Building Blues

Guests on my walking tours are impressed with “ugliest building in town”, as the new U.S. Post Office building was jokingly called when it opened in 1896. What sets it apart from so much of Charleston’s historic architecture that typically featured wood or stucco exteriors, is that the courthouse cladding is blue granite. This unusual granite color comes from its igneous origins with particles of mica, feldspar and quartz, and was first mined in 1883 in Fairfield County, whose county seat is the town of Winnsboro. The colorful stone became very popular in construction projects at the turn of the 20th century, and in 1909, 5.3 miles of Charleston curb was laid in Winnsboro granite. Charleston architect John Henry Devereux designed the courthouse in a Renaissance Revival style in 1887, but the construction was held up by a stone cutters’ strike, and not finished until 1896. The bulky, rusticated nature of the stone raised enough eyebrows that, at first, it was considered ugly by local folks, but now a prominent landmark of the Four Corners of Law.

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