Day trip to visit our 21st Capitol
Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
253Trip End Dec 31, 2014
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As some of you may remember, we are on a mission to visit all of the State Capitols in our travels. It surprised me to find that the last one we had visited was in Texas back in 2010. I guess we haven't been to very many new states lately? Discovering that we were about 70 miles from the capital of South Carolina made the need for a day trip a no brainer!
We were on the road early today and decided to make our first stop at the South Carolina State Museum and SC Confederate Relic Room. These are both located in what was once a canvas 'duck' fabric mill. The building was, in fact, the first fabric mill to be powered completely by electricity. We spent a very enjoyable 3 hours touring the museums. Both are very well done and worth your time if should ever find yourself in this area.
Next up was the South Carolina State House, which is what they call the Capitol here. South Carolina was one of the original colonies and it's first State House was built in Charlerston in the 1750's. The British Crown, in an attempt to populate more of the colony offered 50 acres, free, to every family member who was willing to settle in the 'up country' of South Carolina. Along with the free land came a promise of no taxes for 10 years and assistance in purchasing needed supplies for two years.
The up country area become populated and the need arose to move the State House to a more central location. After lots of 'politicing & horse trading' the decision was made to move the State House to a wilderness area along the Congaree River. The town name had to be voted on and the capital city was than carved out of the wilderness. Columbia is our nations first planned capital city. The first State House, made of wood was completed in 1790. This wooden State House, and a second also made of wood, both burned to the ground.
Construction of the present State House began in the 1850's. The new building was to be built of granite in an attempt to make it fire proof. The new State House was only partially completed when South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union in 1861. Construction on the building slowed during the Civil War years. The invasion of South Carolina by General Shermans troops in 1865 forced the construction to a halt.
General Shermans occupation of Columbia resulted in one-third of the city being burned, including the existing wooden State House. Building material, construction equipment, and architectural plans for the new State House were also destroyed. With only its exterior walls and foundation completed and with the old wooden State House in ashes, the legislature met at the nearby University of South Carolina for two years.
From 1867 to the mid 1880's little major work was done to complete the State House other than to make it functional. Much of the present interior decor was completed between 1885-1895. The dome, porticos and exterior steps were the last features added and the building was declared complete in 1907.
A complete renovation of the State House occured between 1995-1998. The interior colors chosen are meant to depict colors that were popular in the 1880's. The renovations also included extensive modification to the buildings basement and foundation, making it South Carolinas first retrofitted, earthquake-proof building.
Of particular interest to us were the six bronze stars on the exterior of the building. These stars mark damage that was done by General Shermans cannons prior to his troops arrival in the city in February 1865.
We enjoyed our self guided tour of the State House as well as the grounds. When we finished we headed across the street for a quick bite to eat and than headed out for a quick driving tour of the cities historic homes. Of particualr interest to us was the home used by Union troops as headquarters and the cottage occupied by Mary Chestnut, well known for her diary, from 1864-1865.