Heavenly House on Hampton

The Press and Standard
Friday, April 7, 2006
by: Michelle Hazel, Staff Writer

Heavenly House on Hampton

The new owners of the Howell-Fishburne House at 500 Hampton St. say it was no mistake that they made it to Walterboro.

“It just all worked out – that is why I think it was meant to be,” Diane Forde said.

Forde, a painter by trade, and Henry Ruthinoski, who worked in marine construction, are both retired and have been married for 10 years. Their creative talents and “handy-skills” drew them to interesting hobbies. And they have applied their skills to create their new business, the Hampton House Bed and Breakfast and the Forde Doll and Doll House Collection.

The couple made their way here from Greenpoint, Long Island, NY, by way of Florida, Ruthinoski said. After owning a house built in the 1880′s in Long Island, they already knew about maintenance and upkeep of old homes. So taking on the Howell-Fishburne House, built in 1912, was a cinch.

And finding it proved to be a cinch as well. Forde said she found the home on the Internet while searching for Charleston homes.

“It just kept popping up,” she said of the house.

Meanwhile, their home in Greenpoint had just gone on the market. “I didn’t see how the heck we were going to do this,” Ruthinoski said of the quick move.

Within weeks the house in Long Island was sold, and the two were faced with the task of moving all of their belongings.

“Everything coincided, and here we are,” Forde said.

The 5,000-square-foot home on Hampton Street was a perfect fit. And the pleasant surroundings impressed the couple as well.

“It was just such a pretty piece of property,” Forde said of the acre and a half with its landscape designed by Robert Marvin. The deal was done in July of 2005.

The past year has been a busy one, as the two have been moving hundreds of pieces of antiques and furniture up and down the East Coast.

The two are definitely do-it-your-selfers, putting it all together themselves. As a visual merchandiser and former owner of her own gallery, Forde needed no help. The Victorian corner piece from Denmark fits perfectly in the formal living room, and the wall color matched the upholstery perfectly. Black Forest bears carved into a 1930′s German bench guard the front entrance. And on the landing, arched leaded windows and a cushioned window bench overlook the garden. A 1780′s English schoolmaster’s chest from Forde’s mother gives a personal touch to the landing. The two even installed two new chandeliers. All of these charms Ruthinoski and Forde brought into the home, but the 12 foot ceilings with crown molding and oak wood floors with parquet trim are unique to the house.

The bed and breakfast feature of the home includes three upstairs bedrooms, each with queen-size beds and private baths. The Camellia Room even has its own balcony, which overlooks tennis courts, a pool and a walled garden.

The two say they love to entertain, and especially love to cook, and overnight guests are served an elegant country breakfast.

Ruthinoski makes his special sausage and omelets, and Forde is famous for her maple sugar French toast. Since their opening in February, the two have enjoyed frequent visitors.

“We have someone here every week,” Forde said.

And many come to see another aspect of the Hampton House: The Forde Doll and Doll House Collection.

The most extensive of their belongings is Forde’s collection of dolls. According to Ruthinoski, there are more than 400 of them, and that number is just from the last time he counted.

Forde also has 55 dollhouses, an unknown number of room boxes and hundreds of pieces of doll china, clothes and furniture. All these pieces Forde has acquired in the course of seven years since she began collecting in 1999.

“There is no stopping her,” Ruthinoski said. So he joins her. The dolls are interesting.

“Some have real hair, some have mohair. Some have painted eyebrows and some have real eyebrows,” he said.

The two often split visiting groups in two and give them guided tours of the doll collection and the 1912 home. They take flashlights to show the ornate furniture, silver, dishes and oriental rugs inside the small rooms.

Many collectibles are from as far back as 1840. The dolls are made of papier mache, tin, celluloid, bisque, porcelain, china and more. Visiting the home is a perfect day trip.

“They are fascinated by it,” Forde said of visitors. “It is like a museum.”

“And we’re having a great time doing this,” Ruthinoski said.

For information or reservations call (843) 542-9498 or visit www.hamptonhousebandb.com

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