City Directories and History: The Old Slave Mart was originally a commercial building used for slave trading and other transactions from 1853 until the Civil War. The stuccoed building with its rounded arch entrance is a visual reminder of commercial activities of antebellum South Carolina. The building is probably the only extant building used as a slave auction gallery in antebellum South Carolina. The building, built in 1853, has elements of Gothic and Romanesque Revival architecture with its massive octagonal pillars and arched entrance. Built for former
Charleston sheriff and alderman Thomas Ryan, the Mart was also used by other principal brokers (auctioneers) of the time. Alterations include extension of the rear of the building about 22 feet in 1922. In 1937 a wooden façade was inserted within the arch, a second floor added below the original roof, and the tile roof replaced with a tin roof. Following the Civil War, the building was used as a tenement house and about 1922 was converted into an automobile salesroom. Old Slave Mart Museum was established in 1937.
The Mart originally included two additional lots and three additional buildings, a jail or “Barracoon” to house slaves prior to sale, a kitchen, and a morgue. The back two lots were cut off in 1875 and the jail, kitchen, and morgue were demolished in the 20th century. Listed in the National Register May 2, 1975. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
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OLD SLAVE MART
Constructed circa 1859 Rebuilt in its present form 1870s
“Through the 1850s, the city passed ordinances to attempt to centralize and regulate slave sales, and various privatized sales areas sprung up along Chalmers, State, and Queen Streets. Ryan’s Mart on Queen Street, converting a four-story brick double tenement into a barracoon, extended to this Chalmers Street site with an area for auctions. Z. B. Oakes, a transplanted New Englander, purchased the site in 1859 and created a shed for sales with a roof trussed to the building next door and supported by octagonal pillars.
In the 1870s the structure was refitted as a tenement. In 1938 the property was established as a privately owned museum of African and African American art and history by Charlestonian Miriam B. Wilson. Today the city of the structure and with the South Carolina African American History Council is developing long-range plans for establishment of a museum on this site.”
Information from: The Buildings of Charleston – J.H. Poston for the Historic Charleston Foundation, 1997
Other sources of interest: Charleston Tax Payers of Charleston, SC in 1860-61 and the Dwelling Houses of Charleston by Alice R.H. Smith – 1917 The HCF may also have additional data at: Past Perfect and further research can be uncovered at: Charleston 1861 Census Schedule or The Charleston City Guide of 1872
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