Disappearing Detail

When I take visitors around historic Charleston on my walking tours, I always explain the height districts that exist throughout the city, and cite the People’s Building on Broad Street as a good example. Finished in 1911 as an office building originally called The People’s Bank Building, the eight-story structure towered above the other buildings on the street, and built largely of yellow Stoney Landing brick, has been one of the city’s biggest eyesores. Eventually the city realized that its historic skyline should be protected in certain areas, and he height districts were created to limit out-of-place edifices. No longer will anything close to the height of the People’s Building be erected in that part of town, as it stands more than twice the 55-foot limit in that height district. The ordinance can’t make the huge building disappear, but a tornado in 1938 nearly did, so badly damaging the original protruding cornice that it was completely taken off – a shame, considering it made the building much more attractive than it is today.

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