Downtown Brunswick has stood strong through the twists and shifts of time. Structures have sat silently as triumphs and tragedies have unfolded around them — the Great War, World War II, the Civil Rights movement. If only these walls could talk.
For Ally and Chris Moline, the strength and character of the downtown area has always been incredibly appealing. That’s true both of its residential as well as commercial districts. The couple and their partners are currently working to open Silver Bluff Brewing Co. in the 1300 block of Newcastle Street in Brunswick. To that end, they are renovating a 130-year-old building to create a hip new downtown hangout, something that they feel is critical to the overall viability of the area.
But that is not the only investment they are making. The couple has also been in the process of breathing new life into a home on the 900 block of Union Street, an undertaking that’s been in the works for more than a year. The expansive four-bedroom, four-bathroom home boasts 4,000 square feet with a number of impressive, antique features.
While it’s been challenging at times, the Molines believe that downtown is the right place for their family of three.
“We’ve always wanted to live downtown. We actually tried to buy a house downtown when we first moved here, but it didn’t work out ... so we bought a house on St. Simons; but once we started on the brewery, we knew we wanted to be all in downtown,” Ally Moline says, as she sits on the steps of the expansive front porch. “We love the history and the aesthetics. When I picture what a neighborhood is supposed to be, this is it. And it’s a very close-knit neighborhood.”
Of course, transforming the property from its pre-purchase state into their dream home has taken plenty of time and patience. “Our first impression was definitely that the house was very big and a very big project. But we immediately saw its potential and fell in love with what it could be,” she says.
When the couple first saw the home, it resembled a doll’s house. The exterior was a pale pink with many of the interior rooms decked out in shades of green, yellow, light purple, and blue. Once the Molines closed on the home, they began to take the structure toward minimalist-modern, while keeping unique, historic touches.
The exterior was one of the first projects. “It was a dusty rose kind of color and it just faded into the background. Even with how much we drove around downtown, we never really noticed it,” Moline says. They opted to update the paint, choosing a gunmetal gray with white trim.
From there, they started tackling the renovation room by room. The couple demoed a few of the walls themselves and then started shoring up the internal workings like electricity and plumbing. “We really wanted to bring it to the point that it would last for another 100 years,” she says.
While modernizing some of the elements, keeping the style and charm of the original property was also very important. Stepping into the home, one is greeted by sweeping heartwood pine floors and the original staircase — enhancing this feature was a top priority, Moline says. “Although it’s been refinished, (the staircase) does not look brand new. It looks like it’s been here for 100 years,” Moline says. “On the stairs, you can literally see the original treads from where people have been walking for 100 years.”
To the right of the stairs, the couple created an open space between two previously walled-off living rooms, making it easier to flow from one area to the other. There is a double-sided, brick fireplace with original detailing situated on a wall currently dividing the spaces. “This fireplace was actually covered by plaster, but we took that off,” Moline says.
Moving through downstairs, one comes to Moline’s favorite spot: the turret. It is a rounded room with warm wooden walls and a steady stream of sunlight. “I’m thinking of putting my record player in here and a little bar, so you can just come in here and relax,” she says with a smile.
The downstairs turret connects to a long enclosed hallway that the Molines believe was once an open porch. Now that it is enclosed, the space will become a playroom for their daughter.
Continuing on, one comes to another home highlight: the kitchen. Painted a bright yellow when they purchased the property, the Molines added more Victorian elements, including open cabinets. However, they painted it modern shades of white with black trim, adding modern fixtures in antique brass.
As the couple revamped the home, they often encountered surplus materials, original doors, or wood that were removed during the process. They made a point to reuse as much as possible. For example, they used thick lumber from the property as new countertops for their butler’s pantry. “You can’t buy wood like this anymore ... it was important to us to save it,” Moline says.
Moving upstairs, the master bedroom features another original fireplace with detailing. The second floor of the turret also connects to the room. Moline intends to turn that into an impressive closet space. “I’m going to put a vanity in here, so I can do my makeup with all of this light,” she says with an excited grin.
The current master bedroom connects to another room, which formerly served as his and her rooms. It also connects to a bathroom with an antique claw-foot bath tub.
“It actually still has the stamp on it from 1923,” Moline points out.
Two other rooms round out the upstairs space. Those will serve as a room for their daughter and a guest room for friends.
All in all, Moline admits the renovation project has been a journey. But the couple says the work and wait have been well worth the effort. “We knew it was going to be a hard year and sacrifice ... but we knew it was what we wanted,” Moline says. “You certainly have to make sure that you’re on the same page as your spouse.”
Coming through the project and beginning to settle into the downtown lifestyle, she hopes that others might consider doing the same. The more investments made in the area, the better.
“There are so many houses that are primed and begging to be brought back to life. My main piece of advice for that is act quickly. Right now, prices are still low enough that you can get in and renovate for market value or under market value, but I don’t think it’s going to last,” she says. “With everything we have going on downtown, it’s just going to continue to grow.”