South Carolina Statehouse

Also known as: South Carolina State House,Grounds,and Artifacts
Main St., Columbia, South Carolina


South Carolina State House

1. Historic American Buildings Survey, Jack E. Boucher, Photographer April, 1960 SOUTH FACADE.

Photo from the Historic American Buildings Survey

View photos at Library of Congress


Street View 


Begun in 1851 and completed in 1907, this fine example of Neoclassical architecture demonstrates the disruptive effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras on Southern development. Here, between 1869 and 1874, the only legislature in American history with a Black majority met; it was the setting for THE PROSTRATE STATE: SOUTH CAROLINA UNDER NEGRO GOVERNMENT, an influential book which fostered the image of Reconstruction as an era of Black domination, corruption and misrule; in 1876, it was the scene of disputes about state elections, which ultimately resulted in the removal of Federal troops from the state and the return to power of the Democrats. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, May 11, 1976

An example of Neo-Classical architecture, the South Carolina Statehouse is a three-story, domed edifice of granite, marble, brick and iron. Vienna-born architect John Niernsee began the structure in 1851, but the Civil War and post-war poverty slowed progress on the building. For unknown reasons, the building was spared in General W. T. Sherman’s 1865 burning of Columbia, though the structure did suffer damage from shelling and burning of the nearby old statehouse. Following the Civil War, between 1869 and 1874, the only state legislature in American history with an African American majority sat here. In 1876, the Democrats, lead by Wade Hampton conducted the “Red Shirt” campaign against Daniel H. Chamberlain and the Republicans. Both sides claimed victory and two speakers and two Houses began conducting deliberations in the same hall. On April 10, 1877, fulfilling part of the compromise that had allowed his inauguration, President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew Federal troops. The following day Hampton and his supporters assumed full control of state government. From 1888 to 1891, Niernsee’s son, Frank McHenry Niernsee, served as architect and much of the interior work was completed. In 1900 Frank Milburn served briefly as architect, but was replaced in 1905 by Charles Coker Wilson who finally finished the exterior in 1907. Listed in the National Register June 5, 1970; Designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976. - SCDAH

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on June 5, 1970
Reference number
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Classical Revival
Areas of significance
Landscape Architecture; Art; Politics/Government; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Current function
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1850-1874
Significant years
1855; 1876
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing objects: 16

Update Log 

  • October 23, 2018: New photo from Michael Miller
  • October 19, 2018: New photo from Joseph Hinson
  • October 20, 2014: Updated by Michael Miller: Added "Description"
  • August 11, 2014: New photos from Michael Miller
  • November 11, 2013: New photos from Michael Miller
  • January 3, 2013: New Street View added by Andrew Wood
  • December 24, 2012: Photo imported by Joseph Hinson
  • December 5, 2012: Photo imported by Joseph Hinson

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