American College of Building Arts Must Raise Funds for Graduation

Charleston's Old City jail is now a classroom for students of the American College of the Building Arts. Abandoned for more than 60 years, the jail was awarded a matching grant of $500,000 in 2003 by Save America's Treasures, a joint program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Credit: American College of the Building Arts

Ten years ago, architect John Paul Huguley was living in London when he got a phone call from a friend, who urged him to cross the Channel to visit a school in France. That phone call and the visit that followed changed Huguley's life.

"I didn't expect to be wowed, but I was," Huguley says.

What he saw was Les Compagnons du Devoir, a 600-year-old school for craftspeople with branches all over France. When he later moved to Charleston, S.C., Huguley was inspired to create a similar school there. Now that school, the American College of the Building Arts, must raise money to graduate its first class in May.

The college, which was licensed in 2004 and offered its first class in 2005, plans to graduate seven students in May. Students can choose to major in stonecarving, carpentry, masonry, architectural metal, plaster-working or timberframing. They study a liberal-arts curriculum three days a week, and attend hands-on workshop classes for two days. Classes are held in the former Charleston Naval base and in the 1802 Old City Jail. In 1999, the college was awarded an early grant of $30,000 from Save America's Treasures at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in 2003, it won a matching grant of $500,000 toward the restoration of the jail.

"The College of the Building Arts gives individuals the hands on skills to preserve our built environment," says National Trust President Richard Moe. "I can't think of any education more beneficial for historic preservation."

To meet the school's goal of raising $75 million to $100 million over the next 15 years, Huguley hopes each state will set aside scholarship money for students who want to pursue the building arts. He's also seeking donors who want to name endowed faculty positions, scholarships, or even the campus. Over the past decade, the school has raised $11 million—but needs more to achieve its financial goals before graduation day. "We need things like money for library and books, equipment, tools for museum and tools for students," Huguley says.

The college is more than a local trade school, Huguley says. "We're a very high-end art school that has a great potential for every student to have jobs. There is no school in America that does what we do," Huguley says. "We don't want [our graduates] to stay in Charleston; we want them spread out all across the country."

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Submitted by Mercy at: September 26, 2009
I have found this article to be very enlightening. It is clear that the craft must not die. John Paul me is a warrior for all craftsman who embrace the art of blacksmithing, masonry, stonecarving, carpentry and timberframing. This too shall pre-vail. John Paul and others will keep hope alive!

Submitted by janet at: April 11, 2009