A Message from the HBF Board of Trustees
Out with the old (negativism) and in with what we have always known to be true: Beaufort’s National Historic Landmark District is an abiding gift from Historic Beaufort Foundation preservationists and city fathers as early as the 1940s onward.
Names of community leaders long-gone worked together to found HBF when some of today’s most celebrated structures were threatened with demolition – first, the Verdier House (to make way for a parking lot), the Anchorage, the William Trescott House (to make way for a bank), the William Wigg Barnwell House, the Cuthbert House Inn (again for a parking lot), and more.
Bankers, homemakers, Realtors and then Mayor, Henry Chambers, came together to protect and preserve when urban renewal called for demolishing the old in the name of progress. HBF stepped in and funded the historic sites survey and prepared the nomination that led to the formation of our National Register Historic district in 1969 and establishment of our National Historic Landmark district in 1973. And the City of Beaufort created the Historic District Review Board and partnered with HBF to monitor and approve all changes in the district.
HBF has collaborated with thousands of property owners to preserve and protect structures throughout the City and today stands on the shoulders of community members who believe in the mission of preservation and protection. As the district is dressed in holiday finery, we at HBF pause to appreciate all that has been done to preserve our special town and the concerned leaders who have gone before us, including those who work hard every day to preserve our resources.
It is not an easy path. The struggle continues – there are wins and losses. As inappropriate, large-scale development challenges the city’ zoning laws including the Beaufort Preservation Manual (Milner) and knocks at the door even more loudly than it has in the past, much of the community recognizes a threat equal to that of the proposed demolitions of the 1940s-70s.
We value our current Board leadership – community activists from all walks of life – and our staff, all of whom come with impeccable preservation credentials. Interestingly, Executive Director Cynthia Jenkins’ Beaufort history began in the 1970s when she documented its historic resources in a book “Historic Resources of the Lowcountry.” She was HBF’s first executive director and was a part of the leadership that took the Landmark District to national recognition.
Additionally, assistant director Lise Sundrla was head of Beaufort’s Main Street program in the 1980-90s when our historic commercial district was recognized nationally as a model for preservation. Beaufort’s thriving tourist-driven economic engine is directly attributable to preservation.
As you walk or ride through the district this season, stop to remember the role HBF has played:
- By including the predominantly African American (Northwest Quadrant) neighborhood in the National Register historic district nomination, HBF was among the first in the South to focus attention on this important chapter of Reconstruction Era Architecture.
- Using HBF’s Revolving Fund, the foundation has independently restored or stabilized a range of structures from houses to grocers, to a lodge. Add to that houses, churches, and numerous other similar properties to which we have provided guidance and assistance and the positive impact of HBF’s advocacy and stewardship is evident in every block in the 304-acre historic district from small cottages to mansions.
- 32 properties are protected by easements and covenants held by HBF that safeguard their historic integrity – including the ca. 1810s McKee-Smalls house, once owned by Civil War hero Robert Smalls.
- Much of HBF’s preservation efforts focuses on work with individuals in renovations and stewardship of private property. Since the inception of the Historic Review Board in the 70s, HBF volunteers and staff – some of the leaders mentioned above – have spent hours every month with applicants and city staff reviewing projects and offering guidance and assistance. Until recently, this was formalized by HBF’s ability by city ordinance to recommend one seat on the city’s historic review board. That seat brought preservationists’ advocacy and knowledge to the table. Recently, three members of City Council quashed that ability with a text amendment to the Beaufort Code.
- Through its collaboration with the City, Beaufort County and USCB, HBF has secured grant funding and resources for many hands-on projects as well as updated surveys, preservation guidelines, workshops, and a slew of endeavors too numerous to mention that benefitted the community. HBF staff has served on City zoning, comprehensive plan, master plan and preservation guideline updates, affordable housing, cultural district, technical review, and Reconstruction initiatives.
There are remaining challenges; meshing the Beaufort Preservation Manual (Milner) with the current city code; educating newcomers and old-timers to the importance of the historic district, encouraging them to play a role in its protection from inappropriate influences and development and a relaxed interpretation of zoning laws; and finally, ultimately motivating our citizenry to stand on the shoulders of scores who protected this town and be leaders in the movement.
As a 501 (c)3 membership-based preservation and education organization, our preservation efforts are achieved through the generous support of our members and donors.
Through preservation programs, HBF’s efforts have significantly increased the City’s tax base and made Beaufort one of the most livable small towns in America. You don’t have to be a preservationist to appreciate this beautiful community we cherish, but if you share our goals of continued protection of the district, join us in this worthwhile endeavor. Become a member or donate to our Advocacy Fund by going to www.historicbeaufort.org or calling 843-379-3331.
Best wishes for the holidays!
HBF Board of Trustees