January 5, 2017 – South Carolina Capitol and Columbia, SC

Columbia is the 40th state capitol we’ve now visited. 

However, Charleston , not Columbia, was the home of South Carolina’s first State House.   In 1753 construction of the two-story building began at the northwest corner of Broad and Meeting Streets.  The building was built with brick and covered with stucco.  At this time James Glen (1738-1756) was Governor of South Carolina.  The first meeting of the South Carolina Assembly in the Charleston State House occurred in 1756. 


By 1785, bowing to increased pressure from the upcountry, the South Carolina Legislature decided to move the state's capital inland from Charleston.  In 1786 the South Carolina Assembly voted to move the state capital to Columbia, a more geographically, centralized location; although there was hardly any city there at the time.  Thus, Columbia became one of the first planned cities in the United States.

The Commissioners designed the new capital to be two miles square with two principle streets 150 feet wide.  All the rest of the streets were 100 feet wide spaced ten streets per mile.  These provisions called for 400 square blocks, each approximately four acres in size, to be divided into eight rectangular one-half acre lots.  The State House was built at the intersection of the two principle streets, which were named Assembly and Senate in honor of the legislative bodies.   All the north-south streets were actually laid out slightly northwest-southeast so they could run parallel to the Congaree River.

The legislature first met in this State House in 1790.  The structure was built of wood with a brick basement and by the 1840’s the State House had deteriorated and repairs were being made frequently.

The General Assembly had become concerned that official public records being stored in the State House would be damaged as a result of the deteriorating conditions; so, in 1850 they decided to build a fireproof building next to the State House.  The fireproof building would serve as storage for the official public records and as a wing to yet a third State House, the second in Columbia, which would become the present State House. 

Construction began in December 1851, but the original architect was dismissed for fraud and dereliction of duty.  Soon thereafter, the structure was largely dismantled because of defective materials and workmanship. 

John Niernsee redesigned the structure

state-capitol-architectual-plan-in-1862-columbia-sc-2017-01-05Original design

and work began on it in 1855, slowed during the Civil War, and was suspended in 1865 as William T. Sherman and his Union army captured the State Capital on February 17th  leaving city-wide destruction. 


The old State House was destroyed by fire. A monument is displayed on the grounds where the old State House stood.


The war left South Carolina in poverty and the General Assembly contemplating the major problems of the State.  The Governor of South Carolina at this time was Andrew G. Magrath (1864-1865).  Due to inadequate funding, completion of the State House was halted; however, a temporary roof was placed on the building. 


 Subsequently, South Carolina’s third State House would not be completed until 1907.

Between 1995 and 1998, the interior was remodeled and the building was made handicap-accessible.  A seismic protection system was installed to minimize the damage in the event of an earthquake similar to the Charleston earthquake of 1886. 


The State House is in the Greek Revival style; it is approximately 180 feet tall, 300 feet long, 100 feet wide and has 130,673 square feet of space.

The dome,



state-capitol-d-columbia-sc-2017-01-05and exterior steps were the last features added.

The columns on the porticos are each carved from a single piece of stone and are believe to be the largest monolithic columns used in a public building in the United States.



The Governor’s office

state-capitol-governors-office-wing-columbia-sc-2017-01-05and Lieutenant Governor’s office

state-capitol-lt-governors-office-wing-columbia-sc-2017-01-05are located in the west and east wings, respectively, and separated by the “Lower Lobby”.

state-capitol-lower-lobby-columbia-sc-2017-01-05Blue granite columns

state-capitol-lower-lobby-ceiling-bricks-columbia-sc-2017-01-05Hand-crafted brick ceiling from local kilns

Wrought iron staircases


With yellow jasmine (the state flower) decorations on the banister

state-capitol-lower-lobby-railing-post-a-columbia-sc-2017-01-05ascend to the spectacular Main Lobby.





