The Hunley's home?

Mayors make cases

Sunday, April 7, 2002




     A museum on the harbor at city's Liberty Square


     On Aug. 12, 1863, the CSS Hunley arrived in Charleston on a train from Mobile, Ala. It was taken off the train at the John Street terminal and brought amid great fanfare by carriage to a wharf at the end of Calhoun Street where it was launched and first entered the waters of Charleston Harbor. The city of Charleston's proposal for the Hunley Museum would allow its permanent home to be essentially the same place on Charleston Harbor where its naval history began.
     The city of Charleston has proposed the Hunley Museum be built on Liberty Square between the new National Park Service Fort Sumter Visitors Center and the Dockside Condominiums. The historic significance and harbor presence of this site are dramatic. About two months after the submarine first entered the harbor from the Calhoun Street wharf, the bodies of Horace L. Hunley and his crew were retrieved at this same location when the submarine sunk off the city's waterfront. Their bodies were taken to Magnolia Cemetery.
     Our site fronting the harbor offers views of Fort Sumter, harbor defenses, the site of the Housatonic sinking and the site where the Hunley was retrieved from the ocean floor in 2000. All of the significant places in the Hunley's history are in sight. A wonderful setting for creative museum designers.
     Additionally, our location would be most accessible to Lowcountry residents and visitors. Other facilities at Liberty Square provide a variety of attractions. The presence of the Fort Sumter facility is particularly fortuitous. There would be great value in having the Fort Sumter facility and Hunley Museum right next door to one another. We have provided convenient parking in our Calhoun Street parking deck, and this location has the highest level of public transportation service. This is the most convenient location for local and out-of-town visitors.
     This prominent location provides the best prospects for the museum's long-term financial success. Any museum or cultural center must deal with cyclical visitor markets. Patronage ebbs and flows with consumer interest and the general economic climate. Heritage tourism visitors that come to our region come to downtown Charleston. It is estimated that about 4 million visitors come to our region each year, and most of these visitors come downtown for a house tour, Spoleto Festival USA, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Market Street, museums and more. At Liberty Square itself, visitors have the South Carolina Aquarium, IMAX Theater, Fort Sumter facility and nearby activities at the Maritime Center. These visitors are much more likely to visit the Hunley Museum for years to come if it is on Liberty Square rather than a more remote location.
     The visitor experience of the Hunley Museum could begin at the Visitor Center on John Street - the same place the submarine arrived in Charleston. One million visitors already come through the Visitor Center every year. From here they can walk, ride a DASH bus or drive to Liberty Square. During their visit to the Hunley Museum, they could stand on the decks of the building and have unobstructed views of Charleston Harbor, past Fort Sumter to the very spot the CSS Hunley made history on the water. This is essentially the same view the crew had 140 years ago. This is not a view that one would have to look over hotels, golf courses or other development to get a glimpse. This is a pure, uninterrupted historic vista.
     The visitor can spend the whole day at this one stop. After viewing the Hunley, they can learn more about Fort Sumter and take a trip out to the site - then enjoy the Aquarium before heading back into the city for dinner. This experience is unique and ensures a customer base for years to come.
     The Hunley should not he seen as a prize or novelty to attract more tourists. The submarine is a precious part of our country's history. The museum that will be its permanent resting place should be in the most authentic and historic place possible. This is what the city of Charleston proposes. Our community has an opportunity to place this museum where much of the submarine's history is anchored. I believe this is the right place for the Hunley.

