The Historic Charleston Foundation had a different kind of garage sale Saturday. Just before Monday’s 20th year anniversary of the destruction delivered by Hurricane Hugo, the Foundation offered a rare opportunity for the public to purchase damaged materials left by the storm.
Architects, decorators and homeowners flocked in to buy up salvaged materials like doors, windows and shutters, all considered historical property.
The materials were collected by volunteers as the debris was discarded from historic houses and cast to the curb in the days following the 1989 storm. Volunteer students came from USC as well as from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for up to two weeks following Hugo to help with the collection effort.
Leigh Handal withthe Foundation says an important mission of her organization is historic preservation, and she says the architectural elements sale is in keeping with that mission. It’s historical recycling. “The sale was important because it gave these pieces, remnants, if you will, a chance at a second life. History shouldn’t be stored beneath glass or out of sight. It should be used as part of today’s life, a bridge between the 20 century and the 18th or 19th century.”
But the sale isn’t completely over, because interested buyers can still contact the foundation for an appointment to see the special salvage.
“We didn’t sell a lot of major pieces like mantles and columns Saturday,” says Handal, “because we want to see that they go back into historic properties, within an historic context. So if you’re restoring property and looking for special pieces, contact the Historic Charleston Foundation.”
Handal says many of the items offered for sale were invaluable architectural treasures that would be difficult to reproduce today. She says construction was different back then.
“For example, at the Nathanial Russell House here in Charleston, the free-standing staircase is an example of old-world workmanship,” says Handal. “The staircase has no visable means of support. That’s not the way we make stairs in 2009. We make them much more economically. Old-world craftsmanship is certainly distinquished.”
It’s so distinquished, Handal says that special historical assessors came in following Hugo to assess the damage.