City Directories and History: During the Revolutionary War tabby fortifications stretched across this site for the defense of Charleston from British attack. Developed after the war, with Lowndes Street running east-west through this space and Tobacco Street at its northern end, it soon became a muster ground for the State Arsenal, designed by Frederick Wesner and erected in the wake of the discovery of the Denmark Vesey insurrection plot in 1822.
Finished some years later, the arsenal stood two stories with a central arch and interior courtyard. The site became home to the South Carolina Military College in 1843. The Old Citadel, as it is now called, was renovated on several occasions before the college relocated to Hampton Park in 1822. The structure was raised in the late- nineteenth century, and two wings were added on the east and west in 1950. Although the central arch is original, the upper stories are additions and some of the fenestration has been altered. Extensively gutted in 1995-96 for reuse as an inn, the building is now entered from a new porte cochere on Meeting Street.
Images courtesy of the Library of Congress – HABS Collection
A row of houses standing along the western edge of the square was removed by 1883. Various monuments are scattered throughout the space. A memorial to John C. Calhoun was finally erected in 1887 by the Ladies Calhoun Monument Association, after decades of debate and fundraising. The initial statue on a pedestal was removed by 1896 for the present fluted stone pillar with cast-iron palmettos flanking its base and a raised statue of Calhoun, his back to the north, seemingly brooding over the street bearing his name. The square also includes a section of the Revolutionary War tabby fort, surrounded by a cast-iron fence; an obelisk monument to Gen. Wade Hampton; a memorial to Gen. Francis Marion; a cast- iron fountain capping an artesian well; and a memorial to Charleston’s great twentieth-century statesman and Supreme Court justice, James F. Byrnes. The latter accompanies the red brick bandstand, designed in the Moderne style by Augustus
Constantine in 1944 and dedicated to Charlestonians in the armed forces of WW II. The city covenanted long ago that the square should be kept open as a parade ground for the Washington Light Infantry and the Sumter Guards, antebellum organizations. A 1961 proposal to put a parking lot on this square was shelved after public outcry.
The Buildings of Charleston – J.H. Poston for the Historic Charleston Foundation, 1997 Also see information on the Marion Street Bandstand.
(The Old Citadel) The Old Citadel, which dominates Marion Square in the center of historic Charleston, has three-fold significance: Historically, in its origin as a State Arsenal and stronghold, the building of which in the mid-1820s was prompted by Charleston’s abortive black insurrection of 1822, the Denmark Vesey Plot; Architecturally, because of the exceptional use of semicircular arches of great thickness, unembellished by any architrave moldings around the face, and
supported on massive Doric columns, the arches enclosing the rectangular courtyard giving the interior a picturesque quality; Educationally, as the South Carolina Military Academy, liberal arts military college established in 1842 by the State Legislature. Added historical significance come from occupation of the Old Citadel by Federal troops from 1865 to 1881 and from the part Citadel cadets played in the Civil War. The original appearance of the arsenal was a plain, two-story brick building with a wooden parapet.
Bricks were laid in English bond, with interior arches enclosing a rectangular courtyard. The original architect was Frederick Wesner. From 1843, when the Citadel occupied the old arsenal, to 1922, when the campus was moved, the original building was twice made higher, and wings were added. These changes heightened the effect of the courtyard by superimposing two tiers of small arches above the original large spans, but the exterior lost its original character when it was altered by architect Edward B. White. Listed in the National Register July 16, 1970. (Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History)
View the complete text of the nomination form for this National Register property.
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