Preservation Magazine, Fall 2016

Long-Hidden Details Back on Display at the Gibbes Museum

Gibbes Museum Interior

photo by: Gibbes Museum/MCG Photography

The Beaux-Arts structure that houses Charleston's Gibbes Museum was built in 1905.

After searching the city archives for months, the team behind the renovation and restoration of Charleston, South Carolina’s Gibbes Museum of Art found the 1905 Beaux-Arts structure’s original blueprints. It took about a year to relax the rolled, delicate documents enough to use them.

“That was invaluable to see how [original architect Frank P. Milburn’s] drawings were put together so we could see what we were getting into,” says Joe Schmidt of Evans and Schmidt Architects.

Schmidt and his team completed the two-year, $14 million project this past spring. They removed additions such as 1950s iron fencing and a 1976 dropped ceiling; replicated original door moldings; repaired brick; re-created a demolished staircase to match its intact twin; and returned the first floor to artist studios and classrooms.

“[Museum benefactor James] Gibbes’ idea was to create a space where young people in this area could learn how to make art,” says Executive Director Angela Mack.

The focus on discovery extended to the restoration pros, too: A great-nephew of one of the original contractors found a photograph of the building’s original cornerstone being laid, so the crew stripped away plaster to uncover it. The cornerstone, which had been hidden inside a 1970s expansion, is now visible—a symbol of all the other long-hidden details that are back on display.

Gibbes Museum Exterior

photo by: Gibbes Museum/MCG Photography

The team behind the building's restoration searched the city's archives for original blueprints for months.

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