The Atlantic City Lab: The College of Lost Arts

By Amy Crawford/City Lab

When Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina, in 1989, its Category 4 winds carried off nearly every roof in town, leaving homes and businesses to be flooded by torrential rain.

Not since the earthquake of 1886 had the city seen such devastation, and as residents set about rebuilding, they soon realized they had another problem on their hands: a shortage of artisans trained in skills like masonry, ironwork, and plastering, necessary to repair the city’s famous historic buildings.

These trades had traditionally been passed down by skilled craftsmen to their sons or apprentices, but that old system had long since been fading away. “It was a recognition that a generation of teachers had diminished,” says Mayor Joe Riley, who has been in office since 1975.

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