South Carolina State House
Columbia SC 29201
The elegant South Carolina State House -- constructed almost entirely of marble and blue granite -- sits at the heart of downtown Columbia, a city established by design at the geographical center of the Palmetto State. Construction on the copper-domed home of the state's legislative bodies and governor's office first began in 1855, but was halted in February 1865 after being burned by General George Sherman's Union Army during the Civil War. Year-round tours of the capitol, which was finally completed in 1903, allow guests to soak in the history of one of the original 13 colonies.
Parking and public transportation at S.C. State House
Parking is allowed in metered spaces along Sumter Street, Assembly Street, Senate Street and Pendleton Street, all a short walk away from the State House grounds. The COMET, Columbia's public transportation system, has a daily route -- 201 Rosewood -- that stops every half hour at the corner of Gervais and Assembly Streets, directly in front of the State House, and several others -- 101, 401 and 601 -- that stop within a block or two. Visit catchthecomet.org to view connecting routes and times from various sections of Columbia.
Best and worst time to go to S.C. State House
From January to May, when the legislature is in session, guided tours of the interior and grounds are offered every half hour each weekday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with the exception of noon and 12:30 p.m. From June to December, tours are offered every hour on the half hour, with the exception of 12:30 p.m. If you prefer to tour at your own pace using a brochure available in the State House, try a self-guided tour on a Saturday, when the building is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Columbia is notorious for its sweltering summers, so if you are visiting from mid-June to late August, avoid touring the grounds in the heat of the afternoon, when pop-up thunderstorms are common.
Admission to S.C. State House
Tours are free to the public and walk-ins are encouraged. Groups of more than 10 are asked to call 803-734-2430 and reserve a time.
Must see/do at S.C. State House
Take in the wonders of the second-floor Main Lobby, which provides an interior view of the dome, opens to the House and Senate chambers, and is full of intricate carvings, historic paintings and a trio of stained-glass windows custom made for the state. Reserve some extra time to savor a stroll around the lush, landscaped grounds that are dotted with historic monuments, including a rare bronze statue of George Washington, native sons who were generals in the Revolutionary War and the elegant Palmetto Regiment monument, the State House's oldest, which is shaped like a Palmetto tree and honors the state's regiment in the Mexican War. On your walk around the building, look for the six bronze stars that mark the exact spots where Union cannonballs hit the capitol's exterior.
Other places to visit near S.C. State House
Only one block south of the State House on Sumter Street is the University of South Carolina's Horseshoe, the original part of campus that includes lush expanses of lawn, stately oak trees, wide brick walkways, a number of historic buildings that date to the early 1800s and the McKissick Museum, which is free to the public and contains exhibitions on Southern history and culture. For dinner, visit the Motor Supply Company, an enticing bistro in the nearby Congaree Vista shopping and dining district. The eatery features a menu that changes daily and features a blend of American, French, Italian and Asian cuisine made from scratch using ingredients from local farms.
Insider tip for visitors to S.C. State House
The capitol actually has two domes. The one that can be seen from the Main Lobby's ceiling is a false dome that was constructed for aesthetic purposes, not the one visible from the outside. Although it is directly underneath the larger exterior dome, the interior dome is offset so it is in the exact center of the lobby.
Author's bio: Kevin Adams is a freelance writer who is a South Carolina native and has had travel articles appear on USAToday.com and in Golfweek magazine.