Posted: January 11, 2024
Dear Friends and Supporters of Historic Charleston Foundation,
Last month, Historic Charleston Foundation announced a new strategic plan adopted by our Board of Trustees. A component of the plan involved a proposal to transition away from the Nathaniel Russell House by offering it for sale. This decision was made not out of disregard for our decades of responsible ownership, research, and restoration of this extraordinary property, but rather out of our concern for the many challenges facing Charleston and our enthusiasm for and deep belief in the importance of the Foundation’s strategic priorities.
We knew the Russell House held a special place in the heart of Charlestonians and in the broader preservation community. We anticipated our decision would not be celebrated. Indeed, the public reaction was swift and rousing. But, more than that, it was passionate, thoughtful, and compelled by a deep connection to what we all agree is a Charleston community treasure.
In the weeks following the announcement, we committed ourselves to listening to the many passionate voices in the community. We met extensively with donors, leaders in preservation here and across the nation, elected officials, former colleagues, and the museum’s many devotees.
They echoed one common refrain – “Protect this Museum.”
That is why the HCF Board of Directors voted yesterday to reverse its decision. Historic Charleston Foundation will continue to own, operate, study, and care for the Nathaniel Russell House and its collection. We plan to collaborate with a panel of experts dedicated to reimagining the museum’s operations and its collection. Our aim is to create a vibrant, sustainable future for both the Nathaniel Russell House and the Aiken-Rhett House.
To many people the Nathaniel Russell House is the physical embodiment of Historic Charleston Foundation and its preservation and advocacy ethic. However, at our core, we are a community-based historic preservation and advocacy organization. We are grateful for those who advocated for the site’s continued operation as a publicly accessible, historic asset for Charleston’s residents and visitors.
Our mission calls for us not only to preserve our historic structures and communities, but also to champion a future for Charleston that “honors and protects our people, places, culture, and community”. Our Strategic Plan reminds us that, while we will continue to preserve historic resources such as the Russell House, the Aiken-Rhett House, and over 400 easement properties, we must continue to work toward a balanced and sustainable, future for our city and region. We look forward to sharing more of the tangible aspects of this plan in the weeks ahead.
Thank you, as always, for your engagement, your support, and your shared love of Charleston.
Anne Blessing, Board of Trustees Chair
Winslow Hastie, President & CEO