Oral History Program Update
Posted: September 7, 2018
Our Archivist Karen Emmons previously posted about Historic Charleston Foundation’s Oral History Program. It concluded with the promise that interviews would eventually be added to HCF’s collections on the Lowcountry Digital Library. That time has come. Eight audio interviews have been uploaded and are ready for you to listen to them! These interviews represent the breadth of the program, including both its original thematic focus and the expanded themes that have evolved more recently.
Interviews with former trustees, pioneers in preservation:
- Henry A. DeCosta, Jr., former HCF trustee and preservation contractor: Mr. DeCosta discusses growing up in Charleston in the 1920s and 1930s and his role in the city’s preservation movement. He recalls childhood memories of living on Smith Street and on Sullivan’s Island and his school days, including his attendance at the Avery Normal Institute. He speaks about the company his grandfather founded, DeCosta Construction, and about the many historic properties in Charleston the company restored during his time as head of the company, including work completed for Historic Charleston Foundation’s Revolving Fund. He also talks about family’s ancestry and his involvement in St. Mark’s Church and the Brown Fellowship Society.
- Joseph “Peter” McGee, former HCF trustee and attorney: Mr. McGee reminisces about growing up in Charleston, his involvement with Historic Charleston Foundation, and historic preservation in Charleston. Highlights include memories of playing on The Battery, going to school, living conditions in Charleston, grocery stores, streetcars, and the 1938 tornado. He also discusses HCF’s long-time Executive Director Frances Edmunds, HCF’s Ansonborough Rehabilitation Project, and the National Trust Meeting in Charleston in 1970.
- William J. Murtagh, renowned historic preservationist: Mr. Murtagh was the first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places and one of the world’s leading historic preservationists. In this interview he speaks about how he began his career as a historic preservationist, his work as Keeper of the National Register, his involvement with Charleston’s first preservation plan and the development of bridge now known as the James Island Connector, his relationship with Frances Edmunds, and his vision for the future of historic preservation.
- Thomas Rivers, physician, long-time Charleston resident: Dr. Rivers recalls they joy of growing up South of Broad at 28 Gibbes St and 7 Orange Street and the changes that have taken place over the past 80 years. He discusses his childhood, hobbies, military service, and education, and what his medical practice at Roper Hospital was like and how it has evolved since the 1960s. He also speaks about his concerns for the future of Charleston and what it has become today with new development and the influx of tourists and new residents.
- Joseph Watson, owner of the corner store located at 62 America Street: Mr. Watson recalls growing up on the East Side and the changes that have taken place over his 67 years of living there. He speaks about the changes in the boundaries of the east side, state of the schools in the area, involvement in the BAR, the addition of a community council, and his concerns about losing the cultural character of the neighborhood due to gentrification.
- Emily Whaley Whipple, long-time Charleston resident: Mrs. Whipple reminisces about growing up South of Broad at 58 Church — playing in the neighborhood, going to Charleston Day School, spending summers on Isle of Palms and weekends on family plantations. She also speaks about the changes she has witnessed over the past 75 years; her parents and their social and civic involvement in Charleston; Historic Charleston Foundation’s home and garden tours; and natural disasters.
Owners of historic homes and HCF’s Revolving Fund:
- William & Suzanne McIntosh, historic home owners: Mr. and Mrs. McIntosh, who purchased their home through HCF’s Ansonborough Rehabilitation Program, reminisce about their home and the changes in the Ansonborough neighborhood that they have witnessed over the past 50+ plus years. They speak about repairing, restoring, and renovating the house and how the ARP under the leadership of Frances Edmunds transformed Ansonborough into one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Charleston. They discuss the neighborhood conditions, both physical and social, when they moved there in 1961 and also more recently how tourism and new residents have impacted the city.
- Yvonne Tucker, historic home owner: Ms. Tucker, who purchased her home through Historic Charleston Foundation’s Neighborhood Impact Initiative, recalls growing up on the East Side, later moving away, then returning to Elliottborough. She speaks about participating with HCF during the restoration of her home during which she learned to appreciate preservation. She also discusses various changes the neighborhood has undergone since she bought the house.
So grab your earbuds and listen to these diverse and fascinating stories! You may also follow along with the written transcripts. And stay tuned for additional interviews in the coming months.