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On its redefined fall tours, Preservation Society of Charleston is ‘walking the walk’

preservation-admin , July 1, 2022

Read the original Post and Courier article here. 

Preservation Society of CharlestonFor its annual Fall Tours, Preservation Society of Charleston will limit the size of groups and will focus on the quality of each offering by enlisting noted professionals and training volunteers. Justin Falk/Provided 

For 46 years, locals and visitors alike have laced up their walking shoes to enjoy an informed and eye-catching perspective on Charleston’s cultural legacy, both inside and out. They have gotten a rare gander at some architectural edifices, and a deeper sense of its overarching ethos, too.

That’s all thanks to the annual Preservation Society of Charleston Fall Tours, which traverse the city to offer often elusive glimpses at some of the city’s singular aesthetic gems.

This year the organization is walking its walk in a new way. With the goal of upholding Charleston’s storied architectural and cultural character, the Preservation Society has launched a forward-looking approach to its popular program.

Tours will take place Oct. 5-29 on Wednesday through Saturday.

It was this very organization, after all, that blazed a trail in the nation’s preservation movement. In 1920 pioneering preservationist Susan Pringle Frost founded the oldest historic preservation organization in the country. Originally called the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, it trained an astute, unflinching eye on saving some of the city’s venerated properties from the presumptive, proverbial wrecking ball, starting with the Joseph Manigault House.

The Preservation Society maintains its mission of saving all that is unique to the city, though today that goes beyond shoring up bricks and mortar and includes everything from advocacy on rising waters to residential crowd control.

With that it mind, its celebrated Fall Tours are next-leveling in a curious way. For one, they are doing so by getting smaller. Decreasing quantity and homing in on quality, the redefined program seeks to connect guests more closely with subject matter, while also considering its own stance on local tourism management.

New leader, a refined vision

Shaping that vision is Brian Turner, the new Preservation Society of Charleston president and CEO. He took his current role in April after serving for a year as the director of advocacy. The former position segues seamlessly with the objectives of his new one.

“In revamping the program we are aiming to ensure that all of Preservation Society of Charleston’s programs tie back to our advocacy mission,” he said. “The new tours utilize the build environment to foster education about our work on issues related to resilience, tourism management and the need to share a more complete narrative of the city’s layered history.”

The aim, Turner said, is mindful that Charleston is a living, breathing city rather than a museum or playground for sightseers. The Fall Tours follow suit by lessening the number of tours by 50 percent and by offering limited capacity on each.

Preservation Society of Charleston

A key advocacy goal is having Charleston model best practices in tourism management, which the organization sees as critical considering the city’s elevated profile as a global destination.

“By going beyond city requirements for tour size and tailoring interpretive efforts to advocacy and preservation work, we are holding true to our core values of respect for this incredible place,” he said.

Another organizational focus is to foster collaborations. A partnership with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, for instance, involves the center evaluating the Preservation Society’s interpretation materials for this year’s tour sites.

The Fall Tours

So, yes, the Preservation Society will continue its hallmark Piazzas and Gardens tours on Saturday afternoons in October. Emphasizing specialty walking tours, these will be limited to 15 guests. Its curated Insider’s Tours will be capped at 60, and will highlight expert takes on the city’s standout architecture and gardens.

There are new programs, too, conceived to align with advocacy and preservation work. These include the Preservation in Progress tour examining current and recently completed rehabilitation projects, and an Adaptive Designs for Rising Waters tour sharing creative design solutions in flood-prone areas.

Volunteer house or garden docents and street marshals will come to the task informed by training materials and up-to-speed on the current work and programs of the Preservation Society.

Preservation Society of Charleston Fall ToursPreservation Society of Charleston has announced redefined Fall Tours for 2022, which reflect its institutional priorities. Preservation Society of Charleston/Provided

The Insider’s Architecture series will take guests inside exceptional Charleston buildings that are seldom open to the public. The tours will be led by noted professionals such as architects, contractors or architectural historians, who will delve into the city’s architectural styles, preservation ethic and interior design.

Similarly The Insider’s Garden Tour series will be led by notable professionals, be they a landscape architect, garden designer or horticulturalist. In addition to visiting some of the city’s most beautiful private gardens, guests will also learn about subjects ranging from the latest gardening trends to Charleston’s rich past.

Then there are Specialty Tours, which are led by a Preservation Society staff member or noted expert in their field and illuminate the organization’s advocacy work, preservation initiatives and mission. Among them are a new Hard Hat Tour,  Adaptive Designs for Rising Waters, a Preservation in Progress Tour and a Historic Cemeteries & Churches Walking Tour.

In the Historic Walking Tours, patrons can get a deeper sense of the historical events, figures and cultures that come together in Charleston. These include popular tours such as The Architecture of Charleston, Charleston Well-Preserved and Revolutionary Charleston and Exploring Charleston’s Neighborhoods: Harleston Village, French Quarter, Waterfront & Battery, Ansonborough, as well as a new offering titled Barbados and Charleston Connections.

The plan may be more constrained, but the ambition is bigger than ever.

“In minimizing our footprint on the historic district, we are walking the talk. We also have learned that more personalized experiences have the added benefit of engaging and inspiring our members and supporters, which better advances our mission,” Turner said.

Limited tickets for the October tours are now on sale and advance reservations are recommended. Discounts are available for PSC members on select tours, and many ticket options now include a one-year membership with the Preservation Society with all standard member benefits.

For tickets and information, visit Those interested in volunteering for the Fall Tours program may complete the Volunteer Application on the Preservation Society’s website.

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