The Unitarian Church graveyard (left), a private Tradd Street home (center), and the rear exterior of the Heyward-Washington House (right) are among the places studied by the Preservation Society of Charleston's inaugural class of master preservationists. Photos by Kristin Walker
April 20, 2011
Party To Preserve Charleston
The Preservation Society of Charleston kicks off their countdown to 100 years with a cocktail party and new programs
written by Harriet McLeod
Milestones anniversaries seem to be cropping up all around Charleston of late, and the Preservation Society of Charleston is in on the action as well. As the group approaches their 100th year mark—coming April 2020—they’re counting down toward their big birthday by rolling out one springtime fête a year beginning this April 30.
The oldest community-based preservation organization in the country—followed by those in San Antonio and New Orleans—Charleston’s society was founded as the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings by suffragette Susan Pringle Frost and a small group of people who were worried about the future of the 1802 Joseph Manigault House.
In the 91 years since, the Society has been busy. Most recently, this May 12 it will graduate its first batch of “master preservationists” at the organization’s quarterly meeting. Over the past three months, 20 preservation enthusiasts participated in a program that took them to homes, gardens, parks, research centers, and museums to learn history, archaeology, preservation law, land use and planning, diversity, sustainability, and how to read and interpret a building’s exterior and interior. After a completing keystone projects that will be reviewed by experts in the field, the students will log 40 hours of preservation-related community service before graduation.
The end goal, says realtor Kristin Walker, a masters student who is blogging about her experience on charlestoninsideout.net, is “to help educate and empower the community at large in the issues and challenges of historic preservation in Charleston.” In one entry, she goes on to call Evan Thompson, director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the program’s “fearless leader” and says his goal is to “expand the Society into realms previously untapped.” Those untapped realms include a new “green preservation program,” too, the details of which will be presented at the May 12 meeting.
Other initiatives include the nomination by the group for the city of Charleston to be placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of most endangered places because of possible unfettered future cruise ship and cruise ship passenger traffic.
“The city is essentially privately owned,” Thompson says. “The sites that people come to see are houses that were built by the multimillionaires of the 18th and 19th century… and require major investments of private capital to maintain. We need to sustain and be vigilant about our quality of life and be sure we don’t tip the balance. We want to make sure that people still have their small law offices on Broad Street and financial offices on Meeting Street. We don’t want people to think that Charleston is for tourists only. We should keep Charleston a living, breathing city.”
Taking up the charge as such, Thompson clearly is following in Pringle’s path.
Party to Preserve Charleston
For the Preservation Society’s “Preservation in Profile” theme, Memminger Auditorium will be decorated with architectural silhouettes painted in light. Expect hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, music by Silverman Sound, and a silent auction, which includes a 10-day South African luxury tour and Kruger National Park safari for two; an eight-day first-class excursion to Athens, Mykonos, and Istanbul; plus original art, jewelry, and dining opportunities. Saturday, April 30. 7 p.m. Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain St. $75; $65 Preservation Society members. (843) 722-4630, www.preservationsociety.org