     Joseph P. Riley Jr. is mayor of Charleston.
     Mount Pleasant

     Include in maritime museum


     Why is Patriot's Point in Mount Pleasant the best site for the H.L. Hunley exhibit?
     The first reason is the rich naval history, already on display for the enjoyment and education of our public at Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum. This is the Naval and Maritime Museum for our state. There is no other. The H.L. Hunley would be a centerpiece for one of the most successful museums of its kind in the United States, with its own facility designed specifically for its unique exhibition.
     The second reason we believe there is no better location is the fact that Patriot's Point offers a fixed base of over 400,000 visitors per year. These visitors come annually to enjoy our maritime and naval history. You can he assured that every one of these visitors will line up to see the H.L. Hunley exhibit. No other site can offer this type of guarantee of a visitor base upon which to build its future. Moreover, almost 25,000 Scouts stayed overnight on the Yorktown last year. These young, future leaders of our state and nation will have immediate access to the Hunley Exhibit if it is located at Patriot's Point. These young people will grow up to become productive adults, and they will have families of their own and thus will provide a long-term base of support for our proposal.
     It is also important to note here that our location is quite visible from the city of Charleston, the Cooper River bridges and Charleston Harbor, and is easily accessible via the water taxi from the city of Charleston and by automobile from U.S. 17, which is this state's avenue of tourism. You simply cannot miss us even if you were not looking for us.
     Additionally, we have no parking issues and there will be no fee for parking at Patriot's Point. You will simply park on our spacious grounds and enter the uniquely presented hall of history. The fact that a family doesn't have to pay for parking means there will be more discretionary funds for that family of four to use for concessions or some small memento from the gift shop. These purchases will be used to support the H.L. Hunley preservation effort and cannot be understated.
     Not only will parking be free and easy at Patriot's Point, I should mention that the town of Mount Pleasant, in partnership with the Patriot's Point Authority and other property owners at "The Point," will begin construction of a new four-lane boulevard to facilitate access for all of the users of what some have claimed to be the most important piece of real estate on the coastal area of the southeastern United States. Easy access from the entire Charleston area and our "avenue of tourism," and an abundance of free parking for our visitors are in our opinion critical to the success of the H.L. Hunley preservation effort.
     Now, let us not forget the historical connection of Mount Pleasant to the Hunley and her crew. The last night these brave souls spent on our earth was just around the shoreline from Patriot's Point in Old Mount Pleasant. You will be able to see their last residence, the "Shell House," from the observation deck of the planned Hunley Museum.
     Of course, along with our acceptance of responsibility for preserving history comes a huge fiscal responsibility. For the H.L. Hunley to be preserved, properly interpreted and exhibited along with other internationally significant artifacts, there must be a funding plan that has substance to it. I believe our plan has the most substance of the three that were presented. I want the Hunley Commission to understand that the Town and the Authority have pledged approximately $8 million over 10 years from identified and firm funding sources. We are not playing loose with the future of the H.L. Hunley. The Mount Pleasant Hospitality Tax is a given source of income that will only grow. Our conservative estimate is that the fund will generate initially $1.2 million per year. We are pledging 33.5 percent of whatever this fund generates. At a minimum, it should generate at least $6.5 million over 10 years. Again, our source of funding is clearly existent and is clearly earmarked by this governing body, and is furthermore to be secured for the next 10 years by a contract which we have proposed. When you consider the $1.5 million in cash committed from the Patriot's Point Authority Board, our $8 million commitment is just that - a commitment.
     Lastly, let me speak to the fact that Patriot's Point is state-owned. Even though we, as a local entity, are partners in this proposal, it will be a state agency, located on state property, responsible for the Hunley's future. If I were a Hunley commissioner, that would speak volumes to me, considering the political volatility that is ever a part of the local electoral process.

     Harry M. Hallman Jr. is mayor of Mount Pleasant.

