CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- At the end of Broad St. sits one of Charleston’s most recognizable buildings, but many visitors may not know this major tourist attraction has a ghastly past.
Built in 1771, the Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon is riddled with legends of pirate prisoners and Revolutionary traitors.
The storied past does not begin with the construction of the Exchange Building. In the early 1700s, the site was home to the Half Moon Battery and in 1718, the first pirate prisoners were held captive in the dungeon. Pirates like Captain Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet were among the most prolific prisoners. Bonnet and his crew were imprisoned within the walls of the Battery and executed in White Point Gardens. It is rumored their spirits still haunt the halls where they were held captive.
But the Provost Dungeon’s most famous execution came in 1781. . Isaac Hayne, born in 1745, was a wealthy landowner and entrepreneur and became a captain in the militia in 1176 in the midst of the American Revolution.
During this time, British forces occupied Charleston and Sir Henry Clinton threatened to confiscate the property of anyone who continued to resist Royal authority and promised protection for those who swore allegiance to the Crown. Isaac Hayne was one of these people who agreed to Sir Clinton’s terms, but on one condition: he would submit to royal authority so long as the British occupied Charleston, but once patriot forces pushed them out, he would no longer be tied to the British militia. This agreement would prove to be Hayne’s downfall.
Major General Nathaniel Greene made significant strides in retaking Charleston which led Hayne to believe he was free of the agreement he made. But, it wasn’t until he captured an American general who had joined the British forces, that his fate was sealed. Labeled a traitor to the Crown, Hayne was captured and imprisoned in the Provost Dungeon. A few days later he was hanged in the streets without a chance to see his wife or children.
Visitors have reported encounters with Hayne’s unsettled spirit at the Provost Dungeon with rumors of disembodied screams and the sound of moving shackles. Some have even reported seeing “staff members” dressed in Revolutionary-era garb, only to disappear as guests get closer.
Now the Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon function as a museum and guests can tour the building and the dungeon below. The spot is also a popular stop on Charleston ghost tours.