Digging Up History at the Charleston City Hall

By:Amy Holtcamp

Date:1/7/2011

south carolina charleston city hall
Charleston City hall is a center place for history in the south.

I love discovering something new in a city I’ve been to a hundred times.


On a recent visit to Charleston I was walking up Gallery Row towards Meeting Street and happened to glance in the window of the basement level of City Hall. I saw what looked like a museum exhibit, and I couldn’t help but take a peak inside.


I was rewarded with a tiny, free exhibit chronicling not only the history of the building but also the findings of the archeologists who used the structure’s 2006 remodel to go even further back in Charleston’s past.


The building that stands at 80 Broad St. now was built between 1800 and 1804 to serve as a bank. However, the bank failed and by 1818 it had become City Hall.


But before the bank was built, the corner of Market and Broad housed the city’s beef market, which was destroyed by fire in 1796. The archeologists who worked on the site in the 2000s found the market’s foundation and other artifacts that added to our knowledge of everyday life in 18th century Charleston. Today, in the basement of City Hall, you can see some of them. Displays include 18th century cleavers and even animal bones with the butchers’ markings etched in them. The rest of the discoveries are in the Charleston Museum’s collection.


When you visit City Hall, make sure to head upstairs too. There, in the Council Chamber on the second floor, you will find a portrait gallery that includes a portrait of George Washington by John Trumball.


Incidentally, City Hall is part of what Robert Ripley (of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! fame) called the “Four Corners of the Law.” The four buildings on each corner of Market and Broad represent four different arms of the law -- City Hall (local), the Charleston County Courthouse which was originally constructed as the S.C. provincial capitol (state), the U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse (Federal) and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (ecclesiastical).


The City Hall building is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. (It might also be of interest to some travelers that the basement of City Hall also houses some of the nicest public restrooms in Charleston.)

Related Content

Charleston’s Museums Help Students of all Ages Learn the Stories Behind the History
Charleston has so many museums, they take up a whole mile. Come explore the city’s history, arts and culture at more than a dozen locations.
Exploring Charleston's History, Art and Architecture
Charleston, South Carolina offers visitors an endless array of arts and culture. Spend a full weekend enjoying the history and beauty of the Holy City.

Featured Products

City of Charleston
Coast

Charleston

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Known as the "Holy City", for its long tolerance for religions of all types, Charleston is the state's most beautiful and historic treasure. Charleston has had a starring ...
Charleston City Hall
Coast

Charleston

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
On the site of a Colonial marketplace, this handsomely proportioned 1801 building first housed the Bank of the United States and then became Charleston's City Hall in 181 ...

Featured products and attractions in "Digging Up History at the Charleston City Hall"

Nearby Attractions

  • {{item.name}}

You might also like:

City of Charleston
Coast

Charleston

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Known as the "Holy City", for its long tolerance for religions of all types, Charleston is the state's most beautiful and historic treasure. Charleston has had a starring ...