Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Historic Preservation

Committee Member

Amalia Leifeste

Committee Member

Craig Bennett

Committee Member

Grant Gilmore

Committee Member

Carter Hudgins


This thesis investigates the rates of change for main dwellings and secondary buildings in Harleston Village, one of Charleston, South Carolina's, early suburban neighborhoods. The goal of this thesis is to study how the frequency of change for secondary buildings compares with that of primary dwellings and to see if secondary buildings encounter a greater rate of change compared with primary dwellings. The research will quantify an anecdotal phenomenon, of outbuildings being demolished or altered more than primary buildings. The study area for this thesis is Harleston Village, and the sample data was gathered from nine city blocks. The two eastern blocks are bounded by George Street to the north, Saint Philip Street on the east, Wentworth Street to the south, and Coming Street on the west. A larger seven-block sample is bounded by Bull Street to the north, Coming Street to the east, Montagu Street to the south, and Halsey Boulevard on the west. The 1888, 1902, 1944, 1955, and 1973 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps illustrate the change in building footprints for both primary dwellings and secondary buildings.

A total of 228 primary dwellings and 485 secondary buildings were recorded in the sample. The data shows that 42% of back buildings were demolished over the study period, compared with 68% of main dwellings, thus contradicting the idea main dwellings are changed less than secondary buildings. This finding contradicts the idea that back buildings are more vulnerable; instead, percentage-wise main dwellings are at a higher risk. When looking at raw numbers, more secondary buildings are demolished due to the fact there were traditionally more secondary buildings than main dwellings on a given property lot. But when looking at percentages of demolition for the two building types, main dwellings are as vulnerable, if not more so, compared to secondary buildings.

The significance of this thesis is rooted in the method applied and the results yielded from it. This process developed here can be applied to other areas with their own built resources if there is a collection of Sanborn Maps available leading to another form of documentation of the built environment. The decrease in percent of demolition shown on the line graphs for secondary buildings shows a shift in preservation practice and ethics in the latter part of the twentieth century. Demolition rates for main dwellings and secondary buildings are inverted from 1944-1955 and from 1955-1973. Showing that no matter whether there are protections in the form of guidelines or from review boards placed upon buildings, if there is a great enough pressure placed on them, demolition can happen. No building type, whether ornate or vernacular, is safe from change and should be documented when the opportunity is presented to learn from and hopefully share with future generations and researchers.

This work can be continued for the remaining portions of Charleston and can be implemented in other cities with historic built resources. Rates of demolition and alteration can help preservationists evaluate risk to various parts of the built environment.



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