Pisé de terre, or “rammed earth,” is an ancient form of building construction. Clay is the basic material in rammed earth buildings. After a foundation of brick or stone is laid, clay is poured into wooden molds and then tamped until solid. Additional layers are added until the walls reach the desired height, and the finished walls are coated with stucco. In the mid–nineteenth century Dr. William W. Anderson, a Maryland native who settled in Stateburg in 1810, used it to create two of South Carolina’s most distinctive works of architecture: the Borough House and the Church of the Holy Cross. He was influenced by S. W. Johnson, who introduced methods of rammed earth construction to America through his book Rural Economy (1806). In 1821 Anderson used the technique to rebuild the wings of the Borough House, the main building at his Hill Crest Plantation, and several outbuildings. In 1850 Anderson persuaded the Episcopal congregation of Stateburg to use pisé de terre in constructing the Church of the Holy Cross, a Gothic-revival structure designed by the Charleston architect Edward C. Jones. The Borough House and its outbuildings constitute the largest complex of pisé de terre buildings in the United States. The U.S. Department of the Interior designated the Church of the Holy Cross and the Borough House as National Historic Landmarks in 1973 and 1978, respectively.
“Dr. William W. Anderson’s Use of an Ancient Building Material in Stateburg.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 85 (January 1984): 71–77.