Memorial History

In the Spring of 1999, North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey approached retired Navy Captain Ed Fava, then completing a second career as Charleston County Administrator, and asked if he would head up an effort to establish a “Shipyard Memorial” on the ground of the former Charleston Naval Base The base closed in 1996 as a result of BRAC93 (Base Realignment Closure 1993). Three months later, armed with Mayor Summey’s enthusiastic acceptance of certain conditions suggested by Captain Fava, the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial project was launched.

It was agreed that the Memorial would be designed in such manner as to pay tribute to all Charleston based Navy units and it would be developed as a “destination site.” Once completed, the City would accept the Memorial from the not-for-profit organization formed for fund raising and design/construction of the Memorial.  It was further agreed upon that the City would forever maintain the Memorial with free access to all visitors and would also provide necessary project costs that exceeded the expected amount that Captain Fava pledged to raise. The Board of Directors of the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial later acknowledged that the North Charleston City Council and Mayor R. Keith Summey met or exceeded all of conditions.

With a hand selected group of potential candidates to serve as members of the Board of Directors, an initial meeting to introduce the proposed Memorial Project was held in June 1999.  Following in quick succession during the 12 months after the June 1999 meeting the following occurred: the formal establishment of a Board of Directors (12 members consisting initially of retired navy military and civil service personnel, Mayor Summey and one City employee. Later the board expanded to include a retired school administrator and the wife of a retired Naval officer.  All Board Members were volunteers); attainment of 501(c)3 not-for-profit status; a search for and selection of a suitable site for the Memorial and the development of a capital campaign.

The site initially selected by the Board in late 1999 (the area fronting Building 234, the former Command Administrative Offices of the Charleston Naval Shipyard) was abandoned in late 2002 when Mayor Summey asked that the Board to consider an alternate site just conveyed to the City, which was not only larger, but also set on the bank of the Cooper River. The decision was made to relocate to this alternate site after great deliberation over certain issues posed by relocating, i.e., lost time, the requirement to abandon the design/construction document effort already completed by the firm Seamon Whitesides & Associates, Inc., a need to be “made whole” for costs already incurred and the selection of Burt Hill, the architectural firm employed by the Noisette Company in developing the Riverfront Park property for the City. Resolution of these issues, plus the advantage of being on the waterfront, were realized and the Board moved forward with the alternate plans.

The capital campaign designed and implemented by the Board included three principal components including, government grants (state and local governments), corporate gifts and individual contributions.  Following an initial donation by Charleston County Government, it is noteworthy that every municipality in the county contributed to the Memorial project, as well as Berkeley and Dorchester County Governments. From the state, funds were received from the  Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority (RDA) and the SC Heritage Corridor.  Corporate gifts were received from the SC Federal Credit Union (formally the Charleston Naval Shipyard Credit Union), The Zucker Family Foundation, Wachovia Bank and numerous other businesses donating various amounts.  The success of individual contributions was gratifying with a large number of former navy military and civil service personnel, ship crews and related family members who participated in the Buy-A-Brick Program.

In addition to the donation of funds for this Memorial Park, many services were provided in-kind, most notably by The Noisette Company, CMMC, Parker Rigging, Neal Brothers USA, and Marine Terminal Management.  These businesses assisted in park programming and initial design, storing, transportation, cleaning, painting and fabricating protective coverings.  Other key players in bringing the Memorial Park to fruition included Ms. Molly French who conducted the research for the story wall, Davis and Floyd, Inc. as the contract administrator and Anson Construction Company as the general contractor.  These companies along with the Landscape Architect, Joanne Shelly of Burt Hill, Inc. and Bob Berkbile of BNIM have consistently provided professional services at the highest levels.

After years of planning and construction, the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial was completed with overwhelming enthusiasm from all who contributed.  Eleven years after base closure a proper tribute had finally been erected to honor the thousands of men and women who served their country and the civilians who labored at the base for its 95 years.

Features within the Base Memorial were carefully selected by the Board and each has its own story.  Read about each element.