Above the center of the Main Lobby is the internal dome.

state-capitol-main-lobby-ceiling-and-interior-dome-columbia-sc-2017-01-05South Carolina’s capitol dome is unique. Rectangular buildings with a round dome has to have a transition from rectangular to round.  Most domed capitols carry the roundness of the dome down to the Rotunda.  South Carolina’s is different, maintaining the rectangular shape all the way up through the top floor with the huge rectangular Main Lobby.  Thirty feet above the floor the dome begins.



The walls of the Main Lobby are adorned with paintings, plaques, busts and statues that reflect the state’s history.





state-capitol-bust-of-robert-e-lee-columbia-sc-2017-01-05General Robert E. Lee

state-capitol-battle-of-cowpens-painting-columbia-sc-2017-01-05“The Battle of Cowpen”, worth more than $1 million … it depicts a14-year old African American boy saving the life of William Washington (white horse), cousin of George Washington.  It is noteworthy that during the Revolutionary War many of the armies were integrated … something which would not happen again until the Korean War!

A statue of John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) stands in the center of the Main Lobby. 

state-capitol-john-c-calhoun-statue-a-columbia-sc-2017-01-05John Calhoun was born in 1872n, and educated at Yale College.  He served in South Carolina's legislature and was elected to the United States House of Representatives serving three terms. In 1812, Calhoun and Henry Clay, two famous "warhawks", who preferred war to the "putrescent pool of ignominious peace", convinced the House to declare war on Great Britain.

Calhoun was secretary of war under President James Monroe from 1817 to 1825 and ran for president in the 1824 election along with four others, John Q. Adams, Henry Clay, Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. However, Calhoun withdrew from the race. Calhoun was vice president of the United States in 1824 under John Quincy Adams and was re-elected in 1828 under Andrew Jackson … the only person to serve as vice president under two different presidents.  He was also the first vice president to resign on October 10, 1973.. Calhoun and Daniel Webster opposed each other over slavery and states' rights in a famous debate. In 1844 President John Tyler appointed Calhoun secretary of state. In later years he was reelected to the Senate, where he supported the Texas Annexation and defeated the Wilmot Proviso.

John Caldwell Calhoun died in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1850 and was buried in St. Phillips Churchyard in Charleston. In 1957, United States Senators honored Calhoun as one of the five greatest senators of all time.


Three chambers are off the Main Lobby:

Senate Chamber




The Sword of State – The Sword represents the authority of the Senate.  The Sergeant-at-Arms places the Sword in brackets (above its case) in the front to the President of the Senate’s desk, which activates the original lamps on each side of the desk.  The presence of the Sword symbolizes the Senate in session.  The original sword, which dated to 1904, was stolen in 1941.  Lord Halifax, a former British Ambassador to the United States, presented the current Sword to the state in 1951.  It etched silve blade bears the state seal and the Yellow jessamine.

House Chamber

state-capitol-house-chamber-a-columbia-sc-2017-01-05As there was a training session going on for new legislative pages, we had limited access to the House Chamber

state-capitol-house-chamber-mace-columbia-sc-2017-01-05The Mace – represents the authority of the House.  The Sergeant-at-Arms places the Mace on the front of the Speaker’s desk to symbolize the House is in session.  As the Mace is placed in its brackets which activates the original lamps on each side of the desk.  The Mace was made in London in 1756 and is the oldest original mace used in the country.  Hidden during the American Revolution, the Mace disappeared for over 40 years.  It was ultimately discovered in a Philadelphia bank vault.

Joint Legislative (former State Library)





The State Seal of South Carolina


was adopted in 1776. The seal is made up of two elliptical areas, linked by branches of the palmetto tree. The image on the left is dominated by a tall palmetto tree and an oak tree, fallen and broken.  This scene represents the battle fought on June 28, 1776, between defenders of the unfinished fort on Sullivan's Island, and the British Fleet.  The standing palmetto represents the victorious defenders, and the fallen oak is the British Fleet. 

Banded together on the palmetto with the motto "Quis separabit?" ("Who Will Separate [Us]?"), are 12 spears that represent the first 12 states of the Union.  Surrounding the image, at the top, is "South Carolina", and below, is "Animis Opibusque Parati" ("Prepared in Mind and Resources"). The other image on the seal depicts the Roman Goddess Spes walking along a shore that is littered with weapons. The Goddess, symbolizing Hope, grasps a branch of laurel as the sun rises behind her. Below her image is her name "Spes", Latin for "Hope", and over the image is the motto "Dum Spiro Spero", or "While I Breathe I Hope".


