2020 Preservation Award Winner: Dan Elswick

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By: Andrew Ramspacher

Thursday, September 3rd 2020

Dan Elswick, Preservation Award winner for Lifetime Achievement. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Johnson
Dan Elswick has had an award-worthy career in preservation. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Johnson

Each year, Historic Columbia presents Preservation Awards to celebrate the accomplishments of local property owners; professionals in the fields of architecture, construction and design; and leaders who champion preservation as an opportunity to support the Midlands’ economy and culture. These awards are given in the areas of Preservation Leadership, Preservation/Restoration, Adaptive Use and New Construction in a Historic Context.

For Dan Elswick, it wasn’t just a character. It was confirmation of his status as a community leader in preservation.  

Elizabeth Johnson has worked with Elswick for over 20 years at the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). She’s seen him played a vital role in dozens of projects and programs around Columbia, perhaps none more memorable than his run as the Building Doctor.  

Building Doctor? 

“He would literally dress up in a white coat and go and do these presentations at night in historic buildings,” Johnson said. “He’d wear his white coat and stethoscope. He’d go and meet with individual owners and tour their buildings to talk about what needs repaired and how to best go about it. He’d then write-up a site visit.  

“He just gave them good, basic information. It was very beneficial.” 

Dan Elswick of Columbia, SC
Dan Elswick presenting at a workshop on historic tax credits. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Johnson

The Building Doctor era of Elswick’s career lasted nearly decade – a small, fun part of a big, impactful career. Elswick is a Historic Columbia’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner for a variety of reasons.  

A historic architecture consultant with SHPO since 1986, Elswick has been a constant presence in the support of the growth of historic preservation in Columbia. His ongoing leadership and dedication to providing thoughtful reviews and assistance through SHPO programs have helped the owners and stewards of Columbia’s historic properties complete numerous successful preservation projects, including a federal historic income tax credit program for income-producing buildings, state income tax credit for historic homeowners, local property tax special assessment (Bailey Bill), federal and state preservation grants, reviews of federal undertakings through Section 106 review and the State Owned and Leased Historic Properties Law.   

Dan Elswick of Columbia, SC
Dan Elswick (front, center) at the Lexington County Museum. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Johnson

“Dan has been involved in most high-profile preservation projects in Columbia over the past 30 years,” Johnson said. “It’s more than these tax credit projects. There’s so many buildings in Columbia, National Register listed buildings, that at some point Dan has given advice to. He really has shaped consistently over these 30 years, the good stewardship of these buildings.” 

Amy Moore, Principal Preservation Planner for the City of Columbia, refers to Elswick as her “touchstone” because “he’s got such a breadth and depth of experience with what he does.” 

“He knows so much,” Moore said. “Things go through waves in organizations and he’s been there so long, he understands what the perspectives are and what’s likely to be regarded and what’s not. So he can help people through the system and get their projects done. He knows how to advise people really well.” 

A sampling of buildings Elswick has assisted in preserving over his career included the South Carolina State Armory, Tapp’s on Main, Olympia Cotton Mills, the Brennen Building, the Curtiss-Wright Hangar and the Palmetto Compress and Warehouse.  

“Dan’s helped transform the landscape of Columbia and South Carolina over the last 35 years,” said Janie Campbell, preservation consultant at Rogers Lewis. 

The 2020 Preservation Awards are made possible through our generous sponsors Boyer Commercial ConstructionBrennan Works LLCColumbia Development CorporationGarvin Design GroupGBX Group LLCHood Construction Company, Inc.Lambert Architecture & Construction Services, Inc.PMC Property GroupRogers-Lewis1x1 DesignArchitrave, Inc.Cason Development GroupHoney River Catering, and Seed Architecture.