June 27, 2022

Construction on South Carolina’s State House began in 1855 and when the Civil War started only the foundation and exterior walls had been completed. Little work was done until 1885-95 when the interior decor was completed. The dome, porticos, and exterior steps were added last and the building was dedicated in 1907.

The primary designer of the State House was John R. Niernsee. His son Frank was largely responsible for completing the interior.

The State House offers tours Monday through Saturday but when we arrived on a Saturday, a note on the door said the building was closed. There were four women out front with signs who were displeased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recently announced decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. An officer told us their job was to keep people safe and that the State House would not be open that day.

Protesters in front of the State House June 27.

We returned to the State House for a guided tour on Monday, June 27.

Six bronze stars on the building’s blue granite mark hits by Union cannonballs in February 1865. Four cannonballs landed inside the structure, failed to explode and, reportedly, were launched back toward Union troops.
The State House features an exterior dome of steel and wood finished with copper. The statue in front is of Strom Thurmond, a U.S. Senator for 48 years.
An interior dome fits inside the exterior dome.
Wrought iron staircase bannisters are decorated with the state flower, the yellow jessamine.
Floors are made of pink Tennessee marble and Georgia white marble.
An arched ceiling fashioned from hand-made bricks was painted white during a renovation of the building 1995-98.
The House of Representatives is made up of 124 members each of whom serves for two years.
The center desk in the House of Representatives is made of British Honduran mahogany.
This mace is placed in front of the Speaker of the House when that body is in session. The mace was made in London in 1756.
The Senate is made up of 46 members each of whom serves a four-year term.
The Sword of State is positioned in front of the desk when the Senate is in session. This sword is a 1951 replacement for the 1704 original which was stolen.
Senate ceiling
The Joint Legislative Conference Room was formerly used as a legislative library.
A mosaic of 37,000 pieces of glass depicts the state’s seal and dates from the 1800’s.
Mosaic detail
The lobby of the State House includes comfortable sitting areas.
Lobby near the interior dome
This picture of South Carolina’s seal is courtesy of Wikimedia. The seal was designed by William Henry Drayton and Arthur Middleton and was adopted in 1776. Originally, it was two-sided but the images were later placed side-by-side for practical reasons. On the left is an oak tree, fallen and broken under a standing palmetto tree. The scene represents the battle between the defenders of the unfinished fort on Sullivan’s Island and the British fleet during the Revolutionary War. The motto means “Prepared in mind and resources”.

The image on the right portrays the Roman goddess Hope at dawn. She is walking on a shore littered with weapons. The motto means “While I breathe I hope”.

Categories: Travel

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