The Hibernian Society

One of Historic Charleston’s most recognizable buildings is Hibernian Hall, a lovely white beauty that has endured years of historical change. Hibernian Hall is the only building designed by architect Thomas U. Walter of Philadelphia. Walter’s design included an Ionic pediment that collapsed in the great earthquake of 1886 and was then replaced by a Corinthian pediment and a center circular-arched window. The stately gates which hug the building in front were the work of famed Charleston ironworker, Christopher Werner.
 
 
The building, a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1840 to provide a meeting place for the Hibernian Society. This society was founded in 1799 and reorganized in 1801. King Street merchant and society founder James Adger, is credited with bringing back a piece of the Giant’s Causeway, a volcanic formation on the north coast of Northern Ireland which still sits on the portico of Hibernian Hall.

The Hibernians were founded by mostly Protestant Irishmen, but they were very ecumenical in electing the local Catholic priest, Father Simon Felix Gallagher, pastor of St. Mary’s, as their president. They also used nonsectarian symbols of the harp and shamrock in their emblem which is prominent above the door of Hibernian Hall. Because of this early ecumenism, religious tensions between Irish Catholics and Protestants were never high in Charleston. In fact, Jewish members have been included since the 1800s. Membership has always been, however, restricted to men only.

Hibernian Hall is the only extant building associated with the National Democratic Convention of 1860, one of the most critical political assemblies in the nation’s history.
 
The Hibernian Society continues to meet regularly, alternating every two years between a Catholic and Protestant president. The hall serves as the location for many events, including an annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, society balls, and other social occasions. The society continues to contribute to more than 300 scholarships to the College of Charleston and The Citadel.
 
Fans of the hit Bravo series Southern Charm will definitely recognize Hibernian Hall as it was here at the end of Season 5 while attending Patricia’s Winter Ball where Ashley called Kathryn an “egg donor” outside the front gates.  Want to find out more about TV & Movie site locations filmed around Charleston? Visit my website to learn more about the new TV & Movie Tour by Van.
 

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