Thursday, August 14, 2008

South Carolina State Hospital- Babcock Building

When not busy raging against the Atlantic Yards project or trying to preserve Admiral's Row through sadly fatalistic-sounding meetings, I've been off shooting more historic asylums across the US.


This is the Babcock building at South Carolina State Hospital, formerly known as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, as a few remaining documents in the building testify to. Created in the style of the Kirkbride buildings, while not actually being a Kirk itself, the Babcock building's admin is the second oldest building on the grounds, while its still active Mills building is not only on the National Historic Landmark, but has the honor of being "The oldest building in the country to be used continuously as a mental institution and one of the first mental hospitals built with public funds," according to the NHL.

The Babcock building, the largest on campus includes several smaller outbuildings, among them a disused dining hall which now stores old medical equipment and another outbuilding that leads to the tunnel system beneath the campus. The grounds astonished me, as rarely have I been so far south as South Carolina, especially during the summer, and vegetation not only crept into every crevice and over ever conceivable patch of bare ground, the summer storm that rolled through both when I was in one of the many solariums as well as at 3am during my overnight stay left an amazing impression with me.


Babcock was built in four different stages between 1857 and 1885 by architects George E. Walker and Samuel Sloan, however the actual construction Walker was able to see durin his lifetime only encompassed the three northern blocks of the south wing. These laid out the structure and style for the rest of the building, and between 1880 and 1882 Gustavus T. Berg built the southern wing to mirror the already-constructed northern one. Considered an exceptional example of Italian Renaissance Revival Design, the Babcock Building joined the Mills Building in the National Register on October 30, 1981.

Abandoned in mid 90's, the administration section of the building shows heavy renovation with drop ceilings and wall to wall carpeting, while the female wing is heavily vandalized by graffiti and looks like it had been used for a haunted house sometime in the last decade. The interior of the distinctive red dome has suffered at the hands of vandals and each window is either broken or covered in tagging. The building has unique roll-down metal doors that would help prevent the spread of fires in the wards, but many of these grates were either rusted in place or locked down, which made traversing the building like attempting to weave through a labyrinth.

What little remains of a pharmacy room in the male wing, including an empty bottle of Stelazine.

A fireplace grill in admin.

Ground floor stairwell in admin.

Stained glass, third floor attic of admin.

An old piano, male wards.

Top floor, female wards. One of the few non-vandalized rooms.

Patient bed, admin.

Bathtub in a particularly difficult to reach area, male wing.

Cabinet, dining area, admin.

First floor stairwell, female ward.


Anonymous said...

Hello: Is it possible to get in to see this building? While you were photographing, did you notice any medical files left behind? Was there a fire in this building? Thank you.

black.bloc said...

to answer your question...the building is fenced off and boarded up, but tons of the windows are broken, so finding a way in isn't all too hard. the area is littered with glass, so be extremely careful when crawling through windows, and bring a flashlight. watch for cops, they're eager to write tickets and even arrest if you're found on the property.

bums aren't usually a problem..because they know the cops are constantly in the area.

and no medical files were left behind, unless they were reallllly unorganized, plus i'm sure someone would've taken them already.

there were two fires that i know of one in 1903, caused by an inmate setting fire to one of the wards and an earlier on in June of 1897 as posted on GenDisasters

CB said...

I was wondering how you were able to take a tour of the SC State Hospital-Babcock Building. My husband and I lived on Pickens St several years ago (this is the street to the right of the building) We could see it from our front yard and have always been interested in it. We also had a family member hospitalized there many many years ago. If you have any info. on how to take a tour there, it would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you ,

Renea said...

I sent you an e-mail regarding the asylum, please take a look.