This fall the Charleston Archive received some outstanding assistance in creating two new research tools. Between mid-August and mid-December 2008, interns Megan Williams and Kalen McNabb, both students in the Historic Preservation and Community Planning program at the College of Charleston, spent a combined total of nearly 300 hours transcribing building-related data from two little-known historic sources.
First, they combed through the proceedings of Charleston’s City Council from 1838 through 1862 (which survive only in contemporary newspapers) and transcribed nearly 1,500 references to the activities of the city’s Committee on Wooden Buildings, which was created after the fire of 27 April 1838 that burned a major part of Charleston. The city wanted to outlaw the construction of all wooden buildings after that “dreadful conflagration,” but, under pressure from the public, decided instead to permit the erection of wooden structures under very specific regulations. Homeowners were obliged to get their wooden projects approved by the Committee on Wooden Building, and thus the extant council proceedings contain a wealth of names, addresses, and building descriptions that could prove very useful for people in the historic preservation community today.
Second, Megan and Kalen transcribed 302 of the earliest known building permits issued by the city of Charleston, which date from January 1882 through April 1883. These permits, which were issued in accordance with an ordinance ratified in late 1881, contain the names, addresses, and brief descriptions of residential building projects. Most of the permits seem to have been issued for work located in poorer, less developed areas of the city at that time, and include such work as moving older buildings, repairing and expanding existing structures, and building new on empty lots. Many of these buildings may still stand today, and further research using these permits will hopefully shed more light on the development of Charleston’s urban landscape of the early 1880s.
The Charleston Archive owes a big thanks to Megan and Kalen. Their prolific accomplishments will soon be available to the public in both an electronic and a paper format. Over the next several weeks I will finish proofreading the transcriptions and writing introductory essays for each of the two projects, and the finished products will be available as self-published books in early 2009. Stay tuned for futher details!