The present State House traces its beginnings to the 1850s and the desire to provide a fireproof storage space for state records. A larger and grander building was also a consideration. The outbreak of the Civil War slowed construction, but it was the invasion of the state in 1