Publication Abstract




Proceedings of the 21st Annual Members' Conference, 1996, San Francisco, CA, (DFI)

Seismic Renovation: South Carolina State House, Columbia, South Carolina
Larry Rayburn & Terry Tucker

The history of the South Carolina State House is an intriguing story that parallels much of the rich history of the state. During the post-revolutionary era, the capitol was moved from Charleston to a more central location in Columbia. In 1849, a desire to protect the state’s records led to the decision to construct a new building to house them. Originally designed to accommodate expansion, the legislature decided to proceed with a larger plan. However, by 1854 it became clear that there were structural faults in the uncompleted building. At this point the Commissioners for the State House called in a new consulting architect, John Rudolph Niernsee, who was born in Vienna, and studied architecture and engineering in Prague. On the basis of his recommendations, the legislature ordered the building razed. The design of the State House was in the Roman Corinthian style. Essentially, the State House is the product of two building periods, 1855-1863, 1883-1902 and one major period of alteration from 1959-1969. In the first period, the exterior walls and part of the ground floor were completed; in the second, the interiors were completed and porticos and dome added. Finally, in the mid-20th century, major alterations removed or covered much of the 19th century work. In February 1865, the 13th Iowa Regiment of Sherman’s 17th Corps attacked Columbia. However, the bombardment and heat from the burning of the old State House did minor damage. To this day, six gold stars mark the locations where cannonballs struck the west front of the building. In the early 1990’s, the State of South Carolina retained the services of Stevens & Wilkinson, an architectural & engineering firm located in Columbia, to design a major renovation and retrofit effort. Owing to the geological history of the region, (1886 Charleston Mb=6.8 Earthquake), and with the understanding that 9 major tectonic features have been identified in the area surrounding Columbia, Stevens & Wilkinson was charged with developing a seismic protection plan to ensure that the history of the State House will be preserved for centuries to come. To develop the seismic design, Stevens & Wilkinson engaged the services of Structural Affiliates International, Inc. (SAI), of Nashville, TN. The principal features of the seismic isolation work are: engineering & monitoring, excavation, foundation underpinning, wall stiffening and doweling to underpinning, transfer beams, shoring & bracing, new foundation elements, adjustable loading & jacking system, base isolators, and the construction of an isolation or mote wall surrounding the structure. Richard Goettle, Inc. (RGI) is responsible for the foregoing work with the exception of concrete placement.


 article #86; publication #18 (AM-1996)