While walking around the outside of the state capitol, we looked … and found … the six gold stars on the outside of the building marking the locations where shells from General Sherman’s cannons struck the building during his advance on Columbia (five of them shown below).






The grounds of the capitol complex are dotted with twenty-seven statues, monuments and historic trees.  Among those are:

Confederate Monument


Spanish-American War Monument


Robert E. Lee Highway Marker


Revolutionary War Generals Monument


African American History Monument



Representation of a slave ship

state-capitol-grounds-african-american-history-monument-c2-columbia-sc-2017-01-05The dark areas representing how slaves were crammed into the holds of these ships

state-capitol-grounds-african-american-history-monument-b-columbia-sc-2017-01-05A map of the America, the Atlantic Ocean and Africa … with stones from four of the countries the majority of the slaves brought to the United States were (from left to right; Senegal, Sierra-Leone, Ghana and The Congo)

General Wade Hampton Monument


North Carolina’s Replica of the Liberty Bell


Confederate Women’s Monument


Strom Thurmond Monument



Grave of Captain Swanson Lunsford

state-capitol-grounds-grave-of-captain-swanson-lunsford-columbia-sc-2017-01-05The only person buried on the capitol grounds

Palmetto Regiment Monument


Law Enforcement Monument


Veterans Monument



George Washington Statue

state-capitol-grounds-george-washington-monument-columbia-sc-2017-01-05Note Washington’s broken cane.  During the time when General Sherman’s army was occupying Columbia, some of his troops didn’t know who was depicted (remember, there were no generally circulated or available photos of people) and decided to stone it, as they did with other statues of South Carolinians … breaking the cane.


After leaving the State Capitol grounds, we grabbed a quick lunch and then decided to take a walk.  Along the way, we passed two beautiful street clocks,


main-and-hampton-streets-b-columbia-sc-2017-01-05“Rita the Meter Maid”,

lovely-rita-the-meter-maid-sculpture-columbia-sc-2017-01-05two buildings “chained” together,

chained-buildings-main-street-columbia-sc-2017-01-05appropriately-themed bicycle racks,

bike-rack-columbia-sc-2017-01-05five “tractor” seats where pedestrians can sit and play Caribbean-style steel drums (made from discarded propane tanks),

tractor-seat-and-propane-drums-main-street-columbia-sc-2017-01-05a sculpture, “Mother and Child Harvesting the Field”,

mother-and-child-harvesting-the-field-main-street-columbia-sc-2017-01-05the world’s largest fire plug (measuring 40’ in height and weighing 675,000 lbs.),


and several incredible building murals,

tunnel-vision-mural-columbia-sc-2017-01-05“Tunnel Vision”

farm-field-mural-columbia-sc-2017-01-05“Hay Fields”

including five which highlight the history of South Carolina.


building-mural-discovery-columbia-sc-2017-01-05In 1700, the Congaree Indians encounter explorer John Lawson’s party as it makes its way up the Congaree River.


building-mural-industry-columbia-sc-2017-01-05Columbia is chosen as the capitol of South Carolina.  In 1855 construction of the state capitol begins.

Civil War

building-mural-civil-war-columbia-sc-2017-01-05The effects of the Civil War intensify in 1865 when one-third of the city is burned by Union Troops under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman.


building-mural-government-columbia-sc-2017-01-05The mill industry was essential to the reconstruction.  In 1893, Columbia Mill becomes the world’s first fully-electric mill.


building-mural-agriculture-columbia-sc-2017-01-05Agriculture has always been important to the region as the farmer looks over the horizon we ask, “What lies ahead?”

There are also many beautiful churches all over the city.  These include The Presbyterian Church (unfortunately not open … as with all but one of the others we stopped by)

first-presbyterian-church-columbia-sc-2017-01-05and Trinity Episcopal Church.




















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