2023 Preservation Award | Karen Quinn
Friday, May 12th 2023
WINNER | Preservation Leadership
AIA, LEED AP with Boudreaux
Inspired by stories buried and awaiting discovery, Karen Quinn has nurtured a lifelong passion for history and a good mystery. As architect and project manager with BOUDREAUX, Karen has become the firm’s leader in historic preservation-based commissions, shepherding the rehabilitation of numerous historic treasures in Columbia and beyond. Her joy is knowing that preserving such treasures will send ripple effects throughout communities. Karen’s commitment to service and preservation blurs the lines between professional and personal. Karen’s current passion and expertise was surely kindled as a young Clemson student volunteering as a docent with Historic Columbia at the Robert Mills House. She later went on to serve as a board member Palladium, fueled by a professional interest in transforming underutilized or abandoned buildings into community beacons.
One of Karen’s more recent projects reshaped a late modernist remnant from the previously heavily industrial district located near the Congaree River. Winner of a 2021 Historic Columbia Revitalization Award, the Cathy Novinger Leadership Center was a special project for Karen as a Scout Leader and mother to two Girl Scouts who now camp in the facility.
Karen’s love of learning has made her an exceptional preservationist. Preservation Planner with the City of Columbia and past Historic Columbia Preservation Leadership Award winner Amy Moore says, “Karen’s committed approach demonstrates not only an architect’s appreciation for the design and craftsmanship of a structure, but also a real enthusiasm for its cultural history, making her a gratifying preservation partner to work with. She has often provided me more information on a building than I had previously known!” As an example, when Karen led the exterior preservation of the Horry Guignard House, one of the oldest remaining homes in Columbia and now on the campus of USC’s School of Law, she sought out John Califf, a retired architect who designed a previous renovation of the house, to capture his memories and artifacts he had kept. Likewise, Karen partnered with Historic Columbia to interview Susan Boyd and capture her memories of living in the adjacent Taylor House, as part of its multi-phase rehabilitation. Amy Moore goes on to say, “Karen’s collegial approach as well as her terrific organization and calm demeanor (she is unflappable!) makes difficult preservation projects much easier for many of us who work together on a building. I’m always delighted when a project comes forward with Karen’s name attached, as I know the research, skill, and commitment brought to the building will enrich Columbia’s built history and the city itself.”
The Venues at Arsenal Hill, Karen’s most recent project, involves rehabilitation of the Caldwell-Boylston House and its carriage house, the Lace House, and the North Mansion Gardens adjacent the Governor’s Mansion. Special Projects Manager for South Carolina Parks Recreation and Tourism Kevin Kibler says, “With Karen, it is obvious that this is not simply another rehabilitation project for another state agency. Like the Boylston house and garden’s namesake Sarah Boylston—who lovingly tended her garden with her renowned gardening and organizational skills in order to enhance the beauty of the City of Columbia—I see Karen lovingly tending an important historical project not only for the benefit of the project, but also that the City of Columbia may be a nicer place to live for her citizens.”
Karen is a go-to person for unique challenges and expects the highest standards from the design teams she leads and the contractors executing her work. A LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-accredited professional, Karen also champions the way preservation is inherently a sustainable design strategy. “Witnessing perhaps her greatest gift to preservation, I have the distinct pleasure of watching Karen regularly mentoring younger architects in our office and spreading her knowledge so that we can expertly preserve even more structures,” says Heather Mitchell, President of BOUDREAUX. “No question, Karen is a preservation leader of the highest caliber with the largest heart.”
Preservation Award Plaque
While May is Preservation Month, Historic Columbia would like to encourage the community to recognize the significance of these award-winning projects all year. To that end, we have established a Preservation Plaque program. These plaques are designed for and available to past Preservation Award recipients.