Georgetown County Courthouse an antebellum ornament


As South Carolina’s third-oldest city, Georgetown bristles with history, from the famed Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church to the Old Market Building to Mansfield Plantation.

It’s fitting then that critical Georgetown County matters are still settled in a nearly 200-year-old courthouse that was designed by the state’s most famous architect.

The Georgetown County Courthouse, drawn up by South Carolina native Robert Mills, the man who also designed the Washington Monument, was built in 1823-1824 for approximately $12,000.

Designed in a Classical Revival style, the structure replaced a previous courthouse that had been damaged by two destructive hurricanes.

Until about four years ago, the structure had continued to serve as the judicial hub for the county, despite being outdated in a number of respects.

Mrs. Cotton Boll, a South Carolina attorney, recalled being involved in a case in the antiquated edifice approximately eight years ago in the middle of a sweltering summer day when the judge stopped the proceedings in order to remove his robe. Fortunately, he was appropriately clothed beneath his judicial garb.

For the past few years, the courthouse has been undergoing an extensive renovation, receiving new carpet and paint throughout, having its ceiling and ductwork replaced, being rewired, and having its heating and cooling system updated.

Robert Mills, famed 19th century architect.

Robert Mills, famed 19th century architect.

While the county’s courts have been relocated to a new judicial center, County Council will still meet in the venerable building, as will aspects of the county’s public services department.

Mills (1781-1855) left his mark not only across South Carolina, but all along the East Coast.

Besides designing the Washington Monument, he also assisted James Hoban with the construction of the White House.

Mills also drew up plans for the Department of Treasury building, the US Patent Office Building and the General Post Office in Washington, and courthouses in at least 18 South Carolina counties, several of which survive.

Other Mills’ structures can be found in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Bedford and Newburyport, Mass., and Richmond, Va., where he designed the White House of the Confederacy, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis lived during the War Between the States.


Celebrating a historic SC church’s rebirth

One of South Carolina’s most historic churches held a homecoming service earlier this month to celebrate an extensive renovation project that enabled it to formally reopen its doors after nearly a decade.

The Church of the Holy Cross, located in the Sumter County community of Stateburg, traces its history back to 1852, when it was built by slaves.

The Gothic Revival cruciform-design church features walls of yellow pise de terre – or rammed earth – and a high-pitched roof of red tile, and contains a rare organ and original carved walnut pews, according to a description of the Episcopalian house of worship on the National Register of Historic Places.

Using an ancient building technique, slaves “pummeled Georgia red clay into wooden forms to create monolithic walls, 18-inches thick,” according to The State newspaper.

By packing earth between wooden molds, tamping it down, and leaving it to dry, the earth became as hard as baked brick.

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SC leaders led push to regulate slaves’ lives

Don Boudreaux of Café Hayek takes time to highlight an interesting piece from David Freeman Hawke’s 1988 book Everyday Life in Early America; relating, in this instance, to 17th century life in the Palmetto State:

“Peter H. Wood found little discrimination in early South Carolina. ‘Common hardships and the continuing shortage of hands,’ he writes [in 1974], ‘put the different races, as well as separate sexes, upon a more equal footing than they would see in subsequent generations.’ Many scholars now conclude that discrimination set in only during the last quarter of the century when a ‘series of court decisions and statutes began closing the gates of freedom along racial lines,’ changes that finally became codified in Virginia’s slave code of 1705.”

Admittedly not having read the book, a question is raised by the above paragraph:

South Carolina was officially settled by the English in 1670, so are we simply talking about a five-year period before “discrimination set in (1670-1675)?”

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