Soon, however, his workers encountered a sharp reminder of where they were: on land that was close enough to the ocean to have once been dunes. To prevent sand from filling the hole as quickly as they emptied it, they shored up the sides with plywood and moved quickly to pour footings.
Another reminder of the setting was waiting inside, where the original builders had mixed mortar for the chimney with what was close at hand. The salty sand proved corrosive: The chimney had to be removed brick by brick. Much easier was undoing the back of the house, where two porches had been cobbled into year-round rooms. "It was a very clean cut," Singleton says. "We just tore them off."