MYSTERY PHOTO:  Where is this downtown?

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Here’s a downtown that you may have seen in your travels in South Carolina, but where is it?   Send your best guess to: and make sure to include your name and hometown.  If possible, write “Mystery Photo” in the subject line.

Last week’s Mystery Photo stumped several readers who guessed that the classical building was on a college campus or some kind of federal building.

In reality, it is the Mills building, the first building for the S.C. Lunatic Asylum.  Designed by noted architect Robert Mills, the building was constructed between 1822 and 1827 and by 1900 had more than 1,000 patients.  Later the facility was renamed the S.C. State Hospital, but known colloquially as “Bull Street” because of its address in Columbia.

Hats off to those who correctly identified the Mills building, including Katharine Beard of Camden; Charles Lesser of Columbia; Faith Line of Anderson; George Graf of Palmyra, Va.; Dale Rhodes of Richmond, Va.; and Dave Shimp of Mount Pleasant.

Graf added, “According to legend, when Colonel Samuel Farrow, a member of the House of Representatives from Spartanburg County, traveled to Columbia to attend sessions of the legislature, he noticed a woman who was mentally distressed and apparently without adequate care.  Her poor condition made an impact on him and spurred him on to engage the support of Major William Crafts, a brilliant orator and a member of the Senate from Charleston County.  The two men worked zealously to sensitize their fellow lawmakers to the needs of the mentally ill, and on Dec. 20, 1821, the South Carolina State Legislature passed a statute-at-large approving $30,000 to build the S.C. Lunatic Asylum and school for the deaf and dumb.

“Late in the Civil War, the asylum became a refuge for many Columbia residents when the city burned during Union General William T. Sherman’s occupation in February 1865.  When slavery was abolished, African-Americans became a larger part of the asylum’s population. The admission of blacks not only added to the patient population, but led to another problem — providing separate facilities for the races.  By 1900, the State Hospital had 1,040 patients. More than 30 percent of them died annually, due in part to poor living conditions and inadequate supervision.  By 1910, after a legislative committee reported the asylum was too small, land was purchased north of Columbia, and plans were submitted for a new complex that became known as “State Park.” When it opened in 1913, it was for black patients only.”

  • Send us a mystery:  If you have a photo that you believe will stump readers, send it along (but make sure to tell us what it is because it may stump us too!)  Send to: and mark it as a photo submission.  Thanks.



One Comment

  1. Main Street, Greenville?

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