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Founded in 1920, the Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest community based historic preservation organization in America. Originally called the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, it was founded by Miss. Susan Pringle Frost and a small group of individuals who were concerned about the future of the circa 1802 Joseph Manigault House, which was eventually restored. Frost was an active suffragette and thought to be the first woman realtor in Charleston.

In 1931 the Society was instrumental in persuading Charleston City Council to pass the first zoning ordinance enacted to protect historic resources. The ordinance established the first Board of Architectural Review and designated a 138 acre “Old and Historic District.” The district has since been expanded to include over 4,800 historic structures.

In 1957 the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was renamed The Preservation Society of Charleston. The name change reflected the Society’s expanded mission to protect not only dwelling but all sites and structures of historic significance or aesthetic value. The Society has sought to fulfill its mission through programs that focus on preservation education, advocacy, and planning.

The Society has sought to fulfill its mission through its Carolopolis Award Program, and its award winning quarterly newsletter Preservation Progress, established in 1956. In the 1970s the Society was one of the first organizations in South Carolina to accept exterior and interior preservation easements.

Today the Society has over 2,000 members from South Carolina and 35 other states who are concerned about the future of Charleston’s historic districts. We are a volunteer organization administered by a volunteer board and eight paid staff members. Board Members Chair committees made up of volunteers who work with the staff to advocate for the preservation of Charleston’s architectural heritage.

In recognition of its efforts, the American Institute of Architects presented the Preservation Society of Charleston with its 1996 Institute Honor Award. The award recognized the Society for “being as much a part of Charleston, South Carolina historic 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.”

This forward was taken from
Highlights of the Miles Brewton House
27 King Street Charleston, S.C.

By
Susan Pringle Frost, March 1944.

Foreword
Herbert Ravenel Sass

Someone who learned that Miss Frost was compiling this little book about the Miles Brewton house suggested that the book should have a foreword about the compiler; and to me was accorded the privilege of writing this necessarily short foreword.

Susan Pringle Frost has performed in the course of her lifetime a public service of such great and enduring value that she will always have a place among those Charlestonians who have done most for their city. For the younger Charlestonians and for visitors from other parts of the country, the story is told here.

About twenty-five years ago one of the critical moments in the life of Charleston arrived. At least four times since her founding she has been menaced by hostile fleets, but probably upon none of these occasions has the danger to her beautiful physical body been graver than when in a wave of enthusiasm for new things; an organized effort was made here to get rid of all that was old. To an extent unequalled anywhere else in the United States, Charleston had retained the architecture and consequently the atmosphere of the past; and it happened that in Charleston the men of the past had wrought exceedingly well and had produced many buildings of exceptional beauty and significance. All this, a possession of great value not only to the people of Charleston but to the American people, was threatened with destruction by the idea that in order to go ahead Charleston must get rid of all of her old buildings and replace them with modern ones such as might be seen in Houston, Wichita and Seattle.

If this program had been put into full effect the injury to Charleston, measured both in aesthetic values and in practical values, would have been greater than that sustained in any of her wars. Susan Pringle Frost’s great service to her city was the leading part she played in preventing that calamity. (It must not be forgotten that there were other helpful factors too, such as the publication in this critical time of the “Dwelling Houses of Charleston” by Alice R. Huger Smith and D. E. Huger Smith). Miss Frost’s great contribution, her leadership rather, lay in the series of restorations of old houses which she carried out with limited means but enormous courage and enthusiasm. In these restorations she brought back to the old houses something of the beauty and dignity which they had before they fell into decay; and thus she opened the eyes of Charlestonians themselves not only to the loveliness but also to the practical value of the thing which it proposed to destroy. These restorations, followed by the formation, at Miss Frost’s suggestion, of the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, mark the turning point in the effort to save the old Charleston.

Looking back now, we are able even in the rush and turmoil of our “war boom” to realize how immense a misfortune it would have been in every way, practical as well as artistic, if what is left to us of the old Charleston had been destroyed. It came very near to being destroyed and it should be remembered always that Susan Pringle Frost was the leader in saving the city.


History of the Preservation Society of Charleston’s Office Building and Gift Shop:

147 King Street has been the location of the Society’s office and gift shop since 1978. This three-story, brick, double building was constructed 1878 – 1880 for local grocer Ernest J. Hesse. In the 1882 City directory Hesse advertised himself as a “Dealer in Fine Teas and Coffees, Wines, Liquors, Etc.” Hesse was active in the Charleston community, serving as captain of the German Hussars and as a member of several German societies.

147 King Street is a fine example of a late nineteenth century building designed for mixed commercial and residential use. The business occupied the first floor with residences located on the upper two floors.

The building’s front façade features a central double door with transom flanked by oversized four over four pane windows, wood bulkhead and wrought iron pilasters. A dog tooth cornice delineates the first floor. The parapet roof is distinguished by decorative brickwork and inset panels with cross-shaped piercing. The residential entrance is located toward the rear of the building, providing access to a two-story piazza with Tuscan columns and turned balusters.



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