Special Alert
15 Salads You Have To Eat This Summer In #RealColumbiaSC
Posted on July 14, 2017 at 10:56AM by Holly Heaton
In the summer heat, a crisp salad bursting with flavor is the ultimate refreshing meal. With access to an abundance of fresh and vibrant South Carolina produce, Columbia chefs are serving up ...
Here's How To Celebrate The 4th Of July In Columbia SC
Posted on June 28, 2017 at 2:51PM by Holly Heaton
  Photo by: John A. Carlos II  Burgers on the grill, boats in the water and fireworks flying through the southern air...it's almost 4th of July weekend, y'all. Don't stress over ...
What's Hot This July
Posted on June 27, 2017 at 6:49AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Bask in the glory of summer this month. Fill up those extra hours of daylight with festivities, outdoor events, concerts and more. Read on for a roundup of things to do all month long ...
5 Places to Celebrate National Doughnut Day in Columbia SC
Posted on June 2, 2017 at 6:16AM by Columbia, South Carolina
Everyone loves doughnuts - it's a fact. We've rounded up five local spots with unforgettable sweet-and-stickies, so you can indulge the #RealColumbiaSC way. Oh, and you should definitely hit all five ...
What's Hot This June
Posted on May 19, 2017 at 8:11AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Summer is on its way and that means there's more time to experience Columbia, SC through a line-up of seasonal events, concerts, exhibits and more! Keep reading for a roundup of things to ...
Columbia SC's Faces of Travel: Lee Snelgrove with One Columbia for Arts and History
Posted on May 11, 2017 at 7:43AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Get to know the man who's worked hard to bring a lot more color and creativity to Columbia SC - Lee Snelgrove with One Columbia for Arts and History!       Lee Snelgrove ...
Columbia SC's Faces of Travel: Abby Naas with the Columbia Fireflies
Posted on May 9, 2017 at 10:32AM by Dayna Cantelmi
A somewhat newer face in the Columbia community, Abby Naas and the Columbia Fireflies with whom she works have already made quite the impact on our region. Find out just what it is that ...
Columbia SC's Faces of Travel: Chef Mike Davis with Terra
Posted on May 9, 2017 at 9:42AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Today, check in with Chef Mike Davis from Terra for all of his insider tips on Columbia SC!       Chef Mike Davis, owner of Terra in West Columbia, is a ...
Columbia SC's Faces of Travel: Rita Patel with Hotel Trundle
Posted on May 8, 2017 at 1:20PM by Dayna Cantelmi
Thanks for tuning in yesterday and getting to know Trae Judy with Music Farm Columbia a little better! Now, find out how Rita Patel with Hotel Trundle has impacted our ...
Columbia SC's Faces of Travel: Trae Judy with Music Farm
Posted on May 8, 2017 at 7:00AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Get to know some of the movers and shakers in our community who make the tourism industry in Columbia warm, welcoming and thriving. Stay tuned this week as we get to know some of Columbia's Faces of ...
What's Hot This May
Posted on April 27, 2017 at 6:10AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Between the weather, sports, concerts and festivals, there's no reason not to be out and about in the streets of Columbia, SC this May. Read on for a roundup of things to do below, then ...

South Carolina State House

  • 1100 Gervais Street
  • Columbia, SC 29201
  • Phone: 803-734-2430
  • Hours: Building Hours: Monday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm; Gift Shop Hours: Monday - Friday 9 am - 4:30 pm, First Sat. of each month, 9:00am - 4:30pm
  • Visit Website

The State House Portrait and Art Collection
The South Carolina State House and grounds of the Capitol Complex are home to many beautiful portraits, monuments, plaques and other works of art. These works honor the many of the people and events that are an important part of the history of South Carolina and the United States.

Charles C. Wilson of Columbia, who was the last architect of the State House, proclaimed South Carolina's State House "one of the most notable buildings of the world." Its Corinthian capitals, which had been designed by Major John R. Niernsee, were, said Wilson, "wonderful, nothing finer in France or Italy." The building was Niernsee's "life work." But his death prevented him from completing it, and subsequent architects departed from vital particulars of his plans.

The move toward construction began on December 15, 1851, when the State laid the cornerstone for a "Fire Proof Building" to house its records safely. In 1852, the General Assembly appropriated $50,000 to complete that building and to begin the next section for use as the "New State Capitol." P.H. Hammerskold was the project architect, but in May 1854, the State dismissed him for "concealments and misrepresentations and general dereliction of duty."

On August 3, 1854, the State appointed Niernsee as the architect, Niernsee examined Hammerskold's work and found it and the materials Hammerskold had used both defective and wholly unsuitable. The work was dismantled; the loss totaled $72,267.

On November 27, 1854, Governor John L. Manning recommended erecting a new State Capitol with north and south exposures at the intersection of Senate and Main (then Richardson) Streets. He thought that, "if change of location be made, in the end, perhaps it may not be a subject much to be regretted that delay and disaster attended the first efforts to construct a new Capitol for the commonwealth." The General Assembly acted on Governor Manning's recommendation, changed the site, and ordered a design with wings extending east and west.

