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Foundation Matters

The Lost Architecture: October 2019 Edition

Posted: November 3, 2019

Featured is the Thomson Auditorium, later the home of The Charleston Museum, which was located at 121 Rutledge Avenue. After the Bennett Mill Pond was filled, Mayor William Ashmead Courtenay was wise to retain Frederick Law Olmsted to design a park for this site. But in May 1899 before the park was completed, the City decided to build an auditorium here to serve as convention space, particularly for the United Confederate Veterans. A bequest from John Thomson to the City was used to finance the auditorium construction. Although designed by the architect Frank Milburn, who was selected early in his career for this commission, the structure was built in a temporary manner with a cast-iron frame and exterior stucco with applied ornament in the Beaux Arts style. By 1907 the auditorium became the home of The Charleston Museum, which remained here until the collection was moved into a new building on Meeting Street in 1980. Within a month, the old building burned. The original semicircular colonnade has been preserved as an architectural folly. The city partially restored the plan of the original Cannon Park, and much of the site remains as open green space. (Source: The Buildings of Charleston by Jonathan Poston.) The featured color photographic postcard was published by Colourpicture Publishers, ca. 1960s.



2 responses to “The Lost Architecture: October 2019 Edition”

  1. Caroline McCracken says:

    My grandmother lived West of the Ashley. She told me about the day the museum burned. She said the smoke was so fierce that she could see it from the other side of the river. The fire burned so quickly and fiercely that Citadel cadets were quickly mustered to move the non-ambulatory folks at the nursing home next door.

  2. Mike Cross says:

    I have fond memories of the old Museum in this location from visits as a child with my parents to visits as a newlywed to visits with my young son in the 70’s. As a youth I was most impressed by James Madison’s outfit on a mannequin and the fact that he was short in statue.

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