Charleston: The Bell Jar City

As a new person to Chuck Town, I’m continually astonished at the omnipresent sense of history. It’s wonderfully inescapable. Block after city block of structures that have celebrated over 150 birthdays. As you would expect, the homes, business and landmarks each bear their age differently. Happily, many stand tall and strong, defiant of time and urban sprawl. It’s truly amazing that so many structures could survive in such a state of still-functioning elegance.

Charleston is a city captured in time

Charleston is a city captured in time

Yes, I know, it’s not by accident. Blood, sweat, tears and MONEY are the foundation of every piece of standing history. The fervent desire to preserve the past is nothing short of fanatical. It takes generations of stalwart commitment by citizen and civic leaders to preserve such an important legacy. It’s easy to dismiss the preservation efforts as a vital mechanism to protect Charleston’s tourism industry and therefore is necessary to the economy. That is true, however, the temptation to make a few quick bucks seems to be successfully repelled.

Most of Downtown Charleston can boast beautifully maintained areas comprised of charming brick architecture accentuated with elaborate gnarls of wrought iron next to edifices of gleaming stucco and always adorned with immaculate landscaping. However, many buildings on the peninsula stand on the cusp of ramshackle status. In most any another city, developers and neighbors would be cursing the sagging, unloved, old homes bracketed by sieved and shattered wooden walls dappled with flecks of weathered paint. Yet in Charleston these ailing houses, yearning for love, just appear only temporarily challenged by gravity’s unrelenting clutch. The 150+ year old buildings signify a commitment to a living heritage that perpetually grow and moprh with the changing times.

Adaptive Reutilization is the battle cry in this city that has seen its share of battles.

As someone who has traveled quite exclusively through many U.S. States, I heartily thank and congratulate the people  of Charleston for placing a virtual bell jar over the city over a century ago thus protecting it from  greedy politicians and developers. It is a certainty that many have, and are, temped to strip Chuck Town’s identity one marvelous home at a time but from my perspective, the line is being held stubbornly by visionary stewards with the best interest of the community in mind.

Frank Johnson •
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