MUSC historical buildings could be torn down at Ft. Johnson site

MUSC historical buildings could be torn down at Ft. Johnson site
MUSC "President's House" (Source: Live 5)
MUSC "President's House" (Source: Live 5)
Quarantine building (Source: Live 5)
Quarantine building (Source: Live 5)

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - There's a battle on James Island between keeping the public safe and preserving an historical property.

It's happening at the former Port of Charleston's Quarantine Station at the end of Fort Johnson Road.

In a statement Tuesday, Heather Woolwine, a spokeswoman with MUSC, said given the amount of deterioration to buildings they should be torn down.

Woolwine went on to state MUSC received approval from the State to tear down several historic buildings at Fort Johnson.

According to the statement, the buildings on the site have been empty for more than five months, and are beyond repair.

Due to their current condition, the buildings pose a risk to the public when it comes to safety, and a liability to MUSC.

"If the Medical University really feels the whole area is a liability and they don't need to be here on James Island, I would be more than willing to take it off their hands," said James Island Mayor Bill Woosley. "You know for a dollar, we'll take responsibility of the whole thing and deal with it in the future."

"If we continue to tear down buildings that are part of the history here, pretty soon, slowly, the history is going to be gone," said Mary Trzasko, of James Island.

The issue right now though, is when the possible demolition could happen.

In a letter sent to MUSC last week the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) deemed the property to have historical significance.

The buildings include the former home for the University's president, along with a cistern and two small warehouses.

The area served as a quarantine station for ships entering Charleston starting in 1922.

The SHPO says given this information, a special permit is needed.

"That requires through our process that MUSC come to the town's zoning board of appeals and ask for a special exception," Woolsey said. "In my view, that's the time for them to raise whatever concerns they have."

The mayor hopes during that meeting the town and MUSC would hopefully be able to come to a compromise about what to do with the site.

Meanwhile islanders hope the buildings remain in some shape or form.

"They should probably just fix what is coming apart and try to keep it, or move it around so whatever they need to do, they can do it," said Bill Simpson, who lives down the road from the site.

"I just think it's sad that historical buildings are being torn down," added Jonathan Hiers, of Johns Island.

Woolwine said they're still determining the best use of the property, with "respect to our research mission, which was its most recent usage. We want to ensure that the property is an asset to the research community at Ft. Johnson and the Town of James Island."

In the past it was used as an office space for staff.

If MUSC proceeds with demolition without a permit, the mayor said the construction crews will be ticketed for illegal demolition.

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