Historic campus takes a bow in new exhibit
By Marshall Swanson, University Magazine Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-0138
It's older than most of the buildings on the Horseshoe and has served as a silent sentinel of the university's original campus for more than 175 years.
And yet, the historic brick wall built in 1836 that surrounds the original campus has had a tendency to gradually disappear into the background of an expanding urban campus, though it never has been forgotten.
The proof is in a detailed new exhibit in the Lumpkin Foyer of the South Caroliniana Library through Oct. 27 based, in part, on a recent study of the wall by Public History Program graduate students. The study and exhibit have rekindled an awareness of the structure and will serve as guides to its restoration.
"I'm pleased the exhibit and study are getting some attention," said university archivist Elizabeth West, who created the exhibit and worked with the public history students under the supervision of Public History Director Robert R. Weyeneth during their survey of the wall in the spring of 2011.
"I hope Carolina students will look at the exhibit because I want them to realize history is right there for them to reach out and touch as they walk up Greene Street and other parts of the campus," West added.
Originally built as a way of keeping unruly students of South Carolina College from sneaking off campus to frequent taverns and other businesses of ill repute, the 6-foot, 9-inch high wall encompassed an area bounded by Sumter, Greene, Bull and Pendleton streets.
It never was effective in keeping students on the campus. But in February 1865 during the Civil War when Columbia burned during the occupation of the city by Union forces, the wall helped protect the campus from the conflagration and "never rendered finer service," wrote the late Daniel W. Hollis in his two-volume history of the university.
Through the ensuing years, the wall was significantly altered and at other times was abused or ignored as the urban campus grew and the college underwent numerous periods of significant change, West said.
When Elizabeth Oswald, Jennifer Betsworth and JoAnn Zeise conducted their survey of the wall as part of their public history coursework, they noted damage, repairs and materials used in areas of the structure that had been rebuilt.
Among findings of their first ever structural assessment of the wall were the discovery of damaged bricks in nearly every section; the use of Portland cement for repairs, which caused stress on the historic bricks; plant roots growing into the bricks and mortar; nails and other intrusions, particularly on Sumter and Greene streets where generations of students had used the wall as a bulletin board; and other changes to accommodate wires and pipes.
Others on campus who took an interest in the study were Ben Coonrod, a former member of the Horseshoe Advisory Committee who recently retired, Tom Quasney, director of university facilities, and university architect Derek Gruner, who "were a great help and great advocates for the wall," West said.
As a result of the discovery of factors that could contribute to the wall's deterioration in the future, the university's five-year plan includes $1.5 million over four years for the Horseshoe wall, beginning in fiscal year 2013–2014.
The maintenance plan under development will incorporate historically appropriate materials and repair methods that are essential to the wall's future well-being, according to West. The exhibit will be available for travel to different venues at the end of its South Caroliniana Library run, she said.
"I'm really happy that the libraries and units like University Facilities can work with the academic units—in this case, the Public History Program—to not only produce a product that benefits students' academic and professional development, but which also makes a lasting impact on the university itself," West said.
"The completed survey of the wall is now part of the university's permanent records, it was used to raise awareness by an administrative unit of what needed to be done to maintain the campus, and it's been a great example of wide-ranging connections in different parts of the university from which everyone can benefit."
Brick, Fire & Iron: The Highs and Lows of Carolina's Historic Wall
- South Caroliniana Library (Lumpkin Foyer)
- Aug. 16 to Oct. 27
- The Horseshoe wall is perhaps the most abused, altered, and ignored structure on the campus of the University of South Carolina – and one of the most historic. It has surrounded the original campus for over 175 years and even sheltered it from the flames that burned much of Columbia in 1865. The wall has gradually faded into the background of an expanding urban campus and been subjected to numerous alterations and misuses – including use as a bulletin board. This exhibit looks at the wall’s history, its current condition and its place in Carolina history.
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