East Bay Street
City Directories and History: BENNETT’S RICE MILL
Constructed 1844; three walls demolished 1960 Thomas Bennett, architect
One facade remains of a large brick mill designed in the Classical Revival style, possibly by its owner, Gov. Thomas Bennett. The structure contained steam-powered mill apparatus that separated rice grains from husks. The Bennett and Lucas families owned most of the six mills operating in the city by 1860, producing more than 470 barrels of rice daily, each containing 600 pounds. Operating from the time of construction until 1911, when a hurricane in that year virtually ended the Lowcountry production of the crop, the building was part of a complex that included other buildings, water and rail access, and a mill pond. Bennett acquired the site by 1829, but the construction of this mill did not commence until 1844, and operation began in January 1845. Beginning as a 90-by-60-foot building, the Bennett Mill was slightly smaller than Chisolm’s Mill at 200 Tradd Street and substantially smaller than the West Point Mill, a Bennett owned facility at 14 Lockwood Drive.
A large wing was added in the mid-nineteenth century. The mill continued under Bennett family ownership and was capably managed by Washington Bennett’s foster son, Andrew Buist Murray. After closure the mill progressively deteriorated while national recognition of its architectural character increased. In 1952 the building was condemned, but both Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society worked toward its preservation, leasing the building for five years in 1958. Hurricane Donna in 1960 substantially weakened the deteriorated Bennett Mill. The city ordered
the building demolished except for sixty feet of the west wall, which was saved by local preservationists as a reminder of the mill’s industrial grandeur.
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
Preservation Art at Work: Courtesy of Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art: Rick Rhodes – photographer, Ronald Ramsey artist – preservationist, 2017. (For the last several decades, native Charlestonian Ronald Wayne Ramsey has focused on meticulously documenting historical buildings—particularly those slated for demolition—in his hometown. As old buildings in the historically-minded city become condemned and readied for demolition, he secrets himself inside and liberates various seemingly mundane objects from their impending destruction. Such objects, like hinges, shutter dogs, decorative ironwork, doorknobs, and other ubiquitous building artifacts gain new relevance once they become part of his salvaged collection, which traces architectural styles from Charleston’s rich architectural legacy. Along with these objects, Ramsey creates fastidiously detailed drawings of old building facades in the city. Text from the Ahead of the Wrecking Ball Exhibit – 2017)
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