Whenever I’m sharing the story on my Amazing Ladies of Charleston walking tour of how Susan Pringle Frost
founded the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings back in 1920, I can honestly say I never tire of singing her praises. To me, had it not been for her love and tenacity to preserve the beauty of Charleston, we’d be just another over-developed seaside town devoid of historical significance and lacking in architectural splendor. She will forever be my personal heroine.
It all began when she and a small group of friends who were deeply concerned about the future of the Joseph Manigault House, which was set to be demolished, organized the pursuits in saving and preserving historic homes and formed the society. Frost, who was also an active suffragette and possibly the first female realtor in Charleston, was also responsible in 1931 for convincing the Charleston City Council to pass the nation’s first Historic District Zoning Law, which established the first Board of Architectural Review and designated a 138-acre area as the “Old and Historic District.” Thank Heavens!
In 1956 the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was renamed The Preservation Society of Charleston
to reflect the society’s expanded mission to protect not only dwellings, but also all sites and structures of historic significance or aesthetic value. The society has fulfilled that mission through programs that focus on preservation education, advocacy and planning. In the 1970s the society was one of the first organizations in South Carolina authorized by the Internal Revenue Service to accept tax-deductible exterior and interior preservation easements.
The society is administered by a volunteer board and professional staff with more than 2,000 members from South Carolina and 35 other states. As an advocacy organization, the society works closely with homeowners, developers and neighborhood organizations to encourage the preservation of historic buildings and new construction that is compatible with the city’s historic architecture.
One of the special features I always point out to my walking tour guests are the countless round plaquards found on many houses and structures throughout downtown Charleston. The Carolopolis Award Program
was begun in 1953 by the Preservation Society to recognize outstanding achievement in exterior preservation, restoration, rehabilitation and new construction in the city. Since that time, the society has given out more than one thousand awards! (To see the most recent recipients, please click on the Carolopolis Award Program link in the first sentence of this paragraph.)
In 1996 the American Institute of Architects presented the Preservation Society of Charleston with its Institute Honor Award. The award recognized the society for “being as much a part of Charleston, South Carolina, history as protector of it, this Society has wrought a standard of commitment to community befitting the beauty and rich legacy of the city it has served for over 75 years.”
Is it any wonder Charlestonians are so proud of their charming city? I know I sure am. Without these efforts, I would not have the privilege of showing visitors around Charleston.
Here are a few of the prestigious award plaques that I’ve discovered throughout the Charleston Historic District while giving my walking tours. Of course, there are many, many more to be found. Why not visit Charleston and experience the architectural splendor up close on one of my walking tours. Let’s see how many awards we can find.