As it has for more than six decades, The Preservation Society of Charleston took a night to celebrate building projects — restorations, rehabilitations and new projects — that honor the traditions, history and lifestyle of The Holy City.
The society gave 14 Carolopolis Awards, including three “Pro Merito” awards for structures that had previously received awards, during a sold-out event at the Riviera Theater in late January.
Among the winners were those responsible for renovating a building at 247 Congress St. known now as Harold’s Cabin. They included owner John Schumacher of Yarrum, architect Julia F. Martin Architects and contractor Lennon Construction.
One familiar project receiving a Carolopolis Award for new "infill" construction was Edmund's Oast Exchange at 1081 Morrison Drive. Those receiving the honor included owner RCC Investors, designer Andrew Gould of New World Byzantine, architect Dan Sweeney of Stumphouse and contractor Linden Construction.
While the awards have played a key role in historic preservation efforts, Preservation Society representatives took the opportunity to underscore how “Charleston is changing at warp speed” and how the society must change to meet those challenges, according to Executive Director Kristopher King.
“Tonight is an incredible testament to Charleston, especially our homeowners and business owners who invest in making Charleston such an amazing and unique place,” King said.
“Our focus tonight is on the buildings, which is obviously a large part of who we are. Just last night we were the lone voice of opposition to this,” says King, showing a slide of a proposed nine-story mixed use building on the former site of Hughes Lumber at 82 Mary St.
King says Preservation Society representatives were the only ones who showed up at the Charleston Board of Architectural Review meeting on Jan. 24 to voice opposition to the nine-story building.
“While a good project in terms of programming, the design and mass of the building are simply jarring and would be detrimental to the character of Charleston. Design and character matter and are core to who are at the society, but we are focused on so much more, because if people aren’t living and working in these beautiful historic structures, then what’s the point?
“We must ensure Charleston remains a great place to live and work.”
Preservation Society Elizabeth “Betsy” Cahill recalled the evolution of the society from “a small band of citizens that came together in 1920 calling themselves the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings,” a name that endured until 1957 and became the “Preservation Society.”
“In the ‘old days,’ the Preservation Society’s concerns were vandalization of our buildings and the encroachment of business activity into historic neighborhoods," she said. "Today, the challenges we face — less tangible than a denuded exterior or a gas station in the historic district — are attacks upon our resilience, our authenticity, and our livability.”
Cahill told the audience that the society is now directly addressing flooding and business encroachments that now include short-term rentals and the “continued march of tourism, which prioritizes visitors over residents … and seems to be turning the city into a backdrop for Instagram photos.”