By Anne's Charleston Walk | April 05, 2014 at 06:16 AM EDT | No Comments
The early 1900s was a time of suburbia. It was a time of outing the old and embracing the new. Urban areas were virtually abandoned allowing for slums and squatters. Enormous tracts of urban lands were ripe for big companies to swoop in and buy and build what they wanted, factories and tenements.
The citizens of Charleston, they fought back to keep the old fallen down structures protected and standing. Really, it was the ladies who fought. Why? Who would want to keep these dilapidated buildings in tact? The woman’s suffrage cause had been won by the 1920s, and the new cause may have been the old city. However, the real reason why these stuctures were saved is due to the Civil War.
After the War, the South didn’t have money or fame anymore, and the only thing left to tell the story of Charleston's history and heritage were the bricks and mortar left standing. The local ladies took it upon themselves to fight against the government, the American mentality, and the large companies with persistence and fervor.
My father recalls and has spoken to me of these ladies marching the streets. Although many relatives were among them, he and his crew would lovingly refer to them as the “crazy ladies with the high-top tennis shoes.” One thing is true, you had to be a little crazy to take on this cause. You couldn’t lightly tap on doors and ask politely to save these homes. These women strapped on tennis shoes, wore hats and carried flags. They created such a ruckus in protest so the big companies would move on. Then, these ladies had the persistence to move on with them.
These ladies founded the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1920, the Historic Charleston Foundation a few decades later, and the BAR (Board of Architectural Review). The BAR oversees all permits pulled in the historic area. This is why Charleston’s homes have kept their historic integrity and the city maintains having the most historic landmarks than any other city in the Nation. Thank you “crazy ladies,” our city would not be the same without you.