     North Charleston
     City vision holds key to sustainable museum


     If any one man laid the foundation for the recovery of the H.L. Hunley submarine, it has to be Hunley Commission Chairman Sen. Glenn McConnell. The senator orchestrated the effort to recover the Hunley in August 2000, when a worldwide television audience witnessed the raising of the submarine, and its placement, into the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. Just a year earlier, in 1999, Sen. McConnell stated in a deeply moving speech that the story of the Hunley must speak to all future generations of Americans.
     In the spirit of Sen. McConnell's deeply moving speech, the city of North Charleston is proposing an unequaled vision for the future of the H.L. Hunley submarine, in its bid to permanently house the recovered vessel on a Cooper River site adjoining the northern end of the former Charleston Navy Base. On March 8, members of the Hunley Commission, scientists from the Lasch laboratory and the news media witnessed the city's presentation to locate the Hunley on the 11-acre "Pier Alpha" site in North Charleston. Without question, this site provides a spectacular setting for the Hunley, along the Lowcountry's historic maritime corridor.
     The city's proposal also provides the Hunley Commission with an historic opportunity to usher in the revitalization of the traditional neighborhoods of North Charleston by placing the H.L. Hunley Museum at Pier Alpha, as part of the planned 20-year, 3,000-acre, $1 billion Noisette project. Noisette CEO John L. Knott Jr. worked on development of the Inner Harbor project in his native Baltimore, a prototype for inner-city renewal across the world.
     The North Charleston team brings international talent to the Hunley project, including the firm of Ralph Appelbaum Associates, designers of the Washington, D.C.-area Newseum and United States Holocaust Museum, Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Richmond's Civil War Visitor Center. Appelbaum-designed projects - encompassing some 125 installations in museums and memorials in 50 cities around the world - lure more than 20 million visitors each year.
     Appelbaum designs more non-profit museums and exhibits than any firm in the world. As Architecture magazine recently wrote, "Ralph Appelbaum doesn't work in the field of museum design; he practically owns it."
     Other team members include the Noisette Company's master planning firm, Kansas City-based BNIM Architects, which is collaborating on the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Since 1981, consulting firm LORD Cultural Associates of Toronto has advised cities and non-profit foundations on budgetary planning for 950 cultural projects on five continents. Locally, the team includes LS3P of Charleston, the largest architectural firm in the Carolinas.
     Creating a world-class, sustainable vision for the H.L. Hunley Museum requires a world-class project team. Undeniably, the track record of the North Charleston team is equal to the challenge of building a world-class museum.
     To understand the city's commitment to building an international museum for the H.L. Hunley, consider the following advantages:
     Location: The proposed museum site is a quarter mile from the Lasch laboratory, and includes approaches from I-26 via I-526. For 2000, SCDOT statistics indicate 43,800 vehicles pass the Virginia Avenue exit at I-526 to Pier Alpha each day, with the Charleston International Airport nearby. In addition, North Charleston is the population center for the Lowcountry, conveniently located near Charles-ton, Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant, Summerville and Moncks Corner.
     Vision: In the city's vision, the Hunley would serve as the centerpiece of an urban renewal project and maritime heritage museum, not as a satellite to existing attractions. Ultimately, it would evolve into a center for state maritime heritage, including exhibits for the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, the Charleston Navy Base and commercial shipping, in addition to the Civil War.
     Conservation: The city's proposal encompasses educational, research and scientific programs that will lure students and researchers to the H.L. Hunley museum from throughout South Carolina and the world. By continuing archaeological efforts at the Lasch laboratory, potentially recoverable sunken vessels could be added to the Hunley in the future.
     TIF funding: With the transfer of 350 acres on the northern end of the Navy Base from the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority, the city proposes the allocation of $10 million in Tax Increment Financing revenues to the Hunley museum, as part of a $40 million funding plan for a 40,000-square-foot facility.
     Strategic alliances: The city will actively seek alliances with the nation's leading maritime museums, including Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and the Mariner's Museum in Virginia, future home of the pioneering ironclad USS Monitor.
     Cooper River Heritage Corridor: Located on one of the nation's leading ecological and historical river corridors, the Hunley museum would include programs for students and visitors, highlighting the history of the Cooper River. In addition, a riverboat service would offer patrons tours of historic sites, starting from the Hunley museum upriver to historic antebellum plantations and the Mepkin Abbey monastery, along with downriver trips to the Lasch lab, Navy Base historic sites, Castle Pinckney, Fort Sumter, South Carolina Aquarium and Patriot's Point.
     Exhibit Design: The city's proposal includes a series of story-telling, multi-media exhibits, imparting patrons with an emotional, uplifting experience chronicling the saga of the Hunley. The museum would include a laboratory with the main exhibit area, a 100-seat virtual reality theater and the "Crucible," a square, black structure on the river that would reverentially display the recovered H.L. Hunley.
     In envisioning the proposed Hunley museum, the North Charleston team is single-mindedly dedicated to preserving the legacy of the H.L. Hunley. Indeed, the Hunley's story of sacrifice, faith, courage and ingenuity must speak not only to future generations of Americans but to all the people of the world.

     R. Keith Summey is mayor of North Charleston.


Used with permission of The Post and Courier and Charleston.Net



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