Historic Charleston Foundation

Historic Charleston Foundation Oral History Project

Historic Charleston Foundation’s Oral History Project began in 2003 as a staff initiative which grew from the realization that Charleston was rapidly losing members of the generation involved with the founding of Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF).  At that time, the decision was made to videotape hour-long interviews with former trustees and other pioneers in the preservation movement in Charleston.  The goal was to document memories about the founding of HCF and, at the same time, record first-hand accounts of life in Charleston in the early 20th century as well as local preservation efforts during that period.  More recently, HCF’s efforts have expanded to include interviews with residents of specific neighborhoods who speak about neighborhood history and their experiences with neighborhood changes over time; owners of historic homes who purchased their home through one of HCF’s revolving fund programs; and Charleston craftspeople whose restoration work has contributed to Charleston’s preservation legacy.

More oral histories will be added as they become available.

 

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Art Work of Charleston: Published in Twelve Parts

A twelve-part, mostly pictorial publication about Charleston and the vicinity.  Distributed throughout the parts is an essay describing Charleston’s history and development.  The photographs feature buildings, residences, churches, street views, river views, historic gardens, cemeteries, railroad structures, phosphate mining activity, and wharves.  Published in 1893 by W. H. Parish (Chicago, Illinois). 

 

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An Architectural Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

An Architectural Guide to Charleston includes the history and architectural description of many prominent Charleston buildings, arranged by period (Colonial, post-Revolutionary, Antebellum, and post-Civil War). Written by noted architects Albert Simons and W.H. Johnson Thomas, the manuscript was compiled by Historic Charleston Foundation to be presented to the members of the Society of Architectural Historians at its meeting in Charleston in 1971.

 

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1967 King Street Survey Collection

King Street Collection

In 1967, Historic Charleston Foundation was deeply concerned about the conditions of the downtown area, particularly the commercial blocks of King Street. Because the Foundation believed that the survival of King Street as a thriving retail shopping district was vital, it launched a feasibility study to determine the potential of the area. The study examined traffic patterns, land use, and historical significance. It is assumed that this photographic survey of King Street buildings was done in conjunction with the feasibility study. The survey contains 74 photographs of King Street buildings between Broad and Calhoun Streets, both B&W and color, mounted on the pages of a photograph album. The survey also includes four drawings showing the footprints of King Street buildings between Broad and Columbus Streets, color-coded to indicate the historical significance, area conditions, and proposed reuses.

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Mulberry Castle: Land of My Dreams

Mulberry Castle: Land of My Dreams

Clarence E. Chapman, a New York financier and stockbroker, and his wife Adelaide, purchased Mulberry Plantation (a/k/a Mulberry Castle) in 1916 at which time they undertook the restoration of the main house and rehabilitation of the grounds and outbuildings over the next several years. Mulberry Plantation was thus transformed into a site of leisure and recreation for the Chapmans and their guests.

This compilation of “home movies” shows Mr. and Mrs. Chapman during their vacations at Mulberry over a five-year period (ca. 1927-1932). The footage contains scenes of the Chapmans entertaining their guests as well as Mulberry Plantation laborers performing various service functions.

The silent B&W film footage is comprised of several reels of 8mm film that had originally been transferred to videotape sometime in the 1990s and later digitized.  The time frame of the footage spans ca. 1927-1932; however, it was assembled in no particular order. Highlights of the footage include:

  • Panoramic  views of the main house and grounds of Mulberry Plantation, including the landscape and gardens (both before and after the installation of Loutrel Briggs designs).  Also features views of various secondary buildings and other locations on the grounds, e.g., the boat house, kitchen building, caretaker’s house, slave cabins, entrance gate, rice fields, kitchen garden shed, farm buildings, and river views.
  • Scenes of deer and duck hunting, picnicking, camping, horseback riding, and other leisure activities. 
  • Visits to neighboring Berkeley County landmarks such as St. James Church, Strawberry Chapel, Pompion Hill, Rice Hope Plantation
  • Departures from and arrivals at the train station (Moncks Corner?) and the aftermath of a train wreck

See also the related Historic Charleston Foundation collection of photographs, “Rice Harvest at Mulberry Plantation.”

For more information about the acquisition of Lowcountry plantations by the Chapmans and other wealthy northerners in the early 20th century, see Leisure, Plantations, and the Making of a New South: The Sporting Plantations of the South Carolina Lowcountry and Red Hills Region, 1900-1940, edited by Julia Brock and Daniel Vivian (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, [2005]), and Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin, edited by Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Hoffius (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina, c2009).
 

