If you’ve ever lived in or visited Charleston, SC, you’ve probably noticed one of these plaques. Whether it’s outside a coffee shop or on a South of Broad home, they’re scattered all over the city. The Carolopolis Award, presented by the Preservation Society, recognizes outstanding achievement in exterior preservation, restoration, rehabilitation and new construction in the city of Charleston. Since 1953, when the program was created, 1,309 plaques have been awarded. Originally they were made of pot metal, but in 2002 Col. Pelham Felder III took over production and started making them of pewter, a more historic metal.
I know him best as “Uncle Buddy,” but long before he became a great uncle he was known for his service to the U.S. Army and Pentagon. After retirement from the military, Pelham combined his professional knowledge of metallurgy and chemistry with his artistic abilities to create fine art in pewter.
When I was 20 years old, I took a semester off from college and joined him in his pewter shop off Romney Street, where he taught me the tricks and trade of being a pewtersmith. In 2008, when Uncle Buddy passed away, my aunt Mindy and I took over the production of the Carolopolis Awards. Although I work mainly as a painter and photographer, I feel extremely privileged to be able to follow in his foot steps; tying together my love for art, my city, and my Uncle Buddy.
Uncle Buddy at a costume party, date unknown