They’re affixed to structures throughout the Historic District and beyond: circular plaques mingling English and Latin around an engraving that resembles the City of Charleston’s seal. The image reflects our metropolis’s motto, Aedes mores juraque curat, which means, ”She guards her buildings, customs, and laws.” And it’s for the “guarding” of buildings that the Preservation Society of Charleston grants Carolopolis Awards; it’s bestowed 1,400 thus far and will add a dozen more to the count this January 25.
The Preservation Society of Charleston created the Carolopolis Awards in 1953 out of a desire to celebrate exceptional efforts to save historic structures. The plaque’s presence on a facade means the building has been restored and rehabilitated under the society’s highest standards of excellence.
What's In a Name
Carolopolis comes from the Latin Carolus, for “Charles” (that’s King Charles II, for whom Carolina was named) and the Greek polis, meaning “city.” Recognizing the founding of Charleston, Condita A.D. 1670 translates to “Established in the year of our Lord, 1670.”
Last year, an award category was created to acknowledge top-notch interior restoration of publicly accessible structures (after all, many a building has been preserved beautifully on the outside but gutted within). The Gibbes Museum of Art and The Eternal Father of the Sea Chapel on the old Navy base were the inaugural recipients.
A second category was also added for 2016’s awards: one lauding new construction, specifically small-scale residential, commercial, or mixed-use structures designed to be compatible with and reinforce the historical context of the city.
Twice is Nice
You’ll spy a Pro Merito (“for this service”) plaque attached beneath some Carolopolis markers. It graces a property that received the award at least 20 years ago and has either undergone a second major renovation or continued a high standard of preservation.
Protecting the Past
Founded in 1920 as the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, the Preservation Society is the oldest grassroots historic preservation organization in the United States. The nonprofit changed its name in 1957 as it expanded its mission to not only save historical dwellings but also act as an advocate for all sites of aesthetic and historic significance. The Carolopolis Award is one of the ways in which the society raises awareness about preservation.
Time to Celebrate
On January 25, the 2017 Carolopolis Awards will be presented at the Riviera Theatre, with a reception including heavy hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine, and live music. Find info and tickets ($75 or $50 for Preservation Society members) at www.preservationsociety.org.