Way back Wednesday: Fireproof Building

Way Back Wednesday

Courtesy of The Library Of Congress

Courtesy of The Library Of Congress

Downtown Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s Wednesday and that means it is time to explore the history that surrounds the Lowcountry. This week, we head to downtown Charleston to learn about the Fireproof Building.

Located on 100 Meeting Street, the Fireproof Building was completed in 1827. Staying true to its name, the building coined the title of the first building of fireproof construction in the United States.

Home to the S.C. Historical Society since 1943, the Fireproof Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973. A marker erected in 2016 by South Carolina Historical Society reads:

“Constructed 1822-26, the County Records Building, known as the Fireproof Building, was designed by Charleston-born architect Robert Mills. Mills eliminated combustible materials from the design. Stone steps, flagstone flooring, and brownstone sills were used in place of wood. The brick vaulting on the interior carried the weight of the upper floors and eliminated the need for joists. The roof was clad in copper and all window sashes and frames were iron.”

The historical marker database

According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, construction for the Fireproof began in 1822; Because the building was designed to store public records safely, Robert Mills used noncombustible materials wherever possible. The construction featured brownstone columns with roughcast stucco and matching porticos on the north and south elevations. The porticos place the Fireproof Building within the Greek Revival style; it was the first public building in Charleston designed in that form.

“Both the high columnar portico raised on a basement arcade and the triple window treatment of the central window mass are typical of Mills’ work… The basement, porticoes, and cornices are of stone. The walls are of brick, stuccoed in imitation of the same. The design is in the simple Greek Doric style, without ornament, except that afforded by the porticoes which face each front.”

South Carolina Department of Archives and History

Today, the Fireproof Building is believed to be the oldest fire-resistant building in America. The building is open to the public and has served as the South Carolina Historical Society Museum since 2018.

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