City Directories and History: Constructed over an extended period from 1851 – 1907. An extraordinary architectural achievement of Neo-Classical design by
numerous architects: John Rudolph Niernsee & Gustavus Theodore Berg (1851-1885), Frank McHenry Niernsee & Edwin White (1888 – 1891), Frank Pierce Milburn (1900), Charles Coker Wilson (1905 – 1907), and Albert Whitner Todd & James D. Benson (1913).
An example of Neo-Classical architecture, the South Carolina Statehouse is a three-story, domed edifice of granite, marble, brick and iron.
Vienna-born architect John Niernsee began the structure in 1851, but the Civil War and post-war poverty slowed progress on the building. For unknown reasons, the building was spared in General W. T. Sherman’s 1865 burning of Columbia, though the structure did suffer damage from shelling and burning of the nearby old statehouse. Following the Civil War, between 1869 and 1874, the only state legislature in American history with an African American majority sat here. In 1876, the Democrats, lead by Wade Hampton conducted the “Red Shirt” campaign against Daniel H. Chamberlain and the Republicans. Both sides claimed victory and two speakers and two Houses began conducting deliberations in the same hall. On April 10, 1877, fulfilling part of the compromise that had allowed his
inauguration, President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew Federal troops. The following day Hampton and his supporters assumed full control of state government. From 1888 to 1891, Niernsee’s son, Frank McHenry Niernsee, served as architect and much of the interior work was completed. In 1900 Frank Milburn served briefly as architect, but was replaced in 1905 by Charles Coker Wilson who finally finished the exterior in 1907. Listed in the National Register June 5, 1970; Designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976.
(Courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History)
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