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South Carolina Senate Committee On Finance and Banks Report, 15 December 1853

Printed manuscript, 15 December 1853, from the South Carolina Senate Committee on Finance and Banks concerns a bill to provide funds for erecting the new State Capitol. This version of the bill originated in the House of Representatives. The Senate committee reported favorably on it and recommended that the Senate pass it without amendment. However, the method of financing the building sparked a debate on the Senate floor, and the journal recorded the text of an amendment that some members tried to introduce. The Senate voted down the amendment. On 20 December, the General Assembly ratified the bill, and the text as printed in the report became part of the Statutes at Large (12: 270).

The handwritten name "C. Werner" on the reverse side makes this copy of the imprint an interesting piece of State House history. Christopher Werner (1805-1875) was one of Charleston's most noted iron craftsmen; the outstanding ironwork credited to him includes the Sword Gates and the John Rutledge House in Charleston and the Palmetto Monument on the State House grounds in Columbia. Werner had a working relationship with P.H. Hammarskold, a Charleston architect who incorporated extensive use of ironwork in his buildings.

Both Werner and Hammarskold were deeply involved in the early stages of the State House project before John R. Niernsee arrived on the scene-Werner as one of the principal contractors and Hammarskold as State House architect. Werner had already done work on the existing State House, and had been employed to construct an iron fence around the grounds. When the General Assembly decided in 1851 to build a fireproof building to house the public records, it hired Werner's company to do the work. The South Caroliniana Library holds a small group of Werner's papers that includes his accounts with the commissioners of the Fireproof Building in Columbia.

The 1853 act with its $250,000 appropriation represented the first real step toward expanding the fireproof building into an entirely new State Capitol building. On 8 February 1854, just seven weeks after the act was ratified, Werner executed a $20,000 bond "conditioned for the true and well performance of all matters and things contained in a contract of same date entered by said Werner with the state of South Carolina, through and by the commissioners of the New State Capitol, to furnish and put up in their respective places in a complete manner all the castings and wrought iron work required in the sub-basement story, and in all the basement story south of the north wing of the New State Capitol...under the direction and supervision of P.H. Hammarskold, Architect."

All of this early construction was later found to be defective, and the foundation work was demolished to make way for the present State House designed by Niernsee. George Edward Walker, an architect who worked on the project during the mid-1850s, claimed that the defective construction was due in part to the contractors having farmed out the work. He alleged that Werner did not furnish the ironwork, but had transferred his contract to Heyward, Bartlet & Company of Baltimore.

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