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Foundation Matters

Flooding: An Increasing Threat to Local Historic Preservation

Posted: October 23, 2017

In the wake of three years of consecutive flooding events, no one can deny that rising water has become a major threat to preservation in Charleston, particularly in the city’s Historic District. Clearly, the long-term solutions are expensive and will take time to implement. They likely will include construction of a new sea wall along Lockwood Boulevard, building more pumping stations and other stormwater infrastructure, raising the wall along the Low Battery, and improving drainage across the entire city. HCF will continue its advocacy efforts to promote these important public works projects.

In the meantime, owners of historic properties are crying for relief. Traditionally, raising historic buildings is not a good preservation practice. It disrupts their architectural proportions, changes the character of the streetscape, and can lead to structural issues. Sometimes, however, exceptions have to be made.  Charleston is currently faced with two choices, neither of which is particularly appealing: raise many of our historic structures or watch them be destroyed by repeat flooding. We’re losing something either way.

HCF’s Chief Preservation Officer Winslow Hastie spoke earlier this week at at conference
sea-level rise and its impact on historic coastal communities.

HCF is taking a leadership role on this issue, and working to develop a viable solution for Charleston. Our Chief Preservation Officer, Winslow Hastie, shared Charleston’s experiences over the past three years as a featured speaker this past week at the  Keeping History Above Water conference, the leading international conference on the subject of sea level rise and historic coastal communities.  The conference convened experts from around the world to explore the effects of sea level rise to historic communities and what can be done to protect historic buildings, landscapes and neighborhoods from the increasing threat of inundation.

HCF also will be working on the problem with the City of Charleston and many of Charleston’s leading architects and engineers in a workshop on November 3rd. The goal is to identify recommended treatments and standards that would allow homeowners to raise their houses to escape chronic flooding without compromising the integrity of Charleston’s historic character.

There will be much more to come on this issue, so stay tuned!

2 responses to “Flooding: An Increasing Threat to Local Historic Preservation”

  1. Allyson Kirkpatrick-Clark says:

    I’m clearing my calendar so I can attend. My worry is that my 1750 home of brick and stucco cannot be raised without it crumbling. I hope this conference will address all types of historic homes and not just the frame ones as pictured.
    Thank you,
    Allyson Kirkpatrick-Clark

  2. Mara Brockbank says:

    We suffered consiederable damage due to irma. Nothing permanent as will live in a very sound home. The city needs to be proactive its residents cannnot bear the financial burden of constant repairs, we pay extremely high taxes which sjould be applied to the improvement of the flood walls, drainage and pumps. It should and indeed must be a priotity on their agenda.

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