Serving as the epicenter of South Carolina politics, the State House is more than just a place for elected officials to perform their duties.
It’s absolutely stunning and rich with history.
Legislators are back for regular session starting Tuesday, Jan. 12, and the public is welcome to watch the House and Senate at work from designated areas.
The State House’s Tour Office also offers free guided tours through May every half hour starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m., except for noon and 12:30 p.m. The State House is open for tours on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, though groups of 10 or more should make reservations at (803) 734-2430
Visitors are also welcome to tour the building on their own.
Here, five must-see parts of the State House:
Palmetto Regiment Monument
One of the oldest monuments on the State House grounds is one that fits in well with the flora of the state. The monument, erected in 1852, honors the Palmetto Regiment from South Carolina that fought in the Mexican War in 1847. The beautiful and intricate workmanship of the piece looks strikingly like a Palmetto tree.
The monument sits on Assembly Street side of the State House grounds.
“Battle of Cowpens”
The State House boasts about 50 works of art related to South Carolina history, and one of the most significant includes a painting by William Ranney in the Senate antechamber.
The painting depicts the Battle of Cowpens, outside of Spartanburg, and is one of the few paintings featuring a black soldier in combat during the Revolutionary War. Historians have identified the soldier as a freed bugler with the last name of Ball, Collin or Collins, according to the National Park Service. The black soldier is credited with saving the life of Lt. Col. William Washington, a distant relative of President George Washington.
Sword of State and Mace
Representing the authority of the Legislature, the sergeant-at-arms places a sword on a rack at the front of the Senate chamber, which turns on lamps to signify when the Senate is in session.
The sword, etched with the Yellow Jessamine state flower, was a gift from a former British ambassador to the United States in 1951, after the original sword disappeared in 1941.
A sergeant-at-arms will do the same with a mace in the House Chamber. The mace, made in 1756 of silver and gold, is the oldest mace in use by a legislative body in the country.
Construction of the current State House started in the mid-1850s as a result of calls for a fireproof building but was halted during the Civil War. When Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman marched through Columbia, cannons struck the unfinished State House, causing minor damage. Six bronze stars were placed to mark where cannon balls hit during Sherman’s attack.
The State House was completed in 1907.
The late Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s desk
Pinckney was a 41-year-old pastor and state senator representing several Lowcountry counties when he was among nine killed in June at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church.
For months following his death, a black cloth draped the Democrat’s desk in the Senate chamber. Since then, a new senator has been elected to fill his unexpired term, and the cloth no longer sits there. Senators move closer to the front of the room the more seniority they have. Pinckney’s desk is the third desk from the back, in the second row on the left when facing Sumter Street.
Visiting the S.C. State House
Legislators come back into session starting Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Visitors are allowed to view Senate and House action from designated areas. Visitors will be directed once there.
Guided tours of the State House are offered year-round, including every half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through June.
For more information, visit www.southcarolinastatehouse.com.