Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The State Mental Hospital property on Bull Street has been the topic of legend and change in the years since the first building opened in 1828.
Developers and city officials are looking at what may be in store next, but News19 found out some of the stories that are hidden within its brick walls.
"This was a self-contained town, as it were. People had houses here and offices. There were, of course, treatment facilities, dormitories for men and women, black and white patients, you had libraries, churches," explains John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources for Historic Columbia Foundation.
The sturdy brick buildings on the grounds,and broken windows dotting their walls, give you a glimpse into what was daily life. "There were activities here, there were programs that were attempting to reflect the most up-to-date ideas in the treatment of mental health," says Sherrer, "The Department of Mental Health campus here in Columbia was both a source of pride for many South Carolinians, and I think it was also a source of intrigue." In fact, you could even buy postcards that featured buildings from the State Mental Hospital, right next to postcards of other landmarks, like the State House.
Today, developers are looking to give the property new life. But you can still see old stories here. "You're looking at the front façade of the Robert Mills-designed asylum that was completed in 1827 and opened in 1828. One of Columbia's five national historic landmarks," Sherrer explains, standing in front of the first asylum, to the right inside the gates, "The way that it is oriented is such that you could not actually see, purportedly, the moon. Because the moon was thought to be involved in lunacy: lunar, lunacy."
These are stories that shape our state - and what future postcards that tourists mail out may feature.