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Fire damages historic Babcock building in downtown Columbia

The fire is at a condemned property at the old state hospital in Columbia.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Columbia firefighters say a fire damaged the historic Babcock building on the property of the old state mental hospital Thursday night.

The fire began just before 7 p.m. Thursday at the building, located at the corner of Pickens and Calhoun Streets. Parts of Calhoun Street were closed due to the fire, but reopened Friday morning.

When firefighters arrived flames could be seen coming from the roof, but crews say they were able to contain the fire to the south portion of the building. The fire left hazy conditions in the downtown area for several hours.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but officials say no power is generated inside the building. It is also unknown if anyone was in the building at the time of the fire, but no injuries have been reported.

The Babcock Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a part of the city's downtown since 1857. At its peak, it once housed nearly 400 mental patients. All of the patients were removed in 1990, and it later closed for good in 1996.

"It's an iconic structure, it's a local landmark, it's in the national register," says John Sherrer, director of cultural resources for Historic Columbia. "It has all of those things going for it that make it really exciting for not just historic preservation purposes, but also for adaptive use of a historic structure for contemporary purposes."

The building is currently a condemned structure on the property.

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