Along with Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Faneuil Hall in Boston, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon in Charleston is widely considered to be one of the three most historically significant colonial buildings in the United States of America. Almost two and a half centuries old, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon was host to events that brought about the dissolution of a royal colony, while giving birth to freedom of thought, religion, and speech. The Old Exchange is often called the Independence Hall of South Carolina,î due to its important role during the American Revolution.
Today, the Old Exchange no longer serves a key role in the economics of South Carolina. Historically, it stands as a monument to the dreams of the first permanent European settlers to arrive on the shores of the Palmetto State, and to the hopes and accomplishments of those who followed. It also survives as one of the most outstanding examples of 18th century Palladian architecture in America.
Standing in the center of the Great Hall, surrounded by the phantoms that roam the Old Exchange, one catches a quick glimpse of a fleeting figure as it mutely passes. From the tiny dust motes that waltz in the beams of yellow sunlight come the whispers of the shadows, both famous and infamous, who linger here. Echoing in the Provost Dungeon, are the pleas of condemned pirates awaiting execution, and the impassioned protests of South Carolina patriots. Above the roar of present-day traffic on East Bay and Broad Streets, the techniques of Palladio, as they apply to the Architecture of the Exchange, are discussed. On the Main Level of the Exchange, the heavy tread of a ship-captain's boots reverberates across the stone floor, muffling the quiet greeting of a soft-spoken lady who is picking up her mail. Another gentlewoman, who is a loyal supporter of the American Revolution and one of its greatest heroines, graces the Rebecca Motte Room as she calmly gives General Francis Marion, known to Tories and Patriots alike as "The Swamp Fox," permission to burn her home. In the adjacent room, members of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution speak reverently of those who gave their lives and their fortunes for the cause of freedom. This is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, the site of historic events that shaped a country, yesterday's sentinel still inspiring today's decisions:
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past."Patrick Henry, March, 1775