In the passing of Parker Gilbert, the Charleston community has lost not only an ardent supporter of historic preservation, but also a brilliant and generous-beyond-measure benefactor to numerous charitable organizations. Parker truly made his beloved South Carolina Lowcountry a better place.
In 1987, Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) purchased Mulberry Plantation through its Revolving Fund to prevent the property from possible foreclosure and from ultimately being divided. The preservation-minded Gilberts purchased Mulberry from the Foundation in 1988 and began a painstaking restoration of the house, the Loutrel Briggs’ garden, the paths, the vistas and the views and later added the guest house which was designed by nationally renowned architect Jacque Robertson.
Their love for this property, almost tangible, and certainly apparent in every detail, restored Mulberry, the third oldest house in the state, to its former glory.
To further protect Mulberry, the Gilberts entered into conservation easements with HCF that would ensure the property’s protection in perpetuity. The Deed of Easement given to the Foundation by the Gilberts is the most comprehensive ever donated to the Foundation. It was our distinct pleasure, at the 300th Anniversary Celebration of Mulberry Plantation in October 2014, to recognize Gail and Parker Gilbert with the Frances R. Edmunds Historic Preservation Award, our highest honor, given in memory of the Foundation’s first employee and executive director. Mulberry Plantation is one of the Revolving Fund’s very best success stories, and Gail and Parker Gilbert have been the perfect stewards for this iconic property, which he so loved.
The Gilberts’ generous support has not been limited to the Foundation.
Other local organizations and entities also have been recipients of their generosity, including Drayton Hall, Roper Saint Francis and the South Carolina Aquarium.
Charleston drew the Parkers in a powerful way. Whether it was the land, the water, the marsh, the hunting and shooting seasons, the culture, the sheer beauty, the preservation ethic, the people — whatever the combination, Charleston is a better place because of Gail and Parker Gilbert’s influence.
On behalf of Historic Charleston Foundation Trustees and staff, I offer the most heartfelt condolences to the Gilbert family and express our utmost admiration for Parker, a man with an unflinching historic preservation ethic, a generous and engaged local resident and a man of the highest character and principle.
Katharine S. Robinson is president and CEO of the Historic Charleston Foundation.