CofC building eligible for National Register, proposed for demolition at BAR
preservation-admin , January 5, 2024
Left: Downtowner Motor Inn, c.1964; Right: College Lodge today
Next week, the Board of Architectural Review-Large (BAR) will hear an application for full demolition of College Lodge, located at 159 Calhoun Street and owned by the College of Charleston (CofC). Upon learning of the demolition proposal, the Preservation Society reached out to the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to gain an expert opinion on the historic significance of the building under federal criteria. In response, the SHPO officially determined College Lodge to be eligible for individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which is a high threshold to achieve and indicates its importance to be preserved for the future. View SHPO’s letter now.
Breezeblocks at College Lodge with a unique “DT” pattern for its association with the Downtowner brand
Constructed in 1963 as the Downtowner Motor Inn, the building exemplifies Mid-Century Modern design including a linear, geometric form with cantilevered balconies, a metal panel facade, and large sections of custom breezeblocks containing a “DT” (Downtowner) pattern. The Charleston location was one of at least 75 Downtowners across the nation, which were largely identifiable by their bold, colorful architecture that captured the zeitgeist of mid-century, middle-class America.
Out of four Downtowner Motor Inns constructed in South Carolina, College Lodge is the only intact remaining example in the state — other locations in Greenville, Florence, and Columbia have been demolished or altered beyond recognition. Therefore, the SHPO determined the property meets the threshold for National Register designation, based on its association with the broad trends of the growth of tourism in postwar Charleston and because it is a rare, surviving example of mid-20th century architecture downtown.
Postcards of other Downtowner Motor Inn locations in (left to right) Memphis, Tenn.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Columbia, Mo., now demolished.
In light of this new information, the Preservation Society has called on CofC to withdraw its application for demolition to the BAR and pursue a preservation-sensitive rehabilitation. The SHPO’s evaluation underscores how unique this building is for Charleston and its incredible potential to convey the history of its period of development to current and future generations. The PSC hopes the College embraces the asset that College Lodge is to the community and elects to preserve the building, as well as pursue its formal nomination to the National Register. As we told CofC officials, we stand ready to support those efforts.
The BAR will meet Wednesday, January 10 at 4:30 P.M. in the public meeting room of the Gaillard Center. The full agenda and application materials are available online. We hope you will stand with us against the full demolition of College Lodge and provide an opportunity for this building’s continued use and preservation. If you are unable to make the meeting in person, consider submitting comments to the city’s portal by Tuesday at noon, or signing MidModSC’s petition to save the building: