Historic Charleston Foundation logo

images banner
images banner small

Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Object ID # EBAY.200.1
Title 200 East Bay Street (U.S. Custom House)
Object Type Property File
Scope & Content Constructed 1849-79; restored 1968. Ammi B. Young, architect; Edward Brickell White, supervising architect. The Custom House is Charleston's only major building in the national Classical Revival style, an imposing edifice on a level with comparable buildings constructed in Washington, D.C., during the same period. At least 9 architects entered a competition for this project after the site was purchased by an Act of Congress in 1847. Portions of 4 designs were included in the final plan developed by Boston architect Ammi Burnham Young. Young, the first supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury, had the edge on the design of such structures at this period, designing the Custom Houses in Boston, Galveston, and Norfolk (in similar style), as well as other new federal buildings. Construction, which began in 1849, was interrupted just before the Civil War by lack of appropriations, revived by Congressional authorization in 1867, and completed 12 years later. Despite the outset cost estimate of $370,000, the building's total outlay reached $3 million accomplished through 19 separate acts of Congress. The original design included a large dome and 4 porticoes, but the final building included only a front and rear portico without the dome and with a somewhat diminished interior plan. The Custom House as completed is 149 feet by 71 feet, constructed with New York and New Jersey granite. On the exterior a rusticated base supports the principal floors of the structure, with porticoes approached by triple-tiered steps and bays divided by engaged Corinthian columns, surmounted by a roof balustrade. The interior is one of Charleston's most impressive, from a heavy cast-iron stair to a great central, marble-floored hall with 2nd floor gallery, oak grained doors (restored), and a cove ceiling decoratively painted with shields and flags of the United States surrounding a skylight. Avoiding a proposed demolition in the 1950s, the Custom House still houses federal offices. The structure also provides Charlestonians with a venue for outdoor concerts, and Spoleto performances and other events take place within its great hall.

File contains National Register nomination form; 1768 deed for the "low-water lott in Colleton Square" (including Craven's Bastion); building history (unattributed, undated); newspaper articles; correspondence (1993) related to exterior restoration of the building; photocopy of image (engraving) of the planned Custom House, ca. 1857, showing dome that was never built; brief narrative history from "A Brief History of U.S. District Courthouses in S.C." by Larry W. Propes, Clerk of Court.

See media link for article and illustration from "Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion," ca. 1851-1854.
Subjects United States Custom House (Charleston, S.C.)
Search Terms East Bay Street
National Register of Historic Places
Physical Description 1 File Folder
Related Records Show Related Records...