Odds are you didn’t know that a trip to City Hall is also a lesson in art history, now did you? Here are some little-known facts about building that still sits at the Four Corners of Law, right on the corner of Meeting and Broad Street.
Constructed between 1800 and 1804, Charleston’s City Hall was erected in the Adamesque style. In 1800, the City Council proposed the idea of building an elegant building for the Federal government for the purpose of serving as a branch of The First Bank of the United States.
Charleston’s branch was one of eight in the country that served as the Office of Discount and Deposit. The architect, Gabriel Manigault, introduced the Adamesque style to the city after studying art in Europe. The semi-circular projection on the north side and the round windows in the basement are distinctive features of Manigault. The white marble trim was believed to have originated in Italy, and the original red brick walls contrasted well with the marble trim before the bricks were covered with stucco in 1882.
Local carpenters, Joseph Nicholson and Edward Magrath, and Mason Andrew Gordon constructed the beautiful and unique building. After being revoked by Congress in 1811, the bank was returned to the City of Charleston and transformed into City Hall in 1818.
Originally set aside as a public market within the Civic Square of the Grand Model in the 17th-century plan of the city, a beef market stood at the site from 1739 until 1796 when it was destroyed by a fire. A lot has changed since the beef-market days, and the famous intersection is now called the “Four Corners of Law” due to the four buildings on each corner: ecclesiastical, state, federal, and City Hall’s municipal law.
To create additional space on the second floor, the original interior entrance hall was changed in 1839. In 1882, the interior was modified, the new roof was added and the brick was covered with stucco. The second floor remains the center of city government with the council chamber. Today, the building is still a bustling place where elected officials, citizens, lawyers, and media can regularly be found.