This past week I visited the historic town of Charleston. One of the more interesting things is that the history of the people is marked mostly by the things they built. The homes all come from certain eras of Charleston history- colonial, antebellum etc. A Hugenot church built when the French threw them out of France and they came to the New World, or the oldest Synagogue. These and other religious buildings frame this particular city in a way that not many cities are defined. The filler was the warehouses, tenements, and homes built to accommodate a bustling colonial and antebellum port city. The history of the people, marked by their buildings, lays like geologic beds through the city itself- here was where a million or more slaves were brought to the new world. Here was where the wealthy rode out the humid and hot summers. Here was where they built cookhouses after the building code required they be separate from the living quarters (after another massive fire). Here was how they shored up the masonry buildings of Charleston after a large earthquake. Over and over again the history of people, as written in their bricks, mortar (filled with oyster shells!), and timbers, is written and preserved. In our industry, we sometimes forget that our homes represent only a single moment in time, but one that reaches out into an unknowable future. We want to satisfy a particular client, but our work will be judged by dozens, if not hundreds, of people we can not know, but will be living in our homes in the future nonetheless. Will the future residents of our homes want to preserve the features we think are so important 100 years from now? We can’t know. But, our homes will be there, silent testament to the times we live in and the people that we build for, anyway.
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