A dozen owners have occupied this Connecticut Street estate in Spartanburg’s Converse Heights Historic District, but Lori and Fritz Butehorn and their two teenagers, Hank and Sophie, call it home. And they plan to for decades to come.
Fritz grew up just a few blocks away, and though the couple left South Carolina for a time, they found their way back in 2005—and not just to Spartanburg, but to the same historic neighborhood with its revival architecture and tree-lined streets.
The Tudor was built in 1924 by Mayor Ben Hill Brown; Lockwood Green designed it the same year they worked to erect a “skyscraper,” the Montgomery Building (currently under its own redevelopment, saving its deco-period façade). It is believed that Charles Lindbergh as well as Amelia Earhart may have visited the Mayor’s home while on tour touting the aeronautics industry.
“We love that this house holds so much history and character, and for an old Tudor it’s surprisingly open inside,” says Fritz. “The outside is certainly Tudor Revival, but it’s not exactly Tudor on the inside, which suits us too.”
Ben Hill Brown lost the home during the depression and a string of homeowners followed, one as fascinating as the next. Norman Armitage and his wife Constance occupied it in the 1960s. Norman was a six-time Olympian in saber and carried the U.S. flag in three Opening Ceremonies. Constance spoke 15 languages and purportedly was a spy for the allies leading up to WWII. She later became an art professor at Wofford.
It was the Armitages who purchased the blue-and-white Delft tile frieze from a New York auction house depicting the Israelites’ flight to Gilead, believed to date to the early 1700s. It was installed it the garden room, once a covered porch.
Yet a different owner left another indelible mark upon the house: Dr. Joe Utley was a cardiothoracic surgeon and a noted musician; he played the trumpet and amassed brass instruments, more than 600 of them. He and his wife Joella were passionate collectors, and during their tenure in the home, they turned the front library into a music room for display. The brass collection today is a permanent exhibit at the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota.
Lori and Fritz kept a “masculine tone” in this front room, filling the Utleys’ shelves with books and family keepsakes, many from their travels all over the world. But Lori favors something she found locally at The Friends of the Library Book Sale: “I was looking for books that would fit into the shelving and came across a few with Constance Armitage’s signature in them. I sat there with my mouth hanging open. They made it full circle back to this house,” Lori says. “If these walls could talk, I would seriously sit down and listen to their stories.”
The couple has enlisted the help of several designers over the years, most recently Sandra Cannon of Sandra Cannon Designs who believed the kitchen needed to reference its adjacent spaces including an immense formal dining room and one truly unique morning room.
The kitchen is designed for entertaining and acts as the heartbeat of this historic home. The Butehorns’ upfit of the space included painting existing cabinetry a dimensional pearl and upgrading counter tops, adding luxury backsplashes, light fixtures, and installing not one, but four types of hardware.
The entry is adorned with Phillip Jeffries geometric grasscloth wallpaper in a deep metallic tone, and the living room is traditionally elegant with 14-foot ceilings and a fireplace crowned with a distinctive piece of architectural salvage: a mirror from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It feels right at home among family heirlooms passed down from Lori’s grandparents, a mix of period antiques as well as haute design from the 1970s. Lori remembers playing beneath the brass-soldered coffee table (by New York artist Silas Seandel) as a child, however her favorite piece is a gorgeous beetle green Chinoiserie secretary that her grandmother purchased in Charleston on King Street.
Cannon also helped transform a downstairs guest bath, starting with the ultimate wallpaper company Calico of Brooklyn. Calico employed NASA telescope imagery to photograph the Turkish process of marbling paper, creating one-of-a-kind wallcoverings that are works of art. The couple has an affinity for all things Turkish and for good reason: Fritz lived in Turkey for several years as a child, and Lori’s family descends from the country eons back. Both have a love for Moroccan styling, and they knew innately that this was the perfect application for their long, narrow bathroom.
The dining room was also devoid of detail when the Butehorns moved into the home, and it was Lori’s thoughtful eye that created interior detailing that feels original. Architect Glen Boggs helped them design moldings that mimic period plaster and added a significant Curry and Co Lighting chandelier over a dining room table that’s comfortable for twelve.
Many of the furnishings came from the former Antiques on Augusta in Greenville where experts Barry McElreath and Bill Bates (now at The Rock House Antiques) would call Lori and Fritz about specific pieces they felt could add to the home’s aesthetic.
“We fell for this house so hard,” says Lori. “It felt like ours as soon as we walked in it.”
A pool in the side yard was added by previous homeowners, the Utleys, but it is also part of the Butehorns’ story: This serene space, which includes lots of vegetation and a bank of hydrangea, is the same one Fritz remembers from childhood. He once threw a rock over the wall, hoping to hear a splash, but instead interrupting a dinner party.
The Butehorns brought the pool up to modern standards and installed a paver system around it. Last year they positioned a unique fire feature at one end; a sculptural firebowl by artist John T. Unger of Hudson, New York, fashioned from recycled steel.
So, what project is up next? Not a thing.
“I think we’re done,” says Lori. “God willing we’ll be here forever. The kids were 2 and 4 when we moved in, and we all lived in one bedroom during the first renovations, so its kind of appropriate because now we can enjoy it. They’re teenagers and our focus is on them.”