Saturday, March 9, 2002
BY BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier Staff



     Charleston offers the most tourists, North Charleston promises
the most money, and Mount Pleasant says it is known for its naval
museum.
     The three suitors for the H.L. Hunley's permanent home on Friday
all said there was no doubt where the Confederate submarine should be
displayed - in their town.
     After wading through more than three hours of pitches, proposals
and promises about the Confederate battle flag, Hunley Commission
Chairman Sen. Glenn McConnell said Friday the panel will probably
make its decision in the next two to three weeks.
     "We have to look at the technical aspects and the sustainability
of each proposal," McConnell said. "We're going to look at the sites
and talk to our scientists. We have an obligation to make a good
business decision."
     None of the proposals from the three municipalities - Mount
Pleasant's proposal is a partnership with Patriot's Point - gives a
completely focused picture of how the museum will be built and where
all the money will come from. The square footage and costs of the
museums were all similar. The design concepts ranged from spectacular
and detailed to non-existent. None of the proposals provide full
funding, and Hunley commissioners did not expect them to.
     The city of Charleston would put up about $5 million - money it
had previously committed to a Hunley wing in the Charleston Museum -
for a $29.5 million facility. Mount Pleasant promised about $7
million over 10 years for a $28.5 million museum. North Charleston
offered to hand over $11 million and start tomorrow on a $40 million
project.
     Each city had its own take on what was most important, and while
rarely mentioning competitors by name, every bidder took a shot at
the other two.Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said that Charleston is where
tourists go to see history and offered the best views.
     Mayor Harry Hallman said Patriot's Point already has one of the
Hunley's descendents, was home to the first submarine school and
offers free parking.
     Mayor Keith Summey proclaimed that North Charleston wants to
make the Hunley a crown jewel, not just one of a collection of
attractions.
     Riley gave Charleston's proposal first. In a graphic display,
the mayor traced a litany of locations of historical importance to
the Hunley - where it arrived by rail, where it first sailed, where
it was brought after sinking the first time - and noted their
proximity to the city's proposed site next to the Fort Sumter tour
boat facility on Liberty Square.
     Riley said Charleston's was the only site from which you could
actually see the spot where the Hunley sank the Housatonic on Feb.
17, 1864. But not only does the city site offer the best views, he
said, it also offers the most customers.
     "The fact of the matter is, there are 3.9 million visitors
annually who come to Charleston - who come to the peninsula - because
that is where the history is," Riley said. "The question here is what
is best for the Hunley, now and in the future."
     Riley noted what he described as the city's success in major
projects in recent years - the South Carolina Aquarium, the IMAX
Theatre and the Riverdogs stadium - and promised the city would help
raise money for the museum. Riley said the city helped raise more
than $20 million for the aquarium.
     Commissioners said they were impressed by calculations from the
city's consultants that showed a Hunley Museum would be self-
sustaining even in a poor economy, and likely very profitable in its
initial years.
     Questioned about flying the Confederate battle flag at the
museum, he suggested it would not be an issue.
     "The display of the battle flag and other exhibits will be up to
the Hunley Commission," Riley said.
     Mayor Hallman, a former Hunley Commission member, told the panel
that he wanted the submarine returned to the place where its crew
spent their last night. He painted a portrait of Mount Pleasant as a
town on its way to becoming the state's fourth-biggest city and said
that 800,000 people a year come to Patriot's Point - either the golf
course, soccer field, hotel, marina or naval museum. Actual
attendance at the museum is about 300,000 a year.
     The Hunley, he said, is a perfect fit. The aircraft Yorktown
attracts visitors who would have an interest in the Hunley, and more
than 17,000 Boy Scouts camp on the World War II aircraft carrier
every year.
     "That's the next generation," he said.
     The Mount Pleasant proposal was not as detailed in its exhibits,
but Patriot's Point Executive Director David Burnette said the
museum - which might sit on the site of the current pavilion and
encampment display behind the Yorktown - might be five or six stories
high to facilitate harbor views. Burnette promised the commission a
historically accurate display.
     "We promote historical accuracy. We don't sugarcoat anything,"
Burnette said, mentioning the museum's portrayal of Japanese
atrocities during WWII. "We've never received a complaint from a
Japanese visitor."
     Burnette noted Patriot's Point's strong business - while other
state attractions suffered from lower attendance, Patriot's Point
actually gained visitors - and its advantage of being a state agency,
meaning it could avoid city politics.
     The proposal for a Patriot's Point Hunley museum included a
large staging, or parade grounds, a fountain at the entrance where
they could erect a statue of George Dixon, perhaps, and parking for
800 cars.
     Hallman stressed that Mount Pleasant was where Dixon trained the
third and final crew of the Hunley in the winter of 1864, just before
the sub became the first to sink an enemy ship in battle.
     Commissioners asked whether the Mount Pleasant proposal - which
included costs for a 40,000-square-foot and 60,000-square-foot
museum - had contingencies for adding other Civil War artifacts or
ships the state might acquire.
     "We would accept the Housatonic if we could find it," he said.
     North Charleston's proposal places the Hunley only a quarter-
mile from its current home on the old Navy Base as part of the
Noisette redevelopment project. Mayor Summey said his city had a
vision for the Hunley much like the men who built it.
     "We don't believe this should be a smaller part of an overall
larger picture," Summey said. "This is unique. The Hunley needs to be
a centerpiece."
     North Charleston has assembled a design and construction team
from around the country, and left much of its pitching to Ralph
Appelbaum, whose firm did the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,
among other things. Appelbaum painted a portrait of a Hunley Museum
that would be a learning center, teamed up with the Warren Lasch
Conservation Center - the Hunley's current home - that would become a
major force in the world of marine archaeology.
     The Hunley, Appelbaum said, is not something "to be exploited
for gate receipts."
     North Charleston presented a futuristic design that Appelbaum
said was just a concept. If chosen, he said, a team would work with
the Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley to determine the best
final design for the museum. That said, Appelbaum said the building
should be a beacon, a lantern, suggesting something honorable and
noble.
     The story of the submarine, he said, should be told by the
voices of the time, the diaries, the journalism, the people who lived
during the war.
     The North Charleston design proposes displaying the Hunley in a
building that looks like a black cube on the banks of the Cooper
River.
     "It should be in a reverential space, not crammed in with other
stuff," Appelbaum said.
     Summey said that the city of North Charleston would provide
$100,000 a year to the Hunley lab for operating costs until the sub
moves into the museum. Summey said $10 million in tax increment
financing from the Noisette Project would be put into the museum, and
the city would give another $1 million. Summey and his team diffused
criticism of their site by talking of the plans for the Noisette
Project, noting that John Knott was one of the men behind the
revitalization of Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
     "We want to create a destination point, and this is the time,"
Summey said.
     McConnell said commission members would visit the three sites in
the coming weeks and weigh their options before making a decision
sometime in the next month.
     The commission will look at the bottom line and intangibles.
     "It's not all about financing, but that is a part of it," he
said. "Mostly, we need to think about the future."
    
     Contact Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or bhicks@postandcourier.com.


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


    
    

 

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