Saturday, March 9, 2002
Of The Post and Courier Staff

     North Charleston wants to open the Hunley Museum long before the
sub is ready to move into it.
     The city's proposal is to make its Hunley museum the $40 million
centerpiece of its 3,000-acre Noisette redevelopment district along
the banks of the Cooper River. And North Charleston officials are so
eager to get started that they would like to begin site work before
the end of the year.
     "The city believes that locating the H.L. Hunley Museum on the
historic Naval Base - a center of submarine activity for decades -
will provide a spectacular site on the Cooper River, the primary
maritime corridor for the Lowcountry," Summey says in the cover
letter for the proposal.
     The land that North Charleston would use is at Pier Alpha on the
north end of the old Navy base, a quarter-mile by water from the
Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where the Confederate torpedo boat
is currently being restored. As part of its plan, North Charleston
says it would set up a water taxi to ferry museum visitors to the lab
for a peek at the sub.
     Mayor Keith Summey promised that the city - considered the
underdog in this competition - would surprise folks with its bid. If
North Charleston's proposal didn't surprise, it at least impressed
some people.
     The exhibits for the museum would be designed by Ralph Appelbaum
Associates, which worked on the Washington, D.C.area Holocaust Museum
and the Newseum. Architecture Magazine recently wrote that, "Ralph
Appelbaum doesn't work in the field of museum exhibition design. He
practically owns it."
     Appelbaum outlined the city's plans for the museum Friday
afternoon, saying that the museum should become a center of marine
archaeology and work to protect the "intellectual property" of the
     The city also raises the cache of its proposal by suggesting it
would build alliances with some of the most prominent maritime
museums in the country, including Mystic Seaport and the Mariner's
Museum in Newport News, Va.
     North Charleston is proposing to put up $11 million, which would
be raised largely from the TIF-district established for the Noisette
project. They propose raising the rest of the $40 million price tag
from county, state and federal governments, as well as private
     The city is touting its location as the only one with room to
expand and the one with the best interstate and airport access. It's
also the former home of a submarine base. To sweeten the pot, North
Charleston City Council has agreed to fund or raise $100,000 a year
toward operating costs at the Hunley lab, which run about $100,000 a
     The concept North Charleston proposed is a futuristic design
with a main building configured with expansion in mind, a large
theater with reproductions of Horace Hunley's other subs.
     The Hunley itself would be housed in a building called "the
crucible" - a huge black cube (they call it "mysterious") that would
be built on the banks of the Cooper River.
     The two main buildings of the museum would be linked with an
enclosed bridge that also would offer exhibits and artifacts. The
North Charleston team says if selected, it would work on a final
design with the Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley over at
least three months.
     The city also confronted criticism about declining neighborhoods
and little tourism traffic, outlining plans in the works for the
Noisette Project and trying to assure commissioners that the project
was on track and would make the city an international destination.
     Summey said ultimately, though, what makes North Charleston the
best location is that it values the Hunley enough to make it a
centerpiece and not just a piece of a collection.

     Contact Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or

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



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