, and why do you need to make this change, that change. We wanted to wait until she was ready for us to do something. And she never came in the house after we renovated it. She just wanted to remember it the way it was when she was here. And I can respect that."

The first renovation the Stones undertook 14 years ago included basic structural elements, such as new steel beams in the ceiling, above which grain was once stored, and removing walls and redoing bathrooms that had been added when Whitehall was temporarily converted to apartments. The construction produced more than just space. They found remnants of Whitehall's long existence — medicine bottles from the old Stone Drugstore, old tools, Ladies Home Journals from the late 1800s. The Stones also installed a half bath at the end of the entry hallway.

Three years ago, an addition created a large den area, screened porch, a large laundry room, new kitchen and second-floor game/play room. The renovation took the original 4,000-square-foot house to 8,000 square feet.

"It grew and grew," Rita admits.


Lillia Callum-Penso, TALK Greenville