Built to serve as the Charleston District Records Office, the Fireproof Building is often called the first building of fireproof construction in the United States.

Fireproof Building. South Caroliniana Library.

(Charleston). Built to serve as the Charleston District Records Office, the Fireproof Building is often called the first building of fireproof construction in the United States. Designed by Robert Mills, it was among the first major projects he undertook after his appointment to the South Carolina Board of Public Works in 1820. Construction began in 1822 and was completed in 1827. Mills used noncombustible materials wherever possible. The structure is built of brick finished in stucco and has a brownstone base. Barrel and groin vaults form the walls and ceilings of the first two stories. The oval stair hall in the center of the building is lit by a cupola and has a cantilevered stone stair that ascends three stories. The window frames and sash are made of iron, and the halls are paved with stone. Stylistically, the Greek-revival building is dominated by two monumental Doric porticos, each with a pediment and four columns resting on an arcaded basement. The completed building differed slightly from Mills’s original plans. Construction supervisor John G. Spindle eliminated the belt course and fluted columns specified by Mills, substituted quoins for horizontal channeling, and altered the cornice and third-story window openings. After being occupied by county offices for well over a century, the building was leased to the South Carolina Historical Society in 1955 and became the official headquarters of the organization in 1968. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1973.

Lane, Mills. Architecture of the Old South: South Carolina. Savannah, Ga.: Beehive, 1984.

Poston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City’s Architecture. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Fireproof Building
  • Author Daniel J. Vivian
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/fireproof-building/
  • Access Date July 19, 2018
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date May 17, 2016
  • Date of Last Update October 25, 2016