The Preservation Society of Charleston's Carolopolis Award includes a plaque as a sign of a building owner's exception efforts in preserving history. 

From a decaying Quartermasters Dock House on Sullivan's Island to a new visitor center at Drayton Hall to the restoration of a third floor piazza on one of Charleston's most prominent homes.

All were recognized last week during the Preservation Society's Carolopolis awards program, a tradition that has extended for most of the society's nearly century-long history.

"Preservation is a lot of sticks and not too many carrots," says Kristopher King, the society's executive director. "This is all carrots."

King notes many winners were outside the purview of the city's Board of Architectural Review, an encouraging sign that the city's preservation ethic thrives even without formal city rules.

Sulllivan's Island Dockhouse (before)

The Quartermaster Dock House on Sullivan's Island before renovations.

That's certainly the case with the Quartermaster Dock House owned by Manda and Steve Poletti, who restored the vacant 1905 house into its original condition, with help from architects Steve Herlong and Bronwyn Lurkin.

The property originally was lived in by the quartermaster who served the fortifications on the island, which were deactivated shortly after World War II.

Quartermaster Dock House (After)

The Quartermaster Dock House on Sullivan's Island after its recent restoration.  

"This is private investment," King says. "This is the best of what preservation is all about. It also reflects the fact that preservation is supported by this market. We get to celebrate what owners have done, and that's the story I love."

But the award also recognizes new construction, such as this year's winner at Drayton Hall.

Its new visitors center and education pavilion give the Ashley River plantation museum a long-needed space to interpret those who built and lived in the 18th-century house, which has not been furnished since it became a museum.

Drayton Hall Visitors Center

The courtyard of the new visitors center at Drayton Hall. One of this year's Carolopolis award winners, the center's museum space is on the left, and its gift shop and future cafe are on the right. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Designed by architect Glenn Keyes and landscape architect Sheila Wertimer, the small complex features traditional materials and proportions without competing in any way with the house.

The black "Carolopolis" plaque, about the size of a bread plate, is among the most ubiquitous ornaments on downtown buildings. More than 1,000 have been presented over the years.

In fact, the society created a "Pro Merito" award to recognize preservation work done on buildings that already have received a Carolopolis award at least 20 years before. (Even before the "Pro Merito," about three dozen buildings had received at least two awards; a few had won three.)

Four properties won Pro Merito awards this year: the imposing 19th-century mansion at 1 Meeting St.; the brick kitchen house behind 55 East Bay St.; and the 18th-century single house at 1 Legare St.

32 South Battery, historical

This image of 32 South Battery was taken before the third floor piazza was removed sometime during the 1930s. 

The fourth property is the mansion at 32 South Battery, which originally had a three-level piazza that was lowered to two levels in the 1930s. Owners Jim and Augustine Smith, working with architect Glenn Keyes, reconstructed the third tier to match the earlier look.

32 South Battery, before

The mansion at 32 South Battery as it has looked in recent years, without a third floor piazza. 

32 South Battery Today

The mansion at 32 South Battery with its third floor piazza restored.  

Three years ago, the program was expanded to recognize excellence in interior work. Awards were given to both the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Eternal Father of the Sea chapel on the former Charleston Naval Base.

"It's the only interior preservation award that's been done in the city," King says.

But the Carolopolis award traditionally recognizes exterior work, and one of the most dramatic examples this year is the transformation of the corner store at Rutledge Avenue and Doughty Street.

161 Rutledge Ave., before

This two-story corner store property at 161 Rutledge Ave., first built around 1845, had stood vacant for years before its recent renovation. 

The work repaired and, when necessary, replaced the lap siding that had been masked by a 20th-century faux stone stucco, and it re-enforced the roof framing with traditional mortise-and-tenon construction. It was guided by architect James "Billy" Bishop with Glick Boehm Architecture

161 Rutledge, After

This two-story corner store property at 161 Rutledge Ave., first built around 1845, was renovated recently and has won a Carolopolis award. Architect James "Billy" Bishop with Glick Boehm Architecture designed the project.

Other properties receiving Carolopolis awards include: 30 State St. (exterior); the circa 1890 house at 94 Bogard St. (exterior); the house at 153 Moultrie St. (exterior); a renovated single house at 262 Coming St.; the early 20th-century building at 267 Rutledge Ave. (exterior); and two new small-scale homes at 163-165 Line St. (new construction).

While the awards surely please recipients, but not all who are nominated get one. This year's 13 winners were selected from 26 nominations.

"It's tough to tell someone who has invested in their property that it's not found worthy, but there's a standard we will not compromise on," King says.

A few generations ago, things got testy enough that the Carolopolis awards took a brief hiatus between 1960 and 1963.

But eventually, they came back strong.

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.