Photograph of First Presidents House, circa 1880s

Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801–1865:

The Foundations of the University of South Carolina

First Presidents House, 1807

Detail of First Presidents House from 1884 Sanborn Map
First Presidents House, 1884 Sanborn Map, SCL

The board of trustees commissioned Captain Thomas Wade to design the first private residence at the college, the Presidents House. Construction was completed in 1807. When Thomas Cooper began living there during his presidency, personal slaves were quartered in the cellar. In 1833, Cooper decided that the conditions in the cellar were so unhealthy that he built a “comfortable wooden building of four rooms” behind the house for his slaves. This twenty- by forty-five-foot structure survived into the early twentieth century, but was converted into a shed and stable. Extensive renovations, including raising the roof and adding front and rear porticoes, were made to the house by John Niernsee in 1856. The house was converted into offices in the 1920s, and it was in continued use until 1937 when part of the ceiling collapsed. It was torn down in 1939 while the McKissick Library was built behind it.

Detail of First Presidents House from bird's-eye drawing of Columbia, 1872
Bird’s-eye view of First Presidents House, 1872, LOC
Photograph of demolition of First Presidents House, 1939
Demolition of First Presidents House, 1939, SCL