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Monday, January 25, 2016

Preserving Doors to the Past

There is so much about Charleston to love besides the high cost of real estate, August, and the obnoxious Yankee tourists. Some of my favorite photography has been of  Charleston and the low country. In fact of all the places I have gone with my camera, I would  say 75% of my work is from down here. I dearly love it.

So , as you can imagine, living down here I have my camera with me all the time. Well, except when I am dealing with the pups on the street. Then it is all I can do to keep from getting run over, tangled up, or apologizing to some stranger because either Ellie or Marshall could not understand why this new person did not want to be their best friend. But, I digress.

One morning as I was walking around, camera in hand, I noticed so many interesting local people that I wanted to shoot (photograph). However, there are two issues here - I am extremely hesitant to candidly photograph someone for fear they will see me and let me know (in no uncertain terms) that my actions did not suit them and/or one needs a subject's written consent to use their image. My luck would be I would have the best photo I had ever taken and not be able to use it, for fear of future litigation.

Not being able to photograph people, I carried on. Then I noticed the doors of Charleston and how, while many were very similar - being the doors to the traditional "Single House", others had a bit of "personality". My favorites were the doors of former nice old homes that had seen their better days. They oozed of personality. Their rotting frames, crooked doorways, faded colors, and, often, eclectic mail boxes made for excellent structures to photograph. 

Then there are always the grand doorways of the south of Calhoun and south of Broad old homes that are so well kept. These antebellum homes are what tourists pay mega dollars to ride past in a horse drawn carriage. These street scenes are what cover the travel brochures and magazine layouts advertising the charm and beauty of "Old Charleston". But if one ventures off Rutledge and Ashley just blocks from these storybook homes, you will find the other grand old dames that have not been so well kept. You can still see the past glory and status in these doorways. And, to me at least, the beauty is still there.

Luckily all these homes are protected by the Preservation Society of Charleston. They cannot be altered or torn down without the Society's blessing. When someone does decide to save them, their plans have to be approved so that they are in line with the historic nature, design, and color of the original structure. This society has saved old Charleston and protected these stately homes from being razed and replaced by some "mega-mansion", Dollar Store, or redone into some faux Charleston design.


The PSC is the oldest community-based historic preservation organization in America. A brief history from their website reads:

Founded in 1920 by Susan Pringle Frost, the Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest community-based historic preservation organization in America. Formed out of concern for the 1802 Joseph Manigault House, the small group of individuals was instrumental in its restoration and the formation of America's first zoning ordinance to protect historic resources. The 1931 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 more than 4,800 historic structures.


If you have ever walked around the streets of Charleston, you may have noticed one these plaques on the front of some homes:


This is the Carolopolis Award. This program was created in 1953 to recognize outstanding achievement in exterior preservation, restoration and rehabilitation. More than 1300 have been given out. 


But back to the original point of this post. I have started a collection of photographs of doors I call "Charleston Door of the Day" that I post on Facebook daily. Check them out, you will be surprised at how they range from the grand to the normal to the eclectic. But, one thing they all have in common is they are all in Charleston.

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