City Hall

Charleston, South Carolina | C.1804

Photo Credit: Nicholas Gore

The iconic City Hall building in Charleston is the second-oldest city hall in continuous use in the United States. Constructed between 1800 and 1804, the hall is situated on a historic corner of Charleston, and still plays a role in local government. 

In the 17th century, the site was a public market, serving specifically as a beef market from 1739 until a fire destroyed it in 1796. After this, the City Council conveyed the land to the Federal government for the purpose of erecting “an elegant building” that would serve as one of eight  branches of The First Bank of the United States. In 1811, Congress revoked the bank’s charter and the property was conveyed back to the City of Charleston. The building then became City Hall in 1818

Charleston resident Gabriel Manigault designed the building, and is credited with introducing the “Adamesque” style to the city after studying in Europe. The style was an offshoot of Neoclassicism, popularized by three Scottish architects (and siblings) known as the Adams brothers.

The building has marble detailing, arched window architraves, and all three types of Greek columns. The marble is believed to have originated in Italy before it was cut in Philadelphia. Originally, red brick walls offered a striking contrast to this marble trim, but the bricks were covered with stucco in 1882. 

Though the building has been altered and renovated over the years, the council chamber on the second floor remains the center of city government. Additionally, City Hall is one of more than 1400 historically significant buildings within the Charleston Old and Historic District.

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