(Columbia). Deriving its name from the U-shape orientation of its nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings massed around a central green space, the Horseshoe constitutes the historic heart of the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus and features the capital city’s greatest concentration of historic buildings. Situated in a west-to-east fashion, the Horseshoe is bounded by Sumter Street to the west, Gibbes Green to the east, and Works Progress Administration–era dormitories to its north and south. No longer home to university professors, the Horseshoe’s buildings continue to serve as dormitories, classrooms, and administrative offices.
The Horseshoe’s construction began in 1803. The “college grounds,” as it was then known, derived its design from a competition in which Charlestonian Robert Mills submitted plans for buildings that drew their inspiration from styles associated with colleges in the Northeast. While Mills’s initial designs did not come to fruition, his later concepts were adopted in the construction that followed.
The first structures erected were “South Building” in 1805, later named Rutledge College, and “North Building” in 1809, which became DeSaussure College. Shortly thereafter, a home for the college’s president was erected on these buildings’ eastern flanks (replaced in 1940 by McKissick Library, known as McKissick Museum since 1976). Further construction followed. The President’s House (1810) and McCutcheon House (1813) both originally served as faculty residences. Another faculty residence, Lieber College (1836), and several student residence halls—Elliott (1837), Pinckney (1837), Harper (1847), and Legare (1847) Colleges—were built to accommodate increasing enrollments. A Mills-designed project was realized in 1840 on the completion of South Caroliniana Library, the nation’s oldest free-standing college library.
With its masonry and stucco three- and four-story buildings, the Horseshoe’s architectural feel is that of a neoclassical historic district. Stylistically compatible 1930s-era buildings serve as buffers from modern style 1960s and 1970s structures on campus. The Horseshoe was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Bryan, John Morrill. An Architectural History of the South Carolina College, 1801–1855. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1976.
Clark, Robert C. University of South Carolina: A Portrait. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
Green, Edwin L. History of the Buildings of the University of South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1909.
Morris, Philip. “A Walk through History on Campus.” Southern Living 18 (September 1983): 82–87.