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Title 84 Broad Street (Old South Carolina Statehouse and Charleston County Courthouse)
Object Type Property File
Scope & Content Constructed 1753; rehabilitated after fire, 1788-92; additions and renovations, 1883, 1921, 1940, 1968; restoration begun 1997, completed 2003. First constructed in 1753 as the provincial statehouse for the colony of South Carolina, the Charleston County Courthouse is one of the most important buildings in the state. Standing at its prominent position at the northwest corner of Broad and Meeting Streets, the old planned civic square, the Courthouse has withstood many vicissitudes in its nearly 2½ centuries of existence. Wars, fires, neglect, and numerous renovations and additions obscured its detailing until a recent architectural study and the advocacy of community organizations led to the restoration of the building's 1792 appearance. The structure originally served the ideal of symbolic display with its scale and plan indicative to citizens and travelers to Charleston of the power of English imperial rule. Originally 2 stories, the building contained a generous lobby and a grand staircase that opened from the pedimented engaged portico on Broad Street; all of which provided an appropriate setting for the affairs of state. The provincial court met in a large ground-floor courtroom, while the Commons House of Assembly and the Royal Governor's Council Chamber occupied separate quarters on the second floor. The latter was a lavishly finished room with paneling and gilded Ionic pilasters in which the governor sat in a ceremonial chair (which still survives) under a carved and gilded royal coat of arms. It was here that great affairs of state were announced to the public from a balcony overlooking Meeting Street. Here, too, after the end of royal government, the Declaration of Independence was first read in South Carolina. The building burned, suspiciously, during the Constitutional Ratification Convention of 1788. Debate during the convention divided lowcountry merchants and planters eager for a strong national government and restoration of trade with Great Britain from farmers and upcountry planters desiring state autonomy. Determined to retain the state capitol, Charlestonians rebuilt within the shell of the statehouse in a Neoclassical style and added a third story. Some sources hint that James Hoban, the Irish-born architect of the White House and then resident in Charleston, may have assisted with the design and construction of the new statehouse. The restored building included state circuit courts and sheriff's offices on the ground floor off the lobby, federal district and circuit courts on the second floor, and rooms on the third floor that variously housed the Charleston Library Society, Charleston Museum, and later the South Carolina Medical Society. Every visitor to Charleston from Lafayette to President James Monroe went to see the Museum. A renovation in 1883 destroyed the central lobby and, therefore, the old circular patterns through the building. In 1926 and 1941 insensitive additions doubled the size of the building and a maze of corridors and partitions obscured the fabric of the original Courthouse. The building was heavily damaged during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. In 2003, restoration work was completed, bringing the Courthouse back to its 1792 appearance. (Also known as 77 Meeting Street.)

File contains narrative histories; newspaper articles (including 1977, 1981 DYKYC), from 1977-2003; architectural drawings (Mark Wenger, Colonial Williamsburg); architectural drawing "Idea for Enlargement of Courthouse" by Samuel G. Stoney (1963); conjectural floor plans reports; "Building Analysis" (Glenn Keyes, 1985).

Note: See also several boxes of additional information on the Courthouse and its restoration that reside on the Preservation Topics shelves.
Subjects Charleston County Courthouse (Charleston, S.C.)
Historic buildings--South Carolina--Charleston
Courthouses--South Carolina--Charleston
Search Terms Broad Street
Civic Square
Meeting Street
Street corner
Physical Description 1 File Folder
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Object ID # BROAD.084.001