(Columbia). Located at 1338 Main Street, the Barringer Building enjoys the distinction of being Columbia’s first skyscraper. At twelve stories, the 1903 structure once was such a prominent landmark within the capital city that citizens were known to have remarked, “Augusta, why it’s only eighty miles from the skyscraper!” This popularity even prompted the building’s likeness to be captured on postcards, particularly in the years immediately following the skyscraper’s construction.
Designed by the New York architect James Brite, the Barringer Building initially was home to the National Loan and Exchange Bank, the largest financial institution in South Carolina. However, the property derives its name instead from a later owner, the Barringer Corporation, which operated there from 1953 to 1974.
Architecturally, the Barringer Building draws its inspiration from the Chicago School of design that came into vogue in the 1880s. By that time in America, engineering advancements allowed modern buildings to reach greater heights with the advent of steel girder construction, high-pressure water systems, and electric elevators. Stylistically, the Barringer Building resembles a column. The first and second floors constitute a rusticated base achieved through limestone blocks. Meanwhile, nine stories of red masonry, contrasting sharply with the floors below, are visually analogous to the shaft. The topmost floor represents the column’s capital, which juxtaposes sandstone keystones and garlands with a red brick background. Following renovations in the 1960s, this story’s most distinctive feature, a copper cornice, thought then to have been a safety hazard, has been missing. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
“Columbia’s Modern Skyscraper.” Columbia State, October 18, 1903, p. 23.