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H. A. DeCosta, Jr. papers

 Collection
Identifier: AMN 1084

Collection Overview

The collection includes materials related to the professional and personal life of Herbert DeCosta, Jr., his wife Emily, and numerous family members. It has been arranged into six series: Business Records, Personal Material, Emily DeCosta, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, the DeCosta Family, and the Craft and Kinloch Families.

1. Business Records (91.41 linear feet). Records cover multiple corporate entities: H. A. DeCosta Company General Contractors, the HADCO Company, the Midway Company, a DeCosta General Insurance Company, and the H. A. DeCosta Company Construction Consultants. Within these business records are financial information, operational and administrative documents, property files, and legal suit documentation. The work files of H. A. DeCosta Company General Contractors contain invoices, estimates, blueprints, drawings, photographs, and other materials related to residences, stores, churches, and other properties principally in South Carolina (particularly Charleston).

2. Herbert A. DeCosta (16.75 linear feet). Contains correspondence, photographs, artwork, travel journals, awards and other memorabilia related to Herbert A. DeCosta's education, travels, and personal and professional history. Also includes materials concerning to his civic involvement, which includes numerous community and cultural organizations, fraternal organizations, and professional affiliations. The materials include correspondence, meeting minutes, and other documents related to the business, religious, political, preservation, civil rights, and community organizations in which DeCosta either held membership or served as a consultant.

3. Emily DeCosta (1.25 linear feet). Includes materials related to Emily Spencer DeCosta's education, early life, civic involvement and correspondence. Materials also relate to the Spencer family, including her parents Dr. James Preston Spencer and Evie Carpenter Spencer.

4. St. Mark's Episcopal Church (1.25 linear feet). Includes committee notes, church bulletins, and other material that reflect Herbert and Emily DeCosta's involvement with St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston. Documents relate to various committees on which they served as well as other church functions.

5. DeCosta Family (0.75 linear feet). Includes materials related to Herbert A. DeCosta's paternal family history, including correspondence, photographs, publications, and other memorabilia. Family members include Benjamin Rhodes DeCosta, the descendents of Benjamin Robert DeCosta, Herbert A. DeCosta, Sr., Elizabeth DeCosta Sartor and the Sartor family, Daisy DeCosta Caffey and the Caffey family, Miriam DeCosta Seabrook, Eugenia DeCosta Higgens and the Higgins family, and Frank A. DeCosta and his family.

6. Craft and Kinloch Families (0.75 linear feet). Includes material from the relatives of Herbert A. DeCosta's mother, Julia Craft DeCosta. Items include genealogical charts, last will and testaments, photographs, correspondence, and publications. Publications focus on the escape of William and Ellen Craft from slavery.

Dates

  • 1854-2009

Creator

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. (1923-2008) was a renowned African American architect and contractor based in Charleston, South Carolina.

Herbert Alexander DeCosta, Jr. was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1923 to Herbert A. DeCosta, Sr. (1894-1960) and Julia Craft DeCosta (1898-1990). He graduated from Avery Institute in Charleston in 1940, and received a B.S. in Architectural Engineering from Iowa State College in 1944. From 1944-1947, he worked as an architectural engineer for National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now NASA) in Langley, Virginia. He married Emily Spenser in 1946, and moved back to Charleston in 1947, when he started working as vice-president of the H.A. DeCosta Company.

The H.A. DeCosta Company General Contractors had been founded in 1919 by Herbert A. DeCosta, Sr. Upon the death of his father in 1960, Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. became president of the company. In 1961, William Clement joined the company as an architect. In 1979, Black Enterprise Magazine included the company in its top 100 Black Businesses in the nation. In 1989, DeCosta retired as president and sold the company to two associates, but continued to act as construction consultant for the company. The DeCosta Company worked on the construction and renovations of numerous residences, apartment complexes, schools, and churches. His work included some of the most architecturally significant houses in Charleston, such as the Miles Brewton House and the Joseph Manigault House. The DeCosta Company also did much of the renovation and preservation work for the Historic Charleston Foundation in the Ansonborough neighborhood of Charleston and elsewhere, did similar work for the Preservation Society of Charleston, and carried out much of the renovation and preservation projects on a number of College of Charleston properties, as the campus expanded. He designed, built and renovated homes for elite and middle class white and black Charlestonians, and his work has been featured in many national publications.

DeCosta's work extended beyond Charlestonian projects, most notably including the restoration of the Herndon Mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. The H.A. DeCosta Company was named one of the top 100 black businesses in the nation by Black Enterprise magazine in 1979. Upon his retirement in 1989, DeCosta continued to be active in the field of preservation as a restoration consultant and project manager.

DeCosta was involved in other business endeavors, including HADCO Realty Company, a real estate firm and housing rental company; Midway Company, Inc., a grocery store; and a general insurance company.

Throughout his life, DeCosta has maintained a high level of civic involvement, serving on the boards of many institutions, including the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Spoleto Festival, the Penn Community Center, the South Carolina Archives and History Foundation, Benedict College, the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture, Voorhees College, and the National Association of Minority Contractors. He served as the first African-American board member of the Charleston Trident Chamber of Commerce and of the SC State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education. He has also lectured and taught extensively on the restoration of historic buildings and served on many committees and organizations dedicated to community justice and improvement, such as the Community Relations Committee.

