National Park Service to Study Historic Beaufort District

The National Park Service will travel to South Carolina’s second oldest city in December to launch a $ 74,000 study into the integrity and condition of the national treasures contained in the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District.

The NPS announced the start of the pre-war home and business health survey on Wednesday, when it said the study would continue through 2022 and include research, an investigation into the field, photographic documentation, analysis of geographic information systems and public meetings.

This will likely lead to recommendations to improve the neighborhood, NPS officials told the Beaufort Gazette and the Island Packet, but it will not result in the city’s historic designation being withdrawn.

The federally-funded study comes as residents, developers and city officials debate the size and style of proposed modern buildings in this historic district, a dispute that has spilled over into the courtroom.

The NPS is responsible for monitoring national historic monuments to ensure that they retain the qualities for which they were designated.

Concerns about the development of the city’s historic district were raised with the NPS in May, prompting it to investigate, said Cynthia Walton, acting acting regional head of the cultural resources division, which is based in Atlanta. But, added Walton, his office has been studying for several years a few large historic districts like Beaufort in the southeast.

The study will document the current integrity and condition of the district and examine projects and trends that could threaten its continued preservation, Walton said.

“What changes have taken place in the district, both positive and possibly detrimental? Walton said. “We really expect to see both. “

In 1973, an area of ​​300 acres in Beaufort, with downtown at its center, was named the National Historic District.

Alesha Cerny, a historian at the NPS Atlanta Historic Preservation Partnerships Office, said the study “is kind of a district health check.”

A collection of buildings and landscapes in the historic Beaufort district makes it special, not a single building, so the whole district will be studied, Cerny noted.

The information from the Beaufort NHL study will allow the NPS, policymakers and the public to better understand the district and take appropriate action, if any, in the event of damage or threats, Walton said.

NPS hired Savannah-based LG2 Environmental Solutions, Inc. for $ 74,000 to conduct the study.

A first round of public meetings is scheduled for January, and a draft study should be available for review next summer.

The Beaufort neighborhood reflects three centuries of history, including the Civil War and reconstruction after its conclusion, said Cerny, the NPS historian. Its architecture is different from that of Savannah and Charleston, and Beaufort has retained a number of distinctive 18th and early 19th-century “lowland” homes, she said. Several buildings, foundations and other character-defining elements in the neighborhood are constructed from tabby, an important regional building material, Cerny added.

If a historic district is so badly compromised, the NPS could launch a study to withdraw the historic monument designation, Walton said. “It’s not on the table for Beaufort,” she said. Anyone can agree, she said, that the city still has a lot of historic character. And the study will not recommend changes to municipal ordinances, she added.

“This is more of an effort to provide useful data for the management of these resources,” said Walton.

This story was originally published November 17, 2021 8:00 a.m.

Karl Puckett covers the City of Beaufort, the Town of Port Royal and other communities north of the Broad River for The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet. The Minnesota native also worked for newspapers in his home state of Alaska, Wisconsin and Montana.
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