Admiral's House is a historically significant landmark
We should all support North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey in his efforts to save his city's most historic landmarks and neighborhoods from a rail line proposed to be built by the State of South Carolina. The rail line would serve the South Carolina Ports Authority's planned terminal on the former Naval Base.
The rail line would impact most directly on the Admiral's House (a.k.a. Quarters A), built in 1905 as the residence of the commander of the Charleston Navy Yard. The house, with its columned portico, is significant architecturally as a remarkable example of the Colonial Revival style of its period.
The Admiral's House also is significant historically as a reminder that the Navy Yard, established in 1900, was an economic rescue for Charleston as the city struggled with the demise of the phosphate industry. The naval shipyard, through World Wars I and II and the Cold War (no one objected to congressional "pork" back then) grew into the Charleston Naval Base, the largest single employer in the area.
Sen. Benjamin R. Tillman, Mayor J. Adger Smyth and other leaders cooperated to bring the Navy Yard to Charleston. The successful effort ended Charleston's enmity against Tillman, whose policies as governor had helped kill the phosphate industry and had imposed liquor laws on a "Madeira city," in the words of William Watts Ball.
Mayor Summey wants the Admiral's House to be preserved. He has also expressed concern about the proposed rail line's other effects.
The rail line would also impact on other historic buildings on the former Naval Base. It could also have a negative impact on nearby historic Park Circle and the old Garco neighborhood, as well as North Charleston's new riverfront park.
Park Circle is the historic core of North Charleston. It was laid out by the famous Olmstead design firm in 1911-12, when former Charleston Mayor R. Goodwyn Rhett and other civic leaders established an industrial town next to the Navy Yard.
The Garco neighborhood was developed by the General Asbestos Co., the first industry to move in. In addition to their factory, Garco built houses for company employees, and a hospital. Many of the buildings remain.
The riverfront park is one of many improvements Mayor Summey has brought about. During his administration, what we used to call the "North Area," in rather disparaging terms, has been invigorated into a truly vibrant city, South Carolina's third largest.
The Admiral's House has been neglected since the Naval Base closed in 1995 by a series of owners including the failed Noisette development company, and now the South Carolina Public Railway (SCPR). SCPR has been advised that the house can't be saved.
The Preservation Society of Charleston agrees with Mayor Summey that it can and should be saved. The Admiral's House has been placed on the society's "Seven to Save" list of structures and sites which are important to the history of the area.
The new rail line would be unnecessary if the two railroad companies, that would serve the SPA terminal, would share an existing rail line, as suggested by Summey.
It would also help if North Charleston regained ownership of the Admiral's House, which it held before transferring it to the unfortunate Noisette company.
For the state of South Carolina to jeopardize the Admiral's House, other historic structures and neighborhoods, the waterfront park, and the gains that Mayor Summey and his fellow citizens have made, is not just wasteful. It is just plain stupid.
Robert P. Stockton