Hibernian Hall

Hibernian Hall

January 1841

In addition to hosting countless Hibernian society functions, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day banquet, the hall has been used for other major social events, most notably the January Ball of the St. Cecilia Society, Charleston’s oldest and most exclusive social function.

(Charleston). Designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter, Hibernian Hall is among the most significant examples of the Greek Revival in Charleston. In the early 1830s the Hibernian Society, a social and charitable organization founded in 1801 to provide aid to Irish immigrants and their families, began making plans to build a meeting hall. After acquiring property on Meeting Street nearly opposite the Fireproof Building, the society held a national competition for the architectural plans. The design submitted by Walter, who later oversaw the enlargement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., was ultimately chosen. Construction began in the spring of 1839 and was completed in January 1841.

Walter modeled his design for the building on the Ionic temple on the Ilissus in Athens. The hexastyle portico was originally executed in the Ionic order, but after collapsing in the 1886 earthquake it was awkwardly rebuilt with reproportioned columns and a Corinthian pediment with an Italianate window. Set above the entrance in relief is a gilded Irish harp. The side elevations feature Tuscan pilasters. In contrast to the restrained exterior styling, the interior is an elegant, dramatic space. An extraordinary rotunda with columnar balconies rises three stories to a coffered dome with oculus. The building is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and cast-iron gas lamps. In addition to hosting countless Hibernian society functions, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day banquet, the hall has been used for other major social events, most notably the January Ball of the St. Cecilia Society, Charleston’s oldest and most exclusive social function. The U.S. Department of the Interior designated the building a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

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

Severens, Kenneth. Charleston Antebellum Architecture and Civic Destiny. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Hibernian Hall
  • Coverage January 1841
  • Author
  • Keywords Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter, Greek Revival, aid to Irish immigrants and their families, hexastyle portico, wrought-iron fence, cast-iron gas lamps, National Historic Landmark
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 31, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 17, 2016
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