Photograph of detail of wall on Greene Street, 2011

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

History of the Wall

Detail of wall from painting of South Carolina College, circa 1850
Campus wall along Sumter Street, ca. 1850, SCL

In 1808, three years after South Carolina College opened, the board of trustees investigated the cost of creating a wall around the campus. The board wanted to keep students from venturing into Columbia where they often caused trouble. But the college did not begin to build the wall until 1835. When completed a year later, the wall was six feet, nine inches high. It surrounded the main campus and had a single entrance on Sumter Street.

The college hired a carpenter, Thomas H. Wade, and a bricklayer, Thomas R. Davis, to construct the wall. The skilled slaves these men owned built the wall in just over a year. Slaves were also responsible for making the bricks. Slaves owned by John G. Brown made bricks for the wall at Brown’s brickyard on the Congaree River between Blossom and Greene Streets. When the price of bricks for the wall increased as construction continued in 1836, the trustees purchased cheaper bricks shipped in from Charleston.

Emma LeConte, an eyewitness to the burning of Columbia in 1865, credits the wall with saving the campus from destruction. Since then, the wall has been significantly altered or destroyed in a number of places as the campus grew and added buildings and parking lots. Our survey of the wall shows there are still several areas of original brickwork. The wall is in need of preservation and proper care to stabilize and prevent further decay and destruction.