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What's Hot This Weekend: Walk for Life, Bridge Dinner and Halloween Fun
Posted on October 21, 2016 at 7:39AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Gear up for an action-packed weekend full of events, concerts, food and more! Continue reading for our roundup below, then look through our calendar of events for everything that's going ...
What's Hot This Weekend: SC State Fair, Restaurant Week and Oktoberfests
Posted on October 14, 2016 at 6:18AM by Dayna Cantelmi
What do funnel cakes, frights and flying monkeys have in common? You can experience all of these and more this weekend! Read on for our roundup below, then take a look at our calendar of ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Festivals, Oz and Gamecock Football
Posted on September 28, 2016 at 7:18AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Autumn is in the air and a weekend full of fun events and activities are in store! Continue reading for our roundup below, then check out our calendar of events for all that's going on in ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Okra, Fall Festivals and Country Music
Posted on September 23, 2016 at 6:04AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Summer may be over, but there's still a ton of things to do this weekend! Read on for our roundup below, then take a look at our calendar of events for all that's happening in Columbia, ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Jubilee, Greek Festival and Gamecock Football
Posted on September 16, 2016 at 7:11AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Football, festivals and fitness, oh my! This weekend has all the fixin's to get you ready for fall. Continue reading for our roundup below, then peruse our calendar of events for ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Maroon 5, Roller Derby and Festivals
Posted on September 9, 2016 at 6:23AM by Dayna Cantelmi
September is moving full steam ahead with a jam-packed schedule of events this weekend. Keep reading for our roundup below, then check out our calendar of events for everything that's ...
What's Hot This Labor Day Weekend: SC Pride, Fireflies and Cedar Creek
Posted on September 2, 2016 at 6:11AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Take advantage of the long weekend and pack in as many summer activities as you can before the fall chill soon begins to creep in! Read on for our roundup below, then look through our calendar ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Comic Con, Latin Festival and Lasers
Posted on August 12, 2016 at 6:20AM by Dayna Cantelmi
September is drawing near, but this weekend is packed with events that will allow you to cling to summer a little longer. Continue reading for our roundup below, then take a look at ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Arts & Draughts, Water Balloons and a Crab Feast
Posted on August 11, 2016 at 6:30AM by Dayna Cantelmi
From a historic water balloon battle to a seafood feast, the events lined up this weekend send summer vacation off with a bang. Read on for our roundup below, then check out our calendar of ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Reggae, Boiled Peanuts and Fireflies
Posted on August 4, 2016 at 8:36AM by Dayna Cantelmi
With so many summer events in store, fun in the sun is the theme of the weekend! Keep reading for our roundup below, then peruse through our calendar of events for even more that's ...
What's Hot This Weekend: Daufuskie, Shopping and Plastic Models
Posted on August 4, 2016 at 7:22AM by Dayna Cantelmi
School isn't back in session just yet! Make the most of these remaining summer days by enjoying the activities and events we have lined up this weekend. Check out our roundup below, then take a ...

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 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 calibre, 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 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 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, exluding the 12:30 time slot. Call (803) 734-2430 to make your reservation for groups of more than 10 people.

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  • Price Range Maximum: $$ - $101-150

50th Annual Governor's Carolighting

December 1, 2016
Location: South Carolina State House
Times: Starting: 7:00 PM
The 50th Annual Governor’s Carolighting will be held on Thursday December 1, 2016. Entertainment leading up to the lighting of the State Christmas tree will include performances from a ...More»