SC State House, Part 2 - History | Project Discovery


The construction of the State House was begun in 1855 and continued through February 17, 1865. It is South Carolina's third State House. The first one was built in the mid-18th century in Charleston. Its remains are still there in the Charleston County Courthouse. After the Revolutionary War, it was decided to move the capital to a central location and Columbia was built out of the wilderness. The first State House in Columbia was built in the late 1780s on the corner of Richardson and Senate Street and served as the State House until the Burning of Columbia on February 17, 1865. 

Construction of the third State House, the present State House, was begun in the 1850s. There was concern over the protection of the state's records, and that fireproof building would have been built next to the original State House, facing Main Street. An architect from Charleston named Hamerskold was hired, but didn't supervise closely, and poorly made brick and Inferior building materials were used. About two years into the construction, large cracks were noticed in the foundation. John Niernsee, who had expertise in failing buildings, was brought in from Baltimore. He originally tried to salvage the work that had been done, but eventually decided to start over. The orientation was changed, facing Richardson Street, and the construction was begin in 1855, and by 1865, the exterior walls were up, but no roof or porticos existed, at that point. Rather than a dome, there would have been a very tall tower that rose very high, about four stories above the peak of the roof. However, that tower was never built because of the war. After the war, the state was in very poor financial condition, and in the late 1870s, they began appropriating small amounts of money to finish the building. In 1905, the building was completed. John Niernsee died and his partner in Baltimore was hired briefly, but he did not want to relocate to Columbia, so they hired John Niernsee's son, Frank Niernsee. Frank did most of the interior work, such as the staircases and the ironwork, and an architect named Wilson was hired, who decided on the dome, rather than the tower, and he added the porticos on the front and the back of the building.

Historically, the S.C. State House has been, for so long, a building under construction. Until the grand reopening, the building never truly was finished. For the first time, it is now complete.