South Carolina Historical Society’s Collection Has A New Home

David Mantek - Fireproof BuildingThe South Carolina Historical Society (SCHS) is a non-profit founded in 1855 is the state’s largest and oldest archive of documents preserving South Carolina’s rich history. Its staggering collection of approximately 2 million documents has called the Fireproof Building in Charleston, South Carolina its home for almost a century.

Completed in 1827, the state of the art  fireproof structure was the first of its kind designed by Robert Mills solely for the purpose of housing and protecting public records. After all these years, the SCHS is moving its mounds of documents to a new home, about a mile away in the campus of College of Charleston.

The Fireproof Building, also known as the County Records Building, located in 100 Meeting Street is  is now being slowly emptied of its ancient collection and by late February will be unveiled in College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library. This move was brought on by two conflicting objectives of the Historical Society: to preserve the documents and to preserve the historical building and finally, the Society decided to move the archives from their longtime home.

It is estimated that shift will be completed by January 12 and the records, now being boxed up, are inaccessible till then.

Robert Mills, the famous designer of the Washington Monument and the U.S Treasury Building, designed the Fireproof Building in 1822. It was a revolutionary structure for its time with a combination of brick, brownstone and stucco making in inflammable, earning it the title of the ‘Fireproof Building.’ The building also has plenty of windows, flooding the rooms with ample natural light and reducing the use of candles.

The South Carolina Historical Society, however, did not begin leasing it until 1955 and moved completely in 1968.  John Tucker, SCHS’s Assistant Director, says that the Addlestone Library is a better choice in today’s time, providing advance climate and temperature controlled structure of the historical documents.

No document has mildewed yet in the Fireproof Building, but ideally the humidity levels for such documents should be in the range of 40-55, while its around 80 in the Fireproof Building and the Society’s Director of Archives and Research, Mary Jo Fairchild, recommends moving before the humidity level affects the documents.

Moreover, space issues in the old Fireproof Building necessitated the move as much as the humidity levels and the newly-renovated Addlestone Library, which opened in 2004, provides a solution for both of these issues.

After February, the library will become one of the major research libraries in South Carolina’s history, Southern history and Atlantic world history. The Society will retain ownership of the documents and will keep its office and other artifacts in the Fireproof Building.

The Society also has ambitious intentions for the Fireproof Building, with plans to turn in museum-like in motion. For full article on South Carolina Historical Society’s renovation and relocation plans, click here.