It’s as if the Powder Magazine on Cumberland Street was never expected to survive. The tiny 1713 structure was designed and built so that its roof would blow off should the gunpowder stored inside ignite.
The Powder Magazine stands today as a museum because, fortunately, that never happened, and also because the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of South Carolina has made sure that it survives.
The organization bought the museum in 1902 for $1,000 after The News and Courier published a plea to save relics from the city’s Colonial past.
The Colonial Dames continue to care for the building as a meeting place and museum.
It has been no small task. A decade ago, it required $400,000 to fix a leaky roof and deal with timbers in the walls and foundation that had rotted away years before.
So it is fitting that the Preservation Society of Charleston last week awarded the Colonial Dames its coveted Susan Pringle Frost Award for Lifetime Achievement in Historic Preservation.
It is also fitting that the award be given during the building’s 300th year.
Charleston’s story, as told by its buildings, is skimpy regarding Colonial times and regarding its early military history.
The Powder Magazine, while it served as such for only a few decades, has been preserved, thanks to the Colonial Dames, to tell that part of the city’s history.
It’s a chapter worth telling, and the South Carolina Colonial Dames are worthy of the city’s thanks.