Niernsee planned to complete the building in five years. By 1857, it rose to the top of the basement window-heads. On October 1, 1860, Niernsee reported that the structure had risen nearly sixty-six feet above the foot of the foundation and that the "absolute value of the work put into the building" was $1,240,063. "The Corinthian granite capitals, some 64," he said, were "being executed in a style and finish heretofore unequalled in that line."

Work on the new State House was suspended when Sherman's army destroyed Columbia on February 17, 1865. Shells from Sherman's cannons, which were of light caliber, damaged the building only slightly, and brass markers were subsequently placed on the west and southwest walls of the building to show where the shots had landed. Ten were fired in all. Six "struck the western front," with little damage "except one which shattered the moulded windowsill and balusters of the 2d window (from the northern end) of the Hall of the House of Representatives." Four struck the interior of the building.

More devastating was the fire that destroyed the old State House. Niernsee reported it cracked five "bells of St. Michael's Church, Charleston," which had been "sent up here some time ago" and "deposited under one of the sheds." It consumed the valuable State House library, offices, and workshops, a vast quantity of finished marble and rough material, estimated by Niernsee to be worth $700,000, and Niernsee's library of architectural and scientific books, engravings, and several thousand drawings, the result of his practice of twenty-five years. "These," said Niernsee, along with "one of the latest and best busts of Calhoun" and all the valuable detail State House drawings, contracts, and so forth, which had accumulated during Niernsee's ten years on the job, "were utterly swept away during that terrible night--an irreparable loss."

All that remained of Niernsee's drawings were several prints of a perspective view and one full-sized detail of a Corinthian capital. This perspective and evidence in the building itself, however, indicate Niernsee's concept of the completed structure. His plan did not contemplate a dome that looked anything like the dome on today's building. His was a lofty and finely proportioned tower, which rose one hundred eighty feet from the ground through the center of the building supported by piers and arches; it was "a rectangular lantern," somewhat pyramidal in outline, and thirty feet square at the base; its projected cost was $200,000.

Niernsee returned to Columbia to resume his work as architect of the State House in 1885, but he died on June 7. He was succeeded by a former associate, J. Crawford Neilson, of Baltimore. On October 1, 1888, his son, Frank Niernsee, took over and worked largely on the interior until construction was again suspended, this time about 1891.

In 1900, Frank P. Milburn became its architect. He hired the contracting firm of McIlvain and Unkefer, replaced the roof, and built the present dome and north and south porticos for about $175,000. Senator J. Q. Marshal of the State House Commission protested Milburn's appointment, however, and launched an investigation of the work. The investigation ended when the State brought suit against Milburn and his contractor, but the case ended in a mistrial and was not retried.

A joint legislative committee, after calling in Captain S.S.Hunt, the superintendent of construction of the United States Capitol, characterized the dome as infamous. "No uglier creation could be devised," it lamented, "and it is nothing short of a miserable fraud."

On April 8, 1904, the State elected Charles C. Wilson of Columbia as its architect. Wilson worked on the terrace and steps of the north front and made sundry improvements to the interior. His work continued for several years and cost about $100,000.

Wilson, who admired Niernsee's design, described the style as "Roman Corinthian, with considerable freedom and distinguished originality in much of the detail. The workmanship of Maj. Niernsee's time," he said, "is exceptionally fine, indicating not only his great genius but the enthusiastic cooperation of mechanics of the highest skill and integrity. ...All credit for this noble and dignified building is due to the original designer and architect, Maj. John Niernsee. It is due him and to future generations of South Carolinians that it be protected from further departure from his design, and in good time, in the state's future prosperity, it is not too much to hope that it may yet be restored to his ideal."

Although all legislative records for the building are not available, those that are show the General Assembly appropriated at least $3,540,000 for its construction over the years. The granite for the structure, according to Alexander S. Salley, who wrote a history of the State House in the early-twentieth century, came mostly from the Granby quarry, which was located about two miles south of the State House.

The State House Renovation
Inside and out, from foundation to dome, the State House, as a result of the 1995-98 renovation, is in better shape than ever before. The work balanced the need to meet modern code requirements and improved efficiency against a respect for historic form and appearance. Most visitors will never see the structural improvements, the sophisticated electrical wiring, alarm systems, or the state-of-the-art earthquake isolators that were installed. However, everyone will notice the renewal of the House and Senate chambers, the 19th-century treatment of the lobby, the vaulted brickwork in the hallways of the lower floor, the restored marble floors and refurbished interior of the dome.

The Stevens and Wilkinson architectural firm of Columbia developed the renovation plan; Caddell Construction Co. Inc., of Montgomery, Alabama was the prime contractor for the project. The cost of the renovation was $51, 530, 000.

You can take a Self-Guided tour of the State House Grounds by picking up a tour brochure at the Columbia Regional Visitors Center. Free guided and self-guided tours are available of the State House Monday through Friday. Guided tours are also available the first Saturday of each month. Tours begin on Saturdays at 9:30 am and continue each hour on the half hour with the last tour beginning at 3:30, excluding the 12:30 time slot. Call (803) 734-2430 to make your reservation for groups of more than 10 people.

  • Price Range Maximum: $$ - $101-150
What's Hot Now
What's Hot Now
Here you can browse what visitors and locals think is #RealColumbiaSC. Be sure to tag your photos across social media with #RealColumbiaSC for a chance to be featured.