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Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project

Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project

In the 1950s many houses in Ansonborough were threatened with ”demolition by neglect,” having stood vacant or fallen into severe disrepair. In order to encourage homebuyers to move into the neighborhood to save these formerly unwanted treasures, Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) was the first organization in the country to develop the Revolving Fund as a preservation strategy. The initiation of this fund in 1958 enabled HCF to begin the Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project, an extraordinary effort to save a six-block neighborhood bordered by Market, Calhoun, East Bay, and Meeting Streets. Through the Revolving Fund, HCF sought to purchase, stabilize and resell historic properties with protective covenants in Ansonborough where more than 60 structures were rehabilitated over a 12-year period. The accomplishment was hailed nationwide, and other preservation programs across the United States modeled local initiatives on the Charleston program. HCF’s Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project is considered one of the first successful attempts in the country to preserve an entire neighborhood.

For ease of access, this collection can also be browsed by folder:

Related collections also include: Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project Photograph Survey
 

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Photograph Survey of the “Charleston Center” Site

Photograph Survey of the “Charleston Center” Site

“The proposal to build a hotel and convention center complex in the heart of Charleston ignited a fierce debate in Charleston in the late 1970s and early 1980s that divided public opinion locally and attracted considerable attention nationally.” While Historic Charleston Foundation expressed neither support nor opposition for the development of the block, it played a significant role in advocating for appropriate height, scale, and mass, and in voicing concern for the anticipated dramatic increase in tourists. After years of controversy, legal wrangling, negotiations, and design reviews and revisions, the ground-breaking for the hotel occurred in early 1985. Charleston Place opened in the fall of 1986.1

As it did with several other rehabilitation and revitalization projects over the years, Historic Charleston Foundation photographed the site of the proposed development and its environs, comprising the entire block bounded by Meeting, Market, King, and Hasell Streets. This photographic survey consists of 110 black-and-white photographs of buildings, streets, and sites that would be impacted by the construction project that was initially called the Charleston Center, now known as Charleston Place.

1Historic Preservation for a Living City by Robert Weyeneth (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2000).

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Scenes in Charleston, Georgetown, and Flat Rock, Late 19th Century

Scenes in Charleston, Georgetown, and Flat Rock, Late 19th Century

Thirty-five late-19th century photographs of scenes in Charleston, South Carolina; Georgetown, South Carolina; and (likely) Flat Rock, North Carolina, affixed to pages removed from a photograph album, five to six photos on each side. Many depict leisure activities and rice cultivation at what is likely a Georgetown County plantation. The collection also includes river and beach scenes.

Note: It is possible that these photographs document some of the travels of designer, artist, Newcomb potter, and Charleston native Sabina Elliott Wells, as there are two photographs in which she may be featured. Her travels to Georgetown and western North Carolina in the late 1890s are documented in journals at the South Carolina Historical Society. This likelihood is the basis for the location descriptions and date of the collection.

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1920s Charleston Scenes

1920s Charleston Scenes

Sixteen ca. 1920s photographs of scenes in Charleston, South Carolina, affixed to pages removed from a photograph album, four photos on each side. Includes views of the Charleston waterfront, the Ashley River Bridge, Hampton Park, and aerial views across the Charleston peninsula.

Note: Zoom in on the photographs to see the landscapes! The landmark buildings seen in both the waterfront and aerial views were identified this way and are provided in the descriptions to better convey the location of the views. Boundaries, where noted, are approximate.

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Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project Photograph Survey

Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project Photograph Survey

Since its founding, Historic Charleston Foundation had been nursing its interest in the rehabilitation of an entire neighborhood.  However, a formal plan had not been devised until the late 1950s, a time when the historic Ansonborough neighborhood was in a state of decline, with many formerly grand houses in a state of severe disrepair and vacant.  By 1958, HCF initiated a plan to rehabilitate several blocks in Ansonborough by developing the nation’s first revolving fund as a preservation strategy.  Thus began the Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project, an extraordinary effort to save the neighborhood within an area bordered by Calhoun, East Bay, Market, and Meeting Streets.  Through the Revolving Fund, HCF purchased, stabilized, and then resold historic properties to preservation-minded buyers with protective covenants attached to the deeds.  Almost sixty structures were rehabilitated over a twelve-year period.  The accomplishments of the Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project were hailed nationwide, and other preservation programs across the United States modeled local initiatives on the Charleston program.  

This collection is photographic survey of Ansonborough properties, consisting of 228 black-and-white photographs of houses and buildings on Anson, East Bay, George, Hasell, Laurens, Meeting, Society, and Wentworth Streets.  The survey documents the neighborhood prior to the Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project, and shows the condition of each structure before rehabilitation, before demolition, and, in some cases, before relocation.

Related collections also include: Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project

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