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The Women of Charleston Influenced Its Historic Preservation


Women Fight to Save a City's History
Early in the 20th century women began making their mark on Charleston preservation. In 1902, the National Society of Colonial Dames purchased the powder magazine at 79 Cumberland Street. It is the oldest public building in the state of South Carolina and existed in pre-revolutionary times when Charleston was governed by the Lords Proprietors or colonial governors.

The structure, completed in 1713 and built near an interior wall of the then walled city, stored gunpowder. A new magazine was built in 1748 and in 1770 the original magazine was condemned; however, it was returned briefly to service during the Revolutionary War.

Since the 1820s, the building has been used for a variety of purposes including a livery stable, storage and printing house. The Colonial Dames continue to own and operate the powder magazine. In recent years it has undergone archaeological and architectural conservation efforts and is now open to the public.

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) purchased The (Old) Exchange and Provost (Dungeon) at 122 East Bay Street, near Broad Street, in 1913 from the federal government. The building, constructed from 1767 to 1771, once served as a customs house for the port city. Historically significant events at the facility include:
  • serving as a public market and meeting site during the colonial period
  • storing tea during a protest of the Tea Act
  • housing prisoners of the British during the Revolutionary War
  • having been the site of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina
  • having been the site of the state legislature after the State House burned during the Constitutional Ratification Convention of 1788
  • hosting a ball honoring George Washington
Guides, dressed in period costumes, offer tours and describe the discovery of the walled city on the property.

In 1894, two years after the creation of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the South Carolina Division, with the Charleston chapter present, was founded. Originally the UDC was a service organization to assist Confederate soldiers and their families. Today they also work to preserve history from 1855 to present. Members are direct descendants of Confederate soldiers, sailors and statesmen. Year-round the UDC operates The Confederate Museum in Market Hall at the corner of Market and Meeting Streets in the historic district.

The Crew of the Hunley
On the evening of February 17, 1864, the Confederate’s H. L. Hunley, a combat submarine successfully sank the Union’s U.S.S. Housatonic, and then vanished. After much research, the sub was located in 1995 and raised in 2000. Continuing its role, the UDC worked to assure a proper burial for the eight deceased crew members of The Hunley.

Renovating Buildings One by One

Miss Susan Pringle Frost, a real estate agent and a proponent of preservation, left an indelible mark on the city. Among her many activities, in 1918, she owned and renovated the double tenement building at 8-10 Tradd Street. Charleston merchant Thomas Lamboll built the masonry structure circa 1726, according to surviving land grants. The gambrel (or Dutch gable roof) is a rare Charleston architectural element today, but quite common here during the 1700s. Many were lost to demolitions in the early 1900s. The original frame upper story and roof were heavily damaged by fires in the mid-18th century and rebuilt circa 1781. As a footnote, owners rarely occupied tenements, and major city fires occurred in 1740 and in 1778 and both would have impacted this address.

Preserving History
In 1920, along with others who shared this interest, Miss Frost founded and served as the first president of the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, now renamed The Preservation Society of Charleston.

The Joseph Manigault House at 350 Meeting Street was the group’s first project. Built in 1803 by architect Gabriel for his brother Joseph Manigault, the building is located near the Visitor Center and just south of the Charleston Museum, which now owns and operates the property. The Manigaults were a French Huguenot family that earned their wealth as rice planters.

According to its National Register of Historic Places nomination form, “it was the first house to be planned de nouveau to suit the requirements of the owner instead of following the often repeated plans of either the single house or the double house then so popular.”

In the 1920s, Frost owned the building at 23 Tradd Street that was built circa 1797 to 1800. William Bell, also a Charleston merchant, built the three-story stucco house. His earlier residence was destroyed in 1778 by the second of five major fires to the city. Almost a century after its original construction, in 1886, an earthquake damaged the north and south walls. As with many Charleston homes, iron bolts were added to reinforce the walls.

Beginning in 1953, the preservation society began the Carolopolis Awards program. Property owners - individuals, businesses or organizations - are recognized for their “outstanding achievement in exterior preservation, restoration, rehabilitation and new construction.” More than 1,000 awards have been given. Many display this designation on the front of their buildings.

“The Charleston Historical Commission, a city sponsored organization responsible for the marking of important public facilities,” requested that the preservation society “…assist in recognizing noteworthy private residences by erecting historic markers.” To date 300 markers are in place describing the home, owners and key dates and events.

For those interested in learning more about The Preservation Society of Charleston, visit their book and gift shop.



Powder Magazine
79 Cumberland Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 722-9350

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
122 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 727-2165

The Confederate Museum
188 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC
(843) 723-1541

The Hunley
Warren Lasch Conservation Center
1250 Supply Street, Building 255
Former Charleston Navy Base
North Charleston, SC 29405
(866) 866-9938

Thomas Lamboll House
8-10 Tradd Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Joseph Manigault House
350 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403

The Charleston Museum
360 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 722-2996

William Bell House
23 Tradd Street
Charleston, SC 29401

The Preservation Society of Charleston
Book & Gift Shop
147 King Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 722-4630

Charleston Visitor Reception
and Transportation Center

375 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(800) 774-0006

Photos: The Preservation Society of Charleston Book & Gift Shop, the Powder Magazine, The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Thomas Lamboll House and William Bell House - ©2006 Flying Compass, Inc. All rights reserved.