I visited the State House on August 15, 2021. I have lived in the Columbia area for many years, though I’ve walked through its gardens many times, this was the first time I stepped inside this amazing building. I reveled over its architecture, history, mosaics, paintings, sculptures, gardens.
The first SC State House was built in Charleston in the 1750s. Its location was moved to Columbia in 1786. Both buildings were destroyed by fire so extra effort was taken to ensure the current one is fireproof. Our tour guide related that construction of the current State House began in 1855, it was delayed by 150 years due to the Civil War. The building was hit by General Sherman’s cannons in 1865. Six bronze stars have been affixed on the external wall at the points of contact. The building has gone through multiple renovations, the latest was completed in 1998.
Our tour guide explained about the Sword of State. The sergeant of Arms places the sword on the front desk of the Senate chamber causing the lights on each end of the desk to come on to indicate the senate is in session. The SC Senate is composed of 46 senators elected to four years terms.
The House of Representatives comprises 124 members elected for two years. Our tour guide talked about the mace on display on the back wall of the House chamber. It was made in London England in 1756. It is the oldest mace used in the US. The Sergeant at Arms places it on the front of the desk to symbolize the House is in session.
Paintings adorn the walls. They include portraits of James F Byrnes, Anne Cunningham, Benjamin Mays, Andrew Jackson… Many statues are on display inside the building and outside on the grounds. They include sculptures of George Washington, John C. Calhoun, Robert Lee etc. I should point out a beautiful mosaic of the Seal of South Carolina hanging in the main lobby. It dates back to the 1800s, it is made of 37,000 pieces of glass.
The grounds are an outdoor museum filled with stunning trees and 27 monuments. It was too hot a day to wander extensively. I vowed to return in the fall for another blog. I would like to mention the African American History monument, first of its kind on a statehouse ground. Dedicated in 2001, it was sculpted by Ed Dwight of Denver, CO. It is composed of 12 panels depicting the rich history of African Americans in South Carolina starting with the voyage from Africa, the auction block, slave labor, resistance, war between the states, emancipation, reconstruction, Jim Crow era, exodus north, desegregation, march to freedom, progress and triumph over adversity. I included a few photos of this interesting monument in this blog.