We -- and by we I mean Caleb -- have been having a ton of fun with Charleston, the South Carolina city enlisted by Boeing to engage in a pot-sweetening duel with the Puget Sound region over the Lazy B's much-coveted Dreamliner assembly business. Predictably, Charleston's been cast as a right-winged, rednecked, Confederate rube when pitted against cosmopolitan, 21st-Century Seattle.
Charleston is serious about preserving the past. How serious? You're looking at their primary mode of transportation.
Charleston seems creepily enamored with its slave-owning past; handwoven baskets seem the driving commodity in the local economy, the air smells like horseshit due to an overabundance of carriage jockeys, and Styrofoam is still the go-to to-go material for many a low-country restaurant. But Boeing's would-be Southern Belle is far more progressive than Seattle when it comes to one key area: the preservation of historic infrastructure.The November 2009 issue of The Atlantic includes a thoughtful examination of the post-Katrina architecture boom that can currently be witnessed in real time in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, an area I visited recently while on a two-week road trip in the American Southeast. In his piece, Wayne Curtis includes an anecdote from a New Orleans building conference, at which Steve Mouzon stated the following: "The very core of sustainability can be found in a simple question: Can it be loved?"
I also visited Charleston on the aforementioned jag. It is, without a doubt, one of the most visually arresting cities in America. Whereas in Seattle, you're hard-pressed to find a building that was constructed before 1900, in Charleston (the core of it anyway), you'll be hard-pressed to find a building that was built after 1900. This is because the city had the foresight to effectively make preservation the law of the land in 1947. The result is a cityscape that makes you feel as though you're in a meticulously-maintained European town, albeit one where the locals say "y'all" and sweet tea is more prevalent than cappuccino.
This has nothing to do with aerospace, unless the powers-that-be in Charleston have a whopper of a Civil War-era artillery basin that can be repurposed for the construction of massive modern aircraft. But it should serve as a reminder that even supposedly ack-basswards Southern cities have it all over Seattle in many respects. Look no further than New Orleans, a surprisingly bicycle-happy town whose slow-moving streetcars provide a genuine public service. Unlike here, shit gets done down there, which might explain Boeing's infatuation with the region.