Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Historic Preservation (MHP)

Committee Member

Amalia Leifeste, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Craig M. Bennett, Jr.

Committee Member

Frances Ford

Committee Member

April Wood


What common influences contribute to the patterns of dilapidated buildings on Charleston’s peninsula? A survey of 188 endangered and historic Charleston buildings explores patterns of deterioration and mechanisms of decay relative to locations of greatest flooding potential, Board of Architectural Review jurisdiction, and twentieth century urban development. This exploration builds on the observation that preservation ordinances in many historic districts around the country, including Charleston, often fail to effectively protect all historic resources and often discount vernacular architecture. The consequence of this legislative deficiency often results in ineffective Livability Courts, demolition-by-neglect hearings, or in magnification of financial hardships.

The interpretation of survey data draws several conclusions. Absentee owners have the most impact on dilapidated buildings, and their absence often leads to cyclical downturns in neighborhood micro-economies. The insensitive urban development of the 1960s scarred the landscape and sense of place across the peninsula. These severed connections explain deterioration of city blocks and centralize these vulnerabilities of the neighborhoods. Flood-prone areas intensify the predominance of vacancies, although infilled tidal basins do not directly affect the lifespan of structural building systems. Out of all building systems surveyed, the roof covering is the most susceptible component triggering sequential deterioration as each building system approaches its half-life. Historic districts do not proactively prevent the deterioration or loss of historic fabric. Especially vulnerable is Charleston’s character-defining architectural element: the piazza. The resolution strategy depends on predicting and preventing the future loss of historic fabric by designing proactive building stabilization techniques, financed by a multitude of community incentives, enforced and managed through a collective of leaders in the Preservation, Livability, Legal, and Financial Departments within the City of Charleston.



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