Since 2011, the Preservation Society of Charleston has identified 21 sites of historical significance, some of which defy what people might expect. Seven each year — Seven to Save.
They aren’t all downtown. They aren’t all buildings. They aren’t necessarily easy to define. But they all are important, and their preservation is valuable to the Lowcountry.
For example, Ward 11, on the upper peninsula between Rutledge Avenue and King Street, is one of the projects, and researchers are still parsing out where one of its many small neighborhoods ends and the next one begins. Ward 11 dates from 1882 and tells a story of Charleston’s post-Civil War and 20th century development.
Another example is a receiving tomb at Magnolia Cemetery, which is far along in its stabilization process.
Altogether, the Preservation Society, working with a range of partners — individuals, organizations and businesses — has either completed or gotten well on the way to finishing the first 14.
That’s just the beginning. Seven to Save recently announced this year’s sites. They include:
■ A tower at the Enston Homes, built in 1860 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The residential buildings around it have been restored. But the tower was damaged during Hurricane Hugo and hasn’t been repaired.
■ The County Register of Mesne Conveyance has historic plats that go back hundreds of years and need to be digitized and preserved.
■ Hampstead Mall, at the intersection of America and Columbus streets, was laid out in 1789 but has lost its sense of function.
■ Werner ironwork that encloses a cemetery plot of 11 German families in Bethany Cemetery is corroded and missing features.
■ The ruins of the 1734 Brick House on Edisto Island are unstable. They are to be stabilized and their heritage documented via 3-D modeling of the house as it once stood.
■ The Trolley Barn complex on Meeting Street, a reminder of early 20th century Charleston, has been neglected. The American College of the Building Arts is considering using it for classes and workshops.
■ Beckroge Bakery at the corner of Meeting and Line streets was built in 1852. The two-story building stands in jeopardy of being lost as large apartment buildings and hotels march up the peninsula.
Seven to Save has lofty goals, but the Preservation Society has shown it can get things done by finding the right partners.
■ It formed a partnership with private developers to save houses near the Crosstown off-ramp at King Street.
■ The society identified historic Civil Rights sites and is working with an alliance of African-Americans to mark them with signage, and collect histories of the African-Americans who were part of the movement.
■ The society has chosen the Lewis Christian Union cemetery, one of 24 cemeteries laid out on the grounds of the former Magnolia Umbra Plantation. The cemetery needs a sustainable plan for future maintenance and interpretative signage explaining its story. Already the Preservation Society has cleared brush, and instead of the 10 gravestones they expected to find, they found 126. A local genealogical society is photographing them and compiling biographies of the African Americans who are buried there.
■ Preservationists don’t all agree about mid-20th century buildings (such as the public library on King Street) and whether they are worth preserving. The society has started a dialogue with preservationists statewide to develop standards for when a building should be saved from demolition.
Each of the projects requires extensive research, creative fund-raising and lots of collaboration.
Seven to Save is a commendable example of architectural stewardship. And cultural stewardship: In tending to neglected gems, the program is going a long way to knitting disparate communities together.
Fourteen done or under way. Seven ready for action. It’s math the community should appreciate.