At its membership meeting last week, the Preservation Society of Charleston announced the 2013 class of its Seven to Save program. Each year, the organization picks seven sites with a historical significance to the area, some of which might be overlooked. The Society then works to develop plans to fix whatever may be ailing the sites, usually by developing partnerships with other organizations and businesses in the community, with the hopes of bringing more attention to them in the process and turning them over within a three-year period. Last week, the City Paper published a story on the progress at the Magnolia Cemetery Receiving Tomb, one of 2011’s sites.
“We have been inspired by the progress we have seen come from our 2011 and 2012 lists,” says Evan R. Thompson, executive director of the Preservation Society. “This year’s list reaffirms our belief that our mission is best served through direct involvement with specific sites and issues in parts of the city that are often overlooked and our hope is that we can gain widespread community support for this important initiative.”
This year’s sites are:
Enston Memorial Hall (900 King St.) This Richardsonian Romanesque complex of buildings was built by the philanthropist William Enston in 1860 as homes for the elderly and infirm. The entire area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, but the Preservation Society is focusing on the building in the center, whose big tower you can see when driving past on I-26. The tower is currently covered with a tarp, due to damage caused by Hurricane Hugo. It was never repaired, and in the years since some of the building’s stained glass windows have been stolen. The City of Charleston Housing Authority will work with the Preservation Society on the site.
The Historic Plat Collection at the Charleston County Register Mesne Conveyance. The county keeps its titles and deeds at the RMC, as well as a collection of plats that go back hundreds of years. The plats hold maps that detail the planning of the City of Charleston. There are more than 10,000 of them, but some have been exposed to deleterious conditions, so they’re starting to deteriorate. The Preservation Society is advocating to get the plats digitized, in order to preserve them for research and use by future generations, but the equipment costs $100,000. Fortunately, Charleston County is trying to get the funding, but it’s still up for a council vote.
Hampstead Mall (at the intersection of America and Columbus streets). The grounds were originally laid out in 1789 by Henry Laurens, designed after an English-style square. The Society wants to bring the public space back to function, and it hopes to work with local parks groups and Trident Technical College (whose Palmer campus borders the site) to make the area more cohesive.
Werner Ironwork Enclosure at Bethany Cemetery (10 Cunnington Ave.). This German cemetery is located just outside Magnolia Cemetery and is owned by St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. One of its original plots was owned by 11 German families, and Christopher Werner, a German immigrant iron worker, created a fenced enclosure for the area in the mid-1800s. Over time, the ornate, beautiful ironwork has corroded, features have gone missing, and it’s lost some of its delicate gilding. The Preservation Society plans to work with the Bethany Cemetery Trust to create a conservation plan. Overall, this site will address issues like Charleston’s German immigrant heritage and the best practices for restoring historic ironwork.
Brick House Ruins on Edisto Island. Built in 1725 by Edisto rice planter Paul Hamilton, the house was one of the earliest French Huguenot architecture residences in the Lowcountry. It was acquired by the Jenkins family in 1798, who still own the private property today (although the public is allowed to see it). In the mid-20th century, the site burned down, and it’s been left in unstable ruins ever since. Currently, Bennett Preservation Engineering is creating a plan for the brick house, and the Society hopes to stabilize what’s left of the building, as well as document its heritage and provide 3-D modeling of the pre-fire site.
The Trolley Barn Complex (645 Meeting St.). Trolley car use peaked in Charleston in 1921, with 2,000 residents using the system every day. However, by 1938, it was obsolete. The buildings at this complex were built in 1902. You can see one from the street (there are usually a bunch of police cars parked in front of it), and there’s a second roofless building in the back. The American College of the Building Arts is considering expanding its classes and workshops into the front building. The Preservation Society hopes these structures can be rehabbed like the mattress factory next door (now the home of SCRA) and the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.
Beckroge Bakery (487 Meeting St.) This yellow two-story building at the corner of Meeting and Line streets was built in 1852. It started functioning as a bakery in 1875, and it was purchased by Henry Beckroge, a German immigrant, in 1890. His family baked its famous vanilla cakes there until 1973. The Preservation Society’s concern is that this part of Meeting Street, which acts as a gateway to Charleston off of I-26, will soon be overrun by brand-new high-rise apartments and hotels. By preserving the bakery, they hope to bring some attention to the historic resources in the area.