Photograph of Longstreet Theatre

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

Longstreet Theatre, 1855

Detail of Longstreet Theatre from 1888 Sanborn Map
Longstreet Theatre, 1888 Sanborn Map, SCL

The building known today as Longstreet Theatre was originally intended to be a college hall, a space designated for ceremonial activities such as commencement and worship services. In 1851, prompted by the limited space in the original chapel for the commencement exercises that took place that year, the state legislature granted an appropriation to South Carolina College, which gave the board of trustees permission to build the new hall. The committee created by the board of trustees to oversee the construction of the new building was granted permission to spend up to $24,000 for this project, and ultimately contracted James Troy and Thomas H. Wade to construct the building for $23,450. The committee also hired architect Jacob Graves to design the building at a cost of $300.

A variety of problems, such as a significant increase in the cost of building materials and the vague plans that Graves submitted, plagued the building’s construction from its onset, ultimately forcing Troy and Wade to default on their contract. The college replaced them with the contractor William Maybin, who saw the building to its completion. Construction was more than likely completed with slave labor and the building itself was completely finished by November 1855, with a total cost of $34,000. Ultimately, the poor acoustics of the building prevented it from serving as a chapel or college hall as was originally intended. During the Civil War, both southern and northern troops used the building as an arsenal and military hospital.

Detail of Longstreet Theatre from bird's-eye drawing of Columbia, 1872
Bird’s-eye view of Longstreet Theatre, 1872, LOC
Photograph of Longstreet Theatre, circa 1860
Longstreet Theatre, ca. 1860, SCL