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Take a Scavenger Hunt on USC’s Horseshoe

Kerry Egan Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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USC's Horseshoe.
USC's Horseshoe is more than just a pretty place. It's full of surprises, too.

The Horseshoe is the oldest part of the University of South Carolina's campus. The buildings ringing the wide lawns date from the early 19th century. Massive old trees dot the grass. If you were to imagine what college looks like, you would imagine the Horseshoe.

And in the midst of this bucolic, collegiate beauty, there are treasures to be found. Some of the natural sort, some artistic and some just fun.

To begin your scavenger hunt, start in front of the brick walls where College Street ends at Sumter Street.

Can you discover the original name for USC?

The large historical marker sign under the live oaks will tell you. The university was founded as South Carolina College in 1801, and was rechartered as University of South Carolina in 1865.

As you face into the Horseshoe, turn right and enter through the pedestrian opening next to the big wrought-iron gates.

Can you find two pineapples?

Cast-iron pineapples sit atop the brick wall on either side of a garden gate next to Lieber College. A beautiful formal rose garden is hidden back there. Go on in.

Look up. Can you find letters looming high up in the sky? The letters USC are painted on an old brick smoke stack you can see in the near distance.

Leave the garden on the other side of the building, between two more pineapples.

Can you find stars, stripes, a palmetto and a moon floating in the breeze?

Find the flagpole in the middle of a grassy field in front of you. The stars and stripes belong to the US flag, of course. But if you're a visitor to South Carolina, you might be curious about the palmetto and moon. They're the symbols on our state flag, a white crescent and outline of a palmetto tree on a midnight blue background. They represent the important and improbable defeat of the British at Sullivan's Island during the Revolutionary War, when a fort made of palmetto trees saved the American patriots. Turns out that cannon balls bounce off palmetto trees!

Bonus tree fact: The towering grove of trees all around you has won numerous recognitions and awards for its historical and botanical importance.

Can you find a history tree? What about a chemistry tree? Physics? English?

The trees have tiny plaques bolted to them, with the names of professors and their departments. How many different subjects can you find?

Cross the grass all the way to the other side, to the South Caroliniana Library. To the left of the building is another small wrought-iron gate. Go through, and you'll find yourself in another secret garden.

Can you find four dragons?

The dragons are at the top of the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. The fountain is dedicated to veterans of both the Revolutionary War and World War II.

Can you find a ball too big to play with?

A cannon ball, reputed to be one that landed on Columbia during Sherman's siege of the city during the Civil War, sits on the far end of the garden. Just to its right is another garden gate. Leave through it and turn right to walk back into the Horseshoe. Look left.

Can you find a tree covered in warts?

The growths on the tree aren't really warts at all. They're just part of the tree, but they do make it look like a witch's nose, don't they?

Head out toward the middle of the grass again.

Can you find the big stone "M"?

The stone M is on the column of the memorial in the middle of the Horseshoe. The Maxcy Monument was built in 1827 by students to honor the first president of the university (then college), the Rev. Jonathan Maxcy.

Facing the top of the horseshoe, head down the brick path that leads toward 2 o'clock. Keep your eyes on the ground.

Can you find the rock star bricks?

The members of Hootie and the Blowfish first met and played together at the University. They bought five charity bricks in the walkway. They're about halfway down the path.

Can you find the tree that kisses the ground to make a cave?

Walk to the end of the walkway and look left. You can't miss the live oak at the end of the horseshoe that spills over to inviting benches, making a leafy cave that kids love to play in.

Head to the large brick building at the very top of the Horseshoe.

Can you find the giants with a magnifying glass and quill?

The two stone sculptures, representing arts and sciences, stand atop the McKissick Museum. Pop in to discover even more treasure inside.

To learn more about USC's Horseshoe, click here. 


Kerry Egan
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.