Historic homes: Architectural treasures, lovingly restored

06/24/2012 12:00 AM

06/25/2012 4:31 PM

Dawn Hinshaw

After 20 years of restoring, enlarging and furnishing their home, Paul and Deborah Livingston can relax.

Their century-old house is done.

“Well,” Deborah Livingston equivocated, “I don’t know that you ever really stop.”

Their cheerful-blue house, with a front porch in greeting distance of the sidewalk, was built in 1907. It is set along a shady street in Elmwood Park, a neighborhood where residents are loving caretakers of architectural treasures.

“Each house has an identity,” said Deborah Livingston, 55.

She and her husband work in community development, she at the city of Columbia and he at Midlands Technical College.

Paul Livingston, 61, is also a veteran member of Richland County Council. Their downtown neighborhood, within walking distance of Main Street, has attracted other political leaders as well in state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, and Columbia Councilman Cameron Runyon.

In 1992, when the Livingstons moved in, their house was in “decent” condition. The city had condemned two houses down the street that were in danger of being torn down — a situation Paul Livingston said is inconceivable today.

The transition began in the mid-1970s, when the city provided $5,000 home improvement grants to encourage people to buy and rehabilitate houses in disrepair. Now Elmwood Park is one of 14 city neighborhoods where exterior changes must be approved by a citizen review board.

In a sign of just how far it has come, the downtown neighborhood held its 30th home and garden tour this spring.

“It’s a very cohesive, diverse community now,” Paul Livingston said.

Dawn Hinshaw writes about people, historic preservation and county government for The State.

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