City Directories and History: The house at 39 Parkwood Ave. is actually built on almost two lots, Lot 36 and Lot 37. On September 10, 1913, Hampton Park Terrace, Inc. sold Lot 37 to Edward Rush in a deed with the standard covenants. The next year, the corner lot, Lot 36, was sold by Hampton Park Terrace, Inc. to Mrs. Florence Isabel Moore Brantley on June 5, 1914 with the same restrictions. Some time passed before, on February 19, 1917, George S. Brantley bought neighboring Lot 37, bringing both lots into the same family.
While Mr. Brantley spent most of his professional life in the laundry business, it was his first career for which Mr. Brantley is most famous. Mr. Brantley was living in Macon, Georgia with his wife when he saw his first motion picture. He immediately knew that he wanted to open a movie theater himself, but did not think that Macon could handle another movie house. After visiting several potential sites, Mr. and Mrs. Brantley settled on Charleston and began making plans. On February 2, 1907, the first movie theater in Charleston opened as the Theatorium.
When business dipped as two other theaters opened, Mr. Brantley feared the movies were a passing fad and sold his theater in October 1907 for $5,000. The Brantleys moved briefly to North Carolina, but came back soon and, on June 22, 1908 opened a vaudeville theater known as the Majestic Theater. The Majestic Theater also showed movies though. Feeling more sure about the future of movies, the Brantleys opened another theater across the street from the Theatorium, calling it the New Theatorium.
By 1908, there were about half a dozen theaters operating in Charleston and the three companies which ran them merged to form the Pasttime Amusement Co. Mr. Brantley received 40% of the stock in the company, worth about $14,000, and was made the general manager of the company. Still, Mr. Brantley apparently never fully believed in the future of movies and eventually left Pastime Amusement Co. to start the White Swan Laundry business, the business which he owned at the time he moved to Hampton Park Terrace in 1917.
The first occupants of 39 Parkwood Ave. did not stay long. On January 17, 1920, Mr. and Mrs. Brantley sold their respective lots to Walter B. Wilbur. On May 23, 1921, Mr. Wilbur sold a ten foot strip of land along the western side of the two lots to Mr. F.J.H. Haesloop to expand the neighboring lot. Walter and Ruth Pearson Cooper Wilbur lived in the house about ten years.
Mr. Wilbur was born in Charleston in 1883, the son of Thomas S. and Mary Ella Sumner Wilbur. He was educated in the Charleston High School and the College of Charleston (graduating in 1904) before attending Harvard University Law School. Following law school, Mr. Wilbur returned to Charleston and started his law practice with Alfred Huger under the name Huger & Wilbur.
As a lawyer and civic leader, Mr. Wilbur was heavily involved in children’s welfare issues and charitable work. He was a member of the State Board of Correctional Administration at the time of its merger with other boards into the State Board of Public Welfare. He was also the president of the Juvenile Protective League of South Carolina; a member of the Juvenile Welfare Commission of Charleston; president of the South Carolina State Conference of Social Work; president of the Social Workers’ Club of Charleston; and chairman of the State Child Welfare Commission, an unofficial commission appointed by Governor Cooper to make a general survey of the field of child welfare in the state and to draft a tentative children’s code for consideration by the Statehouse. He also served as the president of the Associated Charities Society of Charleston.
On July 16, 1930, Mr. James G. Sherrer bought the house. According to Sherrer family history, Mr. Wilbur had experience financial trouble following the Stock Market Crash and sold the house for $5000. Mr. Sherrer was familiar with the neighborhood, having lived in the neighborhood for the previous four years, at 489 Huger Street (1925-1927) and 151 Moultrie Street (1928-1929). Mr. Sherrer was born in Cuthbert, Georgia and moved to Charleston in 1921. He organized and operated the Ashley Ice Cream Co. until November 1946 when he sold the business to Swift & Co. In other business interests, he owned large parts of the Charleston Veneer Co.; Copleston’s Klendry, Inc.; and Cream Crest Dairy. He was also active in civic affairs. He served on the rationing board during World War II and also served on Charleston City Council under Mayor Morrison. During the 1930s and 1940s, Mrs. Sherrer and members of the Citadel Square Baptist Church would sit in the garage and clean and cut fruit for Mr. Sherrer’s ice cream business.
The Sherrer family must have liked the house very much because the family retained the house for more than fifty years. On December 28, 1961, Mr. Sherrer, who was “desirous of proving a home for [his] daughter, Sarah Sherrer Smith, and her children” conveyed the house, in trust, to his daughter and his grandchildren, Sarah Elizabeth Smith; Theron Walker Smith, Jr.; and Suzanne Sherrer Smith. Still, Mr. Sherrer lived in the house until his death in 1976.
During the Sherrer’s ownership, the interior of the house was painted because Mrs. Sherrer did not care for the paneling. They also closed the second floor porch. The southern veranda was enclosed in the 1970s as a bedroom for Mr. Sherrer when he was no longer able to climb the stairs. Another interior alteration was the removal of a short set of steps off the main stairs into the kitchen; the stairs were removed to accommodate Mrs. Sherrer’s china collection. Originally, there was a bathroom between the laundry room and garage which was used by Eliza Ellerbe, the family’s servant.
Eventually, on October 15, 1983, the Sherrer family conveyed the house to Mr. Jarvis Ray Embry and his wife, Mrs. Joanne W. Embry, for $80,000. The Embrys, who owned a sign company, sold the house to Susan B. Causby on November 26, 2001 for $355, 000. Ms. Causby undertook a renovation of the house which included, among other things, refurbishing the kitchen and joining two bedrooms on the northern end of the house. Larry Spelts, Jr. bought the house for $521,000 on September 5, 2003.
On October 26, 2006, the house was purchased by its current owner. (Written and contributed to R&R by Kevin R. Eberle – 2015)
Also see the National Register District
data on Hampton Park Terrance
Other sources of interest: Charleston Tax Payers of Charleston, SC in 1860-61 and the Dwelling Houses of Charleston by Alice R.H. Smith – 1917 The HCF may also have additional data at: Past Perfect and further research can be uncovered at: Charleston 1861 Census Schedule or The Charleston City Guide of 1872
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