Babcock Building, South Carolina State Hospital

Also known as: New Asylum, South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, New South Carolina State Asylum
Bull St., Columbia, South Carolina


Photo taken by Michael Miller in August 2014



Street View 


The Babcock Building at the South Carolina State Hospital in Columbia was built in four campaigns, between 1857 and 1885, as the new asylum for the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum. The building is significant as the work of two distinguished architects, George E. Walker, a native of Charleston, and Samuel Sloan, a native of Pennsylvania. Actual construction during Walker’s lifetime was limited to the three northernmost blocks of the south wing, but these three blocks established the composition, scale, and style of the entire building. Gustavus T. Berg, in 1880-82, built the north wing in mirror image of the completed south wing. Sloan’s center building united the composition, and provided a focal center for the asylum. The building is also significant as an exceptional example of Italian Renaissance Revival design. The Babcock Building embodies the dedication of the state of South Carolina to the provision of adequate and comfortable care and housing for the mentally ill. The building follows, in overall plan, siting, landscaping and interior arrangements, the “Kirkbride system” for insane asylum design advocated by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride of Philadelphia. It is probable that the construction of the new asylum was inspired, in part, by the dramatic crusade in support of improved facilities for the mentally ill, led by Dorothea Lydne Dix, that was then sweeping the country. Listed in the National Register October 30, 1981. - SCDAH

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on October 30, 1981
Reference number
Architectural styles
Victorian: Renaissance; Other architectural type; Italian Renaissance Revival
Areas of significance
Architecture; Social History
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1850-1874
Significant years
ca. 1859; 1876; 1885
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 3

Update Log 

  • October 23, 2017: New photos from Michael Miller
  • October 20, 2017: New photos from Michael Miller
  • October 6, 2014: Updated by Michael Miller: Added "Alternate Name", "Description" & "Street Views" and Imported Photo
  • October 6, 2014: New Street View added by Michael Miller
  • August 11, 2014: New photos from Michael Miller