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

     Charleston is touting its waterfront cluster of new tourist
attractions as the best long-term home for the H.L. Hunley.
     The city wants to build the Hunley Museum on the Cooper River
near the South Carolina Aquarium, between the Fort Sumter tour boat
facility and the Dockside Condominiums.
     The 45,000-square-foot, $29.5 million museum would jut out over
the harbor in a rectangular shape reminiscent of a Civil War ironclad.
     In its bid, Charleston leans heavily on the advantages and
historical significance of the city's peninsula.
     "This prominent location provides the best opportunity for the
museum's long-term financial success," Charleston Mayor Joseph P.
Riley Jr. writes in his cover letter to the proposal. "Heritage
tourism visitors to our region come to downtown Charleston. Our
location is well-suited for that market."
     On Friday, Riley hammered home the point that downtown
Charleston offers the Hunley the most long-term sustainability, one
element that the Hunley Commission is most concerned about. The
Charleston proposal says that the Hunley Museum, even in later or
slow years, could operate at a slight profit, pulling in at least
200,000 visitors annually.
     The Charleston aquarium, by comparison, drew 570,000 people last
     The city also notes in its proposal that teaming the museum with
the next-door Fort Sumter Tour Boat Facility would increase traffic
for the Hunley museum.
     Hunley Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell on Friday called the
city's figures, which officials noted were conservative, encouraging.
     The proposal is rife with submarine themes. Visitors would walk
up a ramp with exhibits to start their tour on top of the building,
where permanent displays would point out historic sites in the
Hunley's history. Then they would descend in a turret that led into
the elongated museum.
     Inside would be reproductions of the other Hunley subs - the
Pioneer and American Diver - as well as the Housatonic, the Union
blockader that the Hunley sank on Feb. 17, 1864.
     There is also space set aside for other Civil War naval
artifacts, and for a theater. A working reproduction of the sub would
be docked below the museum.
     From there, the reproduction could be winched up into the museum
for storage.
     The Hunley itself would sit at the harbor end of the museum in a
case with a view of the harbor and Fort Sumter.
     Riley says the city would donate about $5 million originally set
aside for a Hunley wing at the Charleston Museum to the project and
help with fund-raising efforts for the rest. The city raised more
than $20 million in donations and sponsorships for the South Carolina
     The city's figures show that, even in lean times, the museum
could still operate at a $40,000 annual profit.

     Contact Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or

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



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