How Did We Get Here?
Did you know that the Carolopolis Awards will be presented next week at the Riviera Theater? We’re gearing up for the party at one of our favorite Art Deco spots in the city and hope to see you there. Charleston is recognized world-wide for its preservation efforts, but how did it all get started?
A letter from South Carolinian Ann Pamela Cunningham published in the Charleston Mercury on December 2, 1853 appealed to the “Ladies of the South” to join the efforts to restore George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In 1899, the Daughters of the Revolution began work to preserve the Old Exchange Building and in 1902, the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of South Carolina purchased the Powder Magazine to save it from being demolished. These early preservation efforts set the stage for the 20th century preservation movement that so deeply shaped the architectural and cultural landscape of our city.
The 1920s to 1940s saw an increase in threats to historic properties in Charleston, even as the city flourished during its own renaissance. Locals were increasingly distressed that residential and public buildings were being picked apart and torn down. According to Robert R. Weyeneth’s book Historic Preservation for a Living City: Historic Charleston Foundation 1947-1997, there were a couple of reasons for all this demolition. First, as automobiles gained popularity and increased use, gas stations started popping up everywhere--including downtown Charleston. Historic buildings in prime locations were demolished to make way for new filling stations, and for parking lots to accommodate all of those automobiles.
[caption id="attachment_4427" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Cordon’s Parkway, corner of King & Warren, 1935[/caption]
Charleston’s historic properties were also in danger of being dismantled for their architectural elements. Art collectors from across the nation purchased architectural details from residential properties to furnish their own homes or recreate period rooms in galleries and museums. From the above reference, “For their part, Charlestonians were willing to sell the architectural detailing of their old homes for a variety of reasons: they needed the money to pay taxes, a building was being demolished anyway, their property was in a deteriorated area ... and the prices being offered were simply too tempting to resist.” Antique dealers pointed wealthy collectors to Charleston’s most beautiful paneling, mantles, and iron work--even if their removal was unjustified. In 1920, the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings purchased the Joseph Manigault House (ca. 1803) to save it from demolition; this was the first private residence to be saved through a public campaign in Charleston. It is currently part of the Charleston Museum.
Evolution of Preservation
The Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was renamed the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1957 because the society wanted to advocate the preservation of all historic properties, not just dwellings. Founded in 1920 by Miss Susan Pringle Frost, the Preservation Society is a membership-based organization. Its mission is to inspire the involvement of all who dwell in the Lowcountry to honor and respect Charleston’s material and cultural heritage. Interested in becoming a member or need to renew? Get involved!
The Carolopolis Award is presented annually to individuals, businesses or organizations who have achieved distinction in restoring or rehabilitating historic, architecturally significant properties in Charleston. Over 1,300 awards have been presented in recognition of such achievements since the program’s inception in 1953. The award is a plaque that is attached to the building and is intended to remain with the property. The Carolopolis Award is a slightly modified reproduction of the seal of the City of Charleston. According to their website, the word Carolopolis comes from the original name of the city, which was derived from a combination of the word Carolus (Latin for Charles) and Polis (Greek for City), thus Charles City and later Charleston. Condita A.D. 1670 refers to the Latin for founding, and the year of Charleston’s founding. The year on the top of the award indicates when the award was presented.
The Pro Merito or "For Merit" Award was established in 1999 to honor those properties that were given a Carolopolis Award not less than 20 years ago and have either undergone a second major renovation or have displayed an admirable level of continuous preservation.
Every year we look forward to this event; read Sarah’s blog post about the 2013 ceremony!
Joseph Olman House
Constructed ca. 1800; rehabilitated 1973, 1981; Carolopolis Award, 1982.Situated on one of the streets of the Grand Modell of 1680, 8 Queen Street stands as an example of combined domestic and commercial spaces. Built after the fire of 1796, this 3-story stuccoed brick building was constructed by Joseph Olman, a chandler, and completed before his death in 1813. The upper floors served as Olman’s living spaces and the ground floor functioned as commercial space for the sale of whale oil, grain, hardware, and other supplies needed for ships and boats. The structure was used in this fashion in the 20th century when it housed the workshop and residence of Edwin H. Smith (“Smitty”), a well-known Charleston cabinetmaker operating in the city until his death in 1979.
This home in the French Quarter is currently listed for sale with Lois Lane. Click on the photo for full listing details. Give Lois a call at 843-270-2797 if you’d like to set up a showing.
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