Longtime executive director leaves Preservation Society

Cynthia Jenkins

Longtime Lowcountry preservationist Cynthia Jenkins has resigned unexpectedly from the Preservation Society of Charleston after 15 years as its executive director.

Neither Jenkins nor Society President Lois Lane would comment Wednesday on the circumstances behind Jenkins' sudden departure Friday.

Lane said Assistant Director Robert Gurley is serving as acting director, and the board has appointed a committee to search for a successor.

Jenkins previously worked for the Historic Beaufort Foundation and was instrumental in helping movie producer Joel Silver preserve Auldbrass, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed plantation in Yemassee. She arrived in Charleston in 2004 to replace Director John Meffert.

Jenkins's departure comes at a busy time, as the society gears up for its fall Candlelight Tour of Homes -- its largest fundraiser.

The society also is involved in reworking the city's plans for the eastern Calhoun Street-Waterfront area and in fighting an eight-story hotel planned on Marion Square.

The Preservation Society was founded in 1920 and bills itself as the nation's oldest membership-based preservation group.

It has more than 2,000 mem- bers from South Carolina and 35 other states, according to the society's Web site.

According to its 2007 tax return, the most recent available, the society had slightly more than $1 million in annual income.

In addition to its advocacy on behalf of the city's architectural heritage, the society also operates a bookstore at King and Queen streets and gives out its annual Carolopolis awards to recognize quality restorations, rehabilitations and new construction.

The society is separate from the Historic Charleston Foundation, which has a larger budget, retail operation and portfolio of historic properties and is run by a board of trustees.

It also is separate from the S.C. Historical Society, a Charleston-based nonprofit that preserves historic state documents.