he Accidental Preservationist is the perfect description for me – I never intended to set out on the journey I am on now. In fact, if you had tried to tell me that I would be doing what I am doing now when I took up residence in the Chancognie House, I would have asked you if you had been drinking.
A house changed all that. Although I always enjoyed visiting historic sites and museums, I have no formal background in preservation. The journey to where I am today evolved slowly, starting with a need to address some basic maintenance issues. I was incredibly fortunate to meet David Hoffman, a master restoration contractor, shortly after I moved in. David immediately realized that I knew very little about the house and slowly began to educate me about the gem of a house that I had lucked into – a house that is almost entirely original inside and out – an increasing rarity in Charleston these days.
“I never intended to set out on the journey I am on now.” – Juliana Falk, The Accidental Preservationist
What started out as a maintenance project has evolved into a major research project not only on the house, but also the man who built it. Simon Jude Chancognie is an enigmatic character and the house he built reflects that. Projects here range from historic paint analysis to determine the original color scheme of the house to an archaeological dig in search of information about a mysterious bathing house.
The journey is constantly evolving and I have learned that it is not a straight line from point A (knowing nothing) to point B (knowing everything). I am not even sure if I will ever learn everything there is to know about the house and its original owner. When people ask me when this project will be finished, I tell them probably never. While there are goals along the way, this is not your typical journey. I have learned to let go of the usual notion of setting an ultimate goal, reaching it and moving on to something else and instead have embraced the journey as it comes with all of its unexpected detours and happily, no end in sight.
Juliana Falk is a native of Lancaster, PA who moved to Charleston seeking a walkable city with less winter weather. Taking up residence in the c. 1810 Simon Jude Chancognie House, she never imagined the adventures that awaited her. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Virginia School of Law.