56 Morris Street Update
preservation-admin , April 13, 2022
Left: Current image of 56 Morris Street; Right: Rendering of design approved by the BAR on March 24, 2022, courtesy of Synchronicity
In February, the PSC advocated to preserve the architectural character and form of
the Green Book-listed Brooks Restaurant and Realty Company building at 56 Morris Street in response to a proposal to significantly alter the property. This one-story building is one of the few remaining structures attributed to the business empire of African American entrepreneurs and civil rights activists Albert and Benjamin Brooks, and speaks strongly to the history of Morris Street as an important center for minority-owned businesses in 20th century Charleston.
When the project was first presented to the Board of Architectural Review – Small (BAR-S), the PSC stood with residents and members of the Brooks family in requesting a more sensitive approach to rehabilitation. The PSC has since facilitated conversations with the project team and the Brooks family to discuss design alternatives that better honor the building’s history. As a result, the BAR-S recently approved an updated proposal that includes a reduced second-story addition, minimized alterations to existing historic fabric, and most notably, restoration of the original Philip Simmons ironwork, a character-defining feature of the structure. The PSC is also working with the applicant and Brooks family to develop a historic marker for the site to ensure the significant story of 56 Morris Street is integrated into the building’s redevelopment and accessible to all.
This success story illustrates the importance of a public, participatory design review process. Through advocacy and community outreach, the PSC strives to convene key stakeholders, elevate underrepresented voices, and advance productive conversations to achieve best outcomes for Charleston’s historic places.
You can read more about 56 Morris Street and the Brooks family legacy via the Morris Street Business District digital exhibit, published by the PSC in partnership with the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative.