Free house in Hardeeville? Owners are giving away this historic home, but there’s a catch

Mike Condon, current owner of Hardeeville’s Heyward house, is photographed on Wednesday in front of the building that he’s willing to give away for free to anybody who can remove it from the property.
Mike Condon, current owner of Hardeeville’s Heyward house, is photographed on Wednesday in front of the building that he’s willing to give away for free to anybody who can remove it from the property. jkarr@islandpacket.com

A house in Hardeeville that once belonged to a descendant of Thomas Heyward Jr. — one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence — is going to be given away for free to one of hundreds of people who have shown interest over the last few days.

This Heyward House is approximately 15 miles away from the historically recognized Heyward House in Bluffton’s historic district. Because the Hardeeville home’s history is shrouded in uncertainty and mystery, it has had to get by without financial help from historic preservation efforts.

Nevertheless, its sentimental value and solid bones have kept it standing since the late 1800s ... or the early 1900s, depending on where you look.

“Free to a good home!”

Last week, a Realtor’s post in the public Facebook group “Bluffton/Okatie/HHI/Beaufort Buy, Sell, and Trade Everything” caught several users’ attention.

“Very unique opportunity! Free to good home!” the post read. Realtor Virginie Blackwell with Weichert Realtors, Coastal Properties also listed her phone number.

Even more intriguing were the attached photos of the Hardeeville Heyward House on Main Street and another, smaller house a few blocks away.

As soon as Blackwell sent it online, she got a call. Over the next 48 hours or so, she had received over 500 calls, texts and Facebook messages with people asking more about these houses and how they can get their names in the running for one, she said.

The Heyward House belongs to Michael Condon of Vintage Home Restoration, a company with roots in Boston, Portland, Maine and Savannah.

The second, smaller house and the property it sits on are owned by the City of Hardeeville, Weichert Broker and Beaufort Sales Manager Bob Jones said on Wednesday. The building does not have any historical value, built in the 1960s or 1970s, but could more easily be picked up and moved than the larger house or taken apart and repurposed.

The cost to pick up the Heyward House will be around $10,000, Condon said. The cost to move it to its new lot will depend on the distance. To move it to one of the empty lots in the same area of Hardeeville — which is the goal — it would likely be an additional $5,000 to $10,000. To move it farther would add thousands.

The cost of restoring and renovating the Heyward House could be anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000, according to Condon, or $200,000 to $250,000, according to Jones. The costs would depend heavily on the new owner’s plans.

It is likely that the lucky person or people who will be taking ownership of these two homes will be chosen after a showing on Saturday, Blackwell and Jones said on Wednesday.

Hope of restoration

Condon bought the property from the city of Hardeeville for $60,000 in the spring of 2017, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette reported.

At the time, he had the beginnings of a deal with someone who wanted to relocate the house to a lot in Pritchardville and restore it, Condon said. That plan was dragged out by the other party and ended up falling through just days before they decided to make the move to post the house on Facebook.

“The value of the home is not a monetary thing, it’s an emotional thing,” Condon said. The last thing he wanted was the tear it down. “That’s not going in a dumpster.”

In its place, Condon had plans — and still does — to build a multi-family residential development marketed toward moderate-income home buyers. The homes would be affordable for “firefighters, police officers, plumbers, carpenters,” he said, for example.

Outside, the new homes will look like like 1920s- and 1930s-era homes, with designs straight out of Sears and Roebuck catalogs from that era, Condon said. Inside, they’ll have modern setups and conveniences.

When the city bought the Heyward House from a private owner in 2009, the price tag was $150,000, the Jasper County Sun Times reported in 2017.

The city council’s goal was to obtain official historical recognition for the home and apply for grants and other resources to restore it, City Manager Michael Czymbor and Planning Director Brana Snowden said on Wednesday. After about eight years of applications and dreams of reviving the old house, it was put back on the market in February 2016 with the same price tag.

“I think everyone has been pleased to have at least tried (to save the house),” Snowden said. She said she didn’t feel there was any regret tied to the city’s purchase of the house.

Heyward House history

The Hardeeville Heyward House — or at least part of it — is believed to be the oldest house in Hardeeville and one of the oldest buildings in the city, Snowden said Wednesday. It sits across the street from the oldest building in the city, Hardeeville United Methodist Church.

The original part of the house is believed to have been built around 1915, or perhaps closer to when the Heyward family bought the land in 1885. Those years change depending on the source since very few records for the house have surfaced, but estimates remain in the same era. The home was believed to be owned by a William Heyward, according to sciway.net. William Heyward’s relationship to Thomas Heyward Jr. is unclear.

Portions of the house including wings on the left and right sides of the house and a closed-in porch area in the back have been added on since the original home was built.

At some point, the home passed out of the hand’s of the Heyward family, but that year or time period is also unclear. In the years leading up to the city’s purchase, the home was owned and rented out to tenants, Czymbor said.

The nearby Bluffton Heyward House was owned by George Cuthbert Heyward, a grandson of the Thomas Heyward Jr., in the 1880s and was passed down through his descendants until 1998. The historic center did not have any information immediately available about the Hardeeville Heyward House or William Heyward.

Joan McDonough: 843-706-8125, @IPBG_Joan

For more information

Virginie Blackwell, Weichert Realtors, Coastal Properties; call 843-290-9173; email estatebyv@gmail.com; Facebook: facebook.com/estatebyv