What To Do With Dead Bodies
At Lori O’Leary’s request, I am continuing my Charleston series this week with another day at the office for MTM. For newer readers, MTM is an employee of the City of Charleston, the Director of the Charleston Civic Design Center. His office focuses on large urban planning projects in peninsular Charleston.
Or, they try to.
Several years ago, he came up with a master plan for a city block downtown. A municipal auditorium from the 1960′s sat there, along with a parking garage, a
hideous county building and MTM’s historic building. The block was part of 1960′s urban renewal, where slums were torn down to make way for grander structures.
The old Gaillard was much maligned. Not enough bathrooms. Deplorable acoustics. If I ever got a seat in the center of a row, I was doomed to wet my pants. Between stumbling over twenty people to get to an exit, only to find fifty women waiting for the five available toilets, it was always a ‘drink absolutely nothing all day’ kind of outing. When they pulled the grand bronze city seals and signs off the old building prior to partial demolition, they found that they were, in fact, made of plastic.
While many people, especially architect people, are not fans of the building that’s replacing the old Gaillard, at least its signs won’t be made of plastic. And, it will have acoustics that rival venues like the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. And, it will have enough potties for everyone. And, it will have glorious aisles instead of long, unbroken rows.
I guess that’s why he was appalled when construction halted almost two weeks ago. Workmen swarmed around a hole at the corner of the site. They uncovered bones: jawbone, teeth, femur. When they called the coroner, he confirmed that, yes, they were human. The next day, they found another set.
Archeologists were summoned, and they have identified twenty-seven grave sites thus far. Preliminary testing dates the bones to 1720. Pre-United States. When Charleston was still Charles Towne, a British settlement named to honor King Charles II. Given that the Charleston peninsula wasn’t settled until 1680, these are early folks indeed. The site was outside of the city walls in 1720. No one knows when this cemetery vanished, who these bones were.
I know. I know. This does not rival finding King Richard III under a parking lot, but still. I wonder what brought the people of the bones here. Before I write a series to put my own spin on it, what do you think, Dear Reader?
A Charleston series. The first post in the series is here, the second post is here, the third post is here, the fourth post is here, the fifth post is here, the sixth post is here, the seventh post is here and the eighth post is here. Thank you for reading.