The Historic Aiken Foundation's purpose is to encourage the protection, preservation and appreciation of the local architectural heritage. This year is the organization's 40th anniversary.

Nancy Wilds, a former president of the foundation, wrote about its birth in a story that appears on the organization's website: www.aikenhistoric

In the summer of 1973, Wilds received a phone call from a friend, Elke Haas, who said her husband had seen a work crew with bulldozers and chain saws destroying trees near the intersection of Barnwell Avenue and Chesterfield Street. Wanting to know what was going on, Wilds then contacted Skipper Perry, who was a member of Aiken's City Council at that time. Perry told Wilds that the S.C. Department of Transportation was removing the trees to create a traffic corridor that would facilitate traffic movement through downtown Aiken.

Wilds went to the site, where she found attorney Julian Salley talking to the work crew's foreman. Also present, Wilds wrote, were “three of Aiken's most stalwart environmentalists:” Dr. Bob Lipe, Tottie Maurice and Carol Turno.

Wilds, Lipe, Maurice and Turno joined hands and walked toward a bulldozer, which stopped before it hit them. All work on the project also ceased until the next City Council meeting, according to Wilds.

“I've never understood why it stopped, but it did,” she wrote.

After concerned citizens spoke out against the traffic corridor plan, City Council canceled its contract with the Department of Transportation and the area was spared.

Concerned about preserving Aiken's beauty, style and livability in the future, Wilds and others founded the Historic Aiken Foundation soon afterward.

The organization's accomplishments include working with the Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable to prevent the demolition of the historic barn on Richland Avenue and collaborating with the City of Aiken to maintain Coker Spring.

The foundation presents annual awards that recognize historic preservation activities. On Jan. 26, the organization recognized its 2014 honorees during a ceremony at the Aiken County Historical Museum.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.