Advocacy Alerts

Past PSC Advocacy Wins: 68 Meeting Street

Preservation-Society , May 11, 2020

PSC calls public meeting to rally the community in defense of Charleston’s Zoning Ordinance (News and Courier, November 3, 1948, p. 10.)

In the fall of 1948, Charleston’s relatively new 1931 Zoning Ordinance was put to the test when a variance request was brought before Charleston’s Board of Zoning Adjustment to construct a 7-story apartment building on the site of the c. 1810 John Cordes Prioleau House at 68 Meeting Street. The hearing initially scheduled for November 1 was postponed by City Staff whose office was too small to accommodate the enormous number of residents who planned to attend and speak in opposition.[1]

The c. 1810 John Cordes Prioleau House at 68 Meeting Street as it appeared prior to alterations in the 1890s, and after. (News and Courier, December 20, 1948, p. 16) 

To provide the entire community the opportunity to understand and weigh in on the proposal and plan for “concerted action against the proposed construction of the seven-story apartment house,” the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings (now the Preservation Society of Charleston) called a public meeting for November 4 at the Heyward Washington House. The meeting notice stated “all local organizations interested in the subject are invited to send as many representatives as they wish,” and that “individuals not connected with any organization likewise will be welcome.”[2]

Rendering of the 7-story apartment building proposed at 68 Meeting Street, 1948, courtesy of the PSC archives. 

At the meeting, Samuel G. Stoney, former president of the Society, denounced the proposed location of the apartment building, noting there were numerous, more appropriate sites where the project “could do more good than harm.”[3] This was echoed by founding member of the Society, Alston Deas, who emphasized in a letter to the News and Courier that the Zoning Ordinance was written specifically to protect Charleston’s most sensitive historic districts while simultaneously providing “amply for the erection of suitable apartment houses in more appropriate locations,” not seeking “to limit or stifle Charleston’s legitimate growth.”[4] [EM1] [AC2] 

This unprecedented request remained in the headlines for weeks, compelling dozens of Charleston residents to pen passionate letters to the editor in defense of Charleston’s historic character. At the November 19 hearing, the Board of Zoning Adjustment resoundingly denied the controversial request after an hour and a half of public comment against the proposal in addition to hundreds of letters submitted.[5] Serving on the Board at the time was Preservation Society founder Susan Pringle Frost, who later reflected, “I am glad to be a member of a board which turned down such a proposition.”[6]

In response, the developer appealed the Board’s decision to City Council with a request to amend the ordinance in their favor, which also ultimately failed to gain support. Because of the efforts of the Preservation Society, its members, and the community at large, this notable building was saved from demolition, and Charleston’s skyline was preserved.[7]

[1] Evening Post, November 2, 1948, p. 3.

[2] News and Courier, November 3, 1948, p. 10.

[3] Evening Post, November 5, 1948, p. 38.

[4] News and Courier, November 10, 1948, p. 6.

[5] Evening Post, November 20, 1948, p. 2.

[6] News and Courier, November 23, 1948, p. 4.

[7] Evening Post, November 20, 1948, p. 2.

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