The movement of architectural elements from one building to another within Charleston, South Carolina, is an integral part of historic preservation in the city. From the earliest days of the city's historic preservation movement in the 1920s, preservationists have understood the importance of preserving elements of historic structures. In the early twentieth century, architectural elements were threatened by antique dealers and collectors of architecture who sought to purchase decorative elements, even out of standing houses. Buildings were also threatened with demolition as gas stations and other modern structures were constructed. Rather than seeing pieces of history lost, preservationists salvaged materials and reused them in their own projects. Although historic preservation today focuses on the preservation of whole buildings, architectural elements from renovations and demolitions continue to be salvaged and reused.
This thesis focuses on the history and moving forces behind the practice of moving architectural elements within Charleston, from the early twentieth century to the present. In addition, a selection of architectural elements moved from one building to another within the city has been individually documented. This collection was assembled through research in various repositories in Charleston, as well as communication with individuals involved in preservation and restoration work in Charleston. A list of the architectural elements in the Charleston Museum has also been included, representing the numerous architectural fragments that have been removed from historic structures and never reused. This thesis is intended to be used as a resource for research on individual moved elements, specific buildings, types of architectural elements, and people involved in the movement of elements. Even as each moved element represents a unique history and story of transfer, all of the moved elements are held together by the common theme of removal from a structure and reuse in another. Every moved architectural element holds a place in the history of historic preservation in Charleston and deserves individual documentation and study.