The College of Charleston’s Most Recognizable Building

One of the prettiest buildings in Charleston, in my opinion, is located uptown surrounded by gigantic trees and shrouded in historical beauty. The recognizable Randolph Hall that sits proudly upon the charming campus of College of Charleston, exudes so much stately elegance, you have to see it up close to really appreciate its magnificence.

Why is it so alluring? Is it the architecture? Is it the coloring of the building? Is it the picturesque square leading up to the front? Is it the curving, sweeping staircases that flank either side? Well, it’s probably All of the Above! But, to really appreciate the scale and scope of this glorious icon, definitely take a stroll around the park area in front of the building. It’s a photographer’s paradise.
The College of Charleston was founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785. It is the oldest institution of higher education in South Carolina, and the 13th oldest in the United States. During the colonial period, wealthy families sent their sons abroad for higher education. By the mid-18th century, many leading citizens supported the idea of establishing an institution of higher learning within the state. On January 30, 1770, Lt. Governor William Bull recommended to the colony’s General Assembly the establishment of provincial college. On March 19, 1785, the College of Charleston was chartered to “encourage and institute youth in the several branches of liberal education.”
Several of the college’s founders played key roles in the American Revolution and the creation of the new republic. Three were signers of the Declaration of Independence and another three were framers of the U.S. Constitution. Later, rooms for the college were fashioned out of an old military barracks located on public land at Charleston’s western edge. Instruction began there in January 1790. The college graduated its first class in 1794, which consisted of six students. By 1824, the college offered a curriculum broad enough to regularly grant degrees.
In 1837, the college became the nation’s first municipal college when the City of Charleston assumed responsibility for its support. During the Civil War, many students and faculty left to serve the Confederacy. Despite dwindling student numbers and a long-running siege of the city by Federal troops, there was no suspension of classes until December 19, 1864, two months before the city was evacuated. Classes resumed on February 1, 1866, and over the next four decades, the college weathered several financial crises including Reconstruction, hurricanes, and the devastating earthquake of 1886.
Until the 20th century, students who attended the college were primarily Charlestonians. Like many institutions of higher education across the South, integration took place in 1967 with the enrollment of the College’s first black students. Currently, the College of Charleston has an enrollment of about 11,000 students.
The reason Randolph Hall looks so familiar is because it has been featured in several films over the last few decades. Who remembers a wonderful movie called The Patriot with Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger? The building acts as a courthouse in the war epic. Remember Dear John starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried? Her character, Savannah, can be seen sitting on the stairs of Randolph Hall while writing a letter to John. It also serves as backdrop in the beautiful movie Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Inman crosses through the square as he decides to head home to Ada, now, a Civil War deserter. 
If you’re a fan of the new Netflix series Outer Banks, my Outer Banks Film Locations Tour will drive past quite a few different movie locations as an added treat, including Randolph Hall. Please visit my Tours page to learn more. Or, call me at 843.806.9915

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