It is generally believed that Dr. Thomas Rose built a brick house here on Lot No. 64 of the city's Grande Modell in 1681, just a year after the colonists relocated from Albemarle Point to the peninsula. Located safely within the city's protective wall, evidence suggests it probably served as a rental investment, as Dr. Rose maintained his residence across the street at 59 Church Street. A prominent and wealthy merchant, Anthony Matthews, is believed to have lived here. That house was probably destroyed in the great fire of 1778.
In 1784, John McCall Jr., an insurance broker and city treasurer, bought the lot and built the house that stands here today, where he lived until his death in 1800. After his wife’s death in 1824, their daughter Harriet inherited the property. Historians believe it then served again as a rental property until it passed out of the McCall family in 1881.
The house was renovated in 1927, at which time the open basement level was closed in and the house subdivided into two apartments with a commercial space on the ground floor. For several years the Live Oak Tea Room, a popular gathering spot for artists associated with Charleston's celebrated Renaissance period, occupied the first floor. The Carolina Handicrafts gift shop occupied this space from 1940 until the mid-1960s.
Norma Stender purchased the house in 1960 and subdivided the large lot to the south, making room for the construction of 64 Church Street, before applying for a demolition permit for this house in 1964. The city stalled on approving the permit, hoping that a preservation-minded buyer would come along, which happened when Dr. W. Henry Miller bought it in June 1966.
Again a single-family residence, the property’s ground floor continued to serve commercial purposes and was home to the Charleston Rare Book Company until 2005 when the house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Abagnale, who undertook a major renovation, taking most of the building materials down to the studs. By this time, most of the property’s original fabric already had been lost.
Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams and Robert Monjo, was one of the most daring con men, forgers, imposters and escape artists in history. During his notorious criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilot's uniform to copiloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed more than $2.5 million in forged checks. Abagnale lived sumptuously until the law finally caught up with him after which he became a partner with them in strategically catching other thieves. Now recognized as the nation's leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale was known among his Charleston neighbors as a fascinating story-teller whose stranger-than-fiction international escapades and ingenious escapes made for many good stories, some of which can be found in his biography, Catch Me If You Can, which Stephen Speilberg made into a popular movie staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
During their 2005 renovation, the Abignales added a new foundation by tilting the house first to one side to lay a new foundation, then setting it down on the new foundation and tilting it in the opposite direction so that the foundation could be completed before it was settled permanently.
While most of the house’s historic fabric has been replaced over the years, three features are original: the heart pine floors, the front windows, and the newel post in the stair hall. The staircase was then reproduced to approximate what might have been there originally. The house also has two original wood-burning fireplaces and