11 Most Endangered Historic Places
In 2011 the National Trust placed Charleston on “watch status” when its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places was announced, citing the potential threat that uncontrolled tourism posed to the city’s fragile infrastructure and historic character. Charleston serves as a home port for Carnival Cruise Lines, which at that time was operating out of Union Pier adjacent to the Charleston National Historic Landmark District. In the years preceding the 2011 “watch status” designation, Carnival’s operations at Union Pier had greatly increased, creating significant impacts throughout the National Historic Landmark district. The South Carolina Ports Authority, the owners of Union Pier, also applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to enable an even more dramatic increase in cruise operations at that site.
The National Trust worked with a broad coalition of advocates to oppose the intensification of cruise operations at Union Pier. Our advocacy included litigation both in the South Carolina Supreme Court and in U.S. District Court. A key ruling by federal judge Richard Gergel in 2013 reversed the Army Corps of Engineers’ issuance of a federal permit for the expansion of Union Pier and required the Section 106 process under the National Historic Preservation Act to be reinitiated. Ultimately, the expansion of cruise ship operations at Union Pier did not take place and the South Carolina Ports Authority did not receive another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
In 2023, in partnership with a private development firm, the South Carolina Ports Authority is proposing a new 65-acre mixed-use district on the Union Pier site. The proposed densities and building heights outlined in the plan could adversely affect critical elements of the historic city’s fine-grained urban character and block views between the nationally significant historic district and the Cooper River waterfront. In addition, the proposed development is planned to be constructed on a 16-foot-high elevated platform, which could negatively impact climate resilience for adjacent neighborhoods and the city. For these reasons, Charleston’s Historic Neighborhoods are included on the 2023 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
A coalition led by the Preservation Society of Charleston, Historic Charleston Foundation, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League is encouraging the City and South Carolina Ports to follow a deliberative review process that serves the public’s needs, beginning with a community-led vision, especially given the scale of this proposed development. As Charleston faces increasing pressures from development and climate change, advocates believe that a more robust, inclusive community visioning process is critical to help create a plan for Union Pier that respects Charleston’s significant history, diverse population, and architectural character, while improving the city’s climate resilience.
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Each year, America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places sheds light on important examples of our nation’s heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.Find Out Who Is Listed