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National experts weigh in on condition of Beaufort’s National Historic Landmark DistrictElementor #15938

National experts weigh in on condition of Beaufort's National Historic Landmark District

Beaufort’s 304-acre National Historic Landmark District retains “a high degree of integrity” but experts flagged concerns about the number of historic properties being demolished in the downtown commercial area as well as the Northwest Ouadrant.

The detailed report also cited a concern for how historic preservation ordinances and guidelines are applied in the city.

After an almost two-year study, commissioned and funded by the National Park Service the Condition and Integrity Study for the Beaufort Historic District, prepared by LG2 Environmental Solutions, Inc. and partner Ethos Preservation, provides suggestions for a path forward to ensure Beaufort retains its prestigious designation as a National Historic Landmark

The report documents changes that have occurred within and adjacent to the National Historic Landmark District since its designation in 1973.

“This was an exhaustive and deep-dive study of our Historic District and what has gone into protecting it -and what is needed to continue to protect the essential architectural and historic fabric that is at the heart of what makes Beaufort special. The need for a study of this type is not a good thing because it means the district has experienced inappropriate development that has diminished its significance and character,” said Cynthia Jenkins, executive director of Historic Beaufort Foundation.

The major study follows on the heels of the 2022 adoption of an updated Beaufort Preservation

Manual, also known as the Milner Report, which was first adopted by the city in 1979. The document details preservation practices and standards with regard to Beaufort’s architecture and development code.

“Despite changes to the buildings and landscape over time, the study found that the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District’s original contributing resources retain a high degree of integrity,” the National Park Service’s Condition and Integrity study said.

Significantly, this assessment revealed that the African American resources in the Northwest Quadrant have experienced the largest loss.

Today far fewer dwellings exist in the Northwest Quadrant and Old Commons and far fewer commercial buildings can be found on Port Republic and West Streets … The open lots and visual emptiness in areas that were once lined with residences, particularly within the Northwest Quadrant and Old Commons, is apparent,” the study said.

“A major purpose of this integrity study, however, was to examine and comment on ‘current and future projects and trends’ (authors’ emphasis) that may affect the integrity of the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District,” according to the report.

“The most problematic current trend is ongoing and planned infill construction of out -of-scale development projects with the Historic District and this trend is directly attributable to inconsistent manner in which the local historic preservation ordinance and the design guidelines are being applied to projects within the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District,” the report cites.

The study notes that the National Historic Landmark designation for Beaufort “hinges on the continued preservation of the district’s integrity, which is maintained primarily through the enforcement of regulations.”

The study offered recommendations for maintaining the district’s integrity including:

  • Renewed commitment on the part of the City, the Historic Review Board, and property owners to follow the established historic preservation ordinance and design guidelines;
  • Establish preservation education and training requirements for City planners and Historic
    Review Board members;
  • Consolidate the various historic preservation provisions in the City of Beaufort code into one historic preservation code;
  • Implement a sunset provision on structural demolition permits;
  • Update the Historic District listing;
  • Seek grants for African American and under-represented communities;
  • Ande seek additional assistance for property owners in the Northwest Quadrant.

As part of the study process, the National Park Service hosted forums bringing together representatives from the SC State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the City of Beaufort, Historic Beaufort Foundation and other local preservation professionals, major developers and landowners, parties with a demonstrated interest in the Historic District, and the community.

The full Condition and Integrity report can be found at https://parkpl

ng.nps.gov/docu

ment.cfm?parkID-423&projectID=105336&documentID=134996.

Historic Beaufort Foundation is a 501(3 nonprofit education foundation created to preserve, protect, and present sites and artifacts of historic, architectural, and cultural interest throughout Beaufort County, South Carolina. For more information on the entity’s mission and history, please visit historicbeaufort.org and follow them on social media, including Facebook and Instagram.

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