Sometimes, Charleston seems to have so much history that the city doesn't know what to do with it all.
So it's not necessarily surprising that some of it can end up under a tarp in a parking garage for many years.
But Dr. Brian Cuddy was certainly surprised when he recently lifted a tarp and discovered two stone tablets outlining the history of the original Roper Hospital and its second hospital.
Cuddy then reached out to Dr. William Carter, who had known about the tablets for a few years but needed a nudge to figure out what to do about them.
"It completely fell off my radar," Carter said. "He (Cuddy) was like a kid at Christmas. He was so excited."
Late last month, Roper Hospital held a small ceremony to unveil the freshly refurbished plaques, which now hang just inside the hospital's entrance from the Doughty Street garage.
Each tablet is about a yard square, weighs about 150 pounds and offers details of each hospital's architect, builder and the key donors who made the buildings possible. They appear to date from 1852 and 1906, respectively.
While the plaques presumably once were displayed in a similar prominent position in Roper's previous hospitals, the recent decades were not kind to them.
Carter said he knows of no one who remembers them being displayed anywhere. At some point, they were sent to Tezza Tile, possibly for cleaning or storage. When Tezza closed its shop several years ago, it contacted Roper to see if the hospital wanted the tablets back - or whether they should be tossed out. The hospital claimed them, but just left them covered up in the garage.
"Those plaques were probably in the best parking space in the entire garage," Carter said.
While Roper's third and current hospital was built in the mid 20th century and expanded just a few years back, the institution has a rich history as the nation's sixth hospital, Carter said.
"These plaques have more than historical significance," he said. "These are the broad shoulders on which we all stand."
Before they were finally reinstalled, Carter had them cleaned again, and they look to be in good shape now.
And they're not the only example of commemorative tablets that once were lost but now are found. Last year, a home foreclosure in Little Rock, Ark., led to a backyard discovery of 12 similar stone tablets that once lined the lobby of the Charleston Orphan House. The city received them and is considering where to install them.
And who knows what will be the next exciting discovery. Roper actually received several more plaques from Tezza, including ones for the long-gone health care institutions of Baker Sanitorium and Baker Hospital, but they remain out of sight.
"Those other plaques don't have the historical significance that these do," Carter said.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Dr. William Carter's first name. We apologize for the error.
The older of Roper's two recently rediscovered tablets, this 19th century marble marker outlines the individuals and institutions that helped create the first Roper Hosptial in the 1850s. It is the nation's sixth oldest hospital. Robert Behre/Staff×
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