DeCosta received several honors and recognitions, such being selected for South Carolina Hall of Fame by the Committee of 100 Black Men in Columbia, South Carolina in 1991 and profiled in the 1993 South Carolina African American History Calendar. In 1998, he received the South Carolina Governor's Award for Historic Preservation, and in 2002, the Historic Charleston Foundation awarded him the Frances R. Edmunds Award, its highest honor. He has served on the Vestry of St. Marks Episcopal Church and has been a Senior Warden.

Herbert DeCosta and his wife Emily had two daughters.

Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. died on December 18, 2008.

Extent

112.16 linear feet (302 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. (1923-2008) was a renowned African American architect and contractor based in Charleston, South Carolina. While he served as president of the H. A. DeCosta Company, the company worked on the construction and renovations of numerous churches, apartment complexes, schools, and residences, including some of the most architecturally significant houses in Charleston. The DeCosta Company also did much of the renovation and preservation work for Historic Charleston Foundation in the Ansonborough neighborhood of Charleston and elsewhere, did similar work for the Preservation Society of Charleston, and carried out much of the renovation and preservation projects on a number of College of Charleston properties, as the campus expanded. DeCosta designed, built, and renovated homes for elite and middle-class white and black Charlestonians, and his work has been featured in many national publications. DeCosta was also invloved in various other businesses including HADCO Realty Company, a real estate and housing rental company; Midway, a grocery store; and a general insurance company.

The collection includes materials related to the professional and personal life of Herbert DeCosta, Jr., his wife Emily, and numerous family members. 1. Business Records series covers multiple corporate entities, chiefly H. A. DeCosta Company General Contractors, the HADCO Realty Company, and the Midway Company, Inc. Within these business records are financial information, operational and administrative documents, work files, and legal suit documentation. The property files of the H. A. DeCosta Company General Contractors contain invoices, estimates, blueprints, drawings, and photographs related to residences, stores, churches, and other properties principally in South Carolina (particularly Charleston). 2. Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. series contains correspondence, photographs, artwork, travel journals, awards and other memorabilia related to Herbert A. DeCosta's education, travels, and personal and professional history. Also includes materials concerning to his civic involvement, which includes numerous community and cultural organizations, fraternal organizations, and professional affiliations. 3. Emily DeCosta series includes materials related to Emily Spencer DeCosta's education, early life, civic involvement and correspondence. Materials also relate to the Spencer family. 4. St. Mark's Episcopal Church series includes committee notes, church bulletins, and other material that reflect Herbert and Emily DeCosta's involvement with St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston. 5. Includes materials related to Herbert A. DeCosta's paternal family history, including correspondence, photographs, publications, and other memorabilia. Herbert A. DeCosta, Sr. and other family members descended from Benjamin and Anna DeCosta are represented. Also includes members of the Sartor family, the Caffey family, the Higgins family, and others. 6. Craft and Kinloch Families series includes material from the relatives of Herbert A. DeCosta's mother, Julia Craft DeCosta. Items include genealogical charts, last will and testaments, photographs, and correspondence from the Craft, Crum, and Kinloch families. Publications focus on the escape of William and Ellen Craft from slavery.

Collection Arrangement

1. Business Records, 1926-2008

1.1. H. A. DeCosta Company General Contractors, 1926-2008

1.2. HADCO Realty Company, 1930-1983

1.3. DeCosta General Insurance Company, circa 1940-1983

1.4. Midway Company, 1966-2003

1.5. H. A. DeCosta Company Construction Consultants, 1981-2008

1.6. Other Business Endeavors, 1969-1990

2. Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr., 1935-2009

3. Emily DeCosta, 1934-2009

4. St. Mark's Episcopal Church

5. DeCosta Family, 1854-2008

6. Craft and Kinloch Families, 1767-2007

Acquisitions Information

Donated by Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr., March 1993, and Emily S. DeCosta, September 2004.

Related Material

Craft and Crum Family Papers

DeCosta Family Papers (AMN 1101)

Frank Augustus DeCosta Papers

Frank A. DeCosta, Jr. Papers

Miriam DeCosta Seabrook and Herbert U. Seabrook Papers (AMN 1094)

Separated Material

1084-MUS/1

1084-OBX/1-6

Processing Information

Processed by Melissa Bronheim with Rachel Allen, Mia Fischer, Harlan Greene, Jessica Lancia, and Amanda Ross, May 2010

Encoded by Melissa Bronheim and Amanda Ross, May 2010

Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Title
Inventory of the H. A. DeCosta, Jr. Papers, 1854 - 2009 AMN 1084
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Processed by: Melissa Bronheim with Rachel Allen, Mia Fischer, Harlan Greene, Jessica Lancia, and Amanda Ross; machine-readable finding aid created by: Melissa Bronheim and Amanda Ross
Description rules
DACS
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English
Sponsor
Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

Contact:
125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States
843-953-7608