Voices of Charleston – Caroline Palmer

preservation-admin , January 5, 2022

By Courtney Theis, Acting Director of Advancement

Since our inception in 1920, the PSC has relied upon public engagement on issues that matter most for Charleston. The organization’s grassroots principles and community-driven activism still form the foundation of our work today. The Voices of Charleston series tells the stories of residents, business owners, and entrepreneurs along one of the nation’s oldest urban corridors. The range of backgrounds and perspectives reflects the diversity of King Street from the Battery to North Central.

While Caroline Palmer is a relative newcomer to the residential end of King Street in Charleston’s South of Broad neighborhood, she is certainly not new to Charleston. She grew up visiting relatives on Tradd Street and her family has strong ties to the Lowcountry. “I grew up in the DC area because my great-grandfather left Charleston during the economic depression in the early 1900s to move to New York, and my grandparents eventually settled in DC. My family is now returning, and I’m reconnecting with my roots – it’s coming home in a way.”  It is her connection to the past that led Caroline and her mother, Anne Tinker, along with family friend, Dwight McInvaill, to team up on the recent publication of a book dedicated to the life and work of her great-great aunt, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. As a leading figure in the Charleston Renaissance, Alice is best known for her serene watercolor landscapes of the Lowcountry. Caroline reflected, “As I started to work on the book, I learned so much about my own family, my Aunt Alice, and Charleston’s history – it’s been a great educational experience for me, as well as a really meaningful project.”

As a happy coincidence, Caroline also told us that Alice Smith was a cousin of PSC founder, Susan Pringle Frost. In fact, in 1917 Alice and her father, Daniel Elliott Huger Smith, authored and illustrated The Dwelling Houses of Charleston, a tribute to the city’s architecture and an inspirational text for the historic preservation movement of the 1920s. Commenting on her family’s preservation legacy, Caroline said, “I deeply appreciate the efforts of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Susan Pringle Frost, and that generation. They saw what was at risk, and they worked really hard to preserve the character of Charleston at a critical juncture. We are the beneficiaries of that on a day-to-day basis.” She believes that Charleston is at yet another critical juncture in its history: “All of the issues today, from climate change and flooding, to increases in new development that dramatically change the city’s skyline, as well as the ongoing loss of historic buildings to neglect, the impact of increasing tourism, and the threats to the diverse neighborhoods of Charleston – those issues all feel just as big as the issues they faced back then.” Caroline relies on the Preservation Society to advocate and to educate on these issues, as well as to safeguard the daily quality of life of the city’s residents. “Few of us individually have the power, resources, time, or understanding to get in the weeds on these issues. We need the collective community effort that the PSC provides, where someone is doing this work day in and day out to advocate for Charleston – that’s what I love about the Preservation Society.”

In addition to the historic family ties to the PSC, Caroline became familiar with the Preservation Society as an attendee of our annual Carolopolis Awards. About the program, she remarked just how encouraging the award-winning projects are, and took special note of all the significant work happening both on and off the peninsula. From that experience she concluded, “I realized just what an important cause preservation is for Charleston, and supporting the PSC is one critical way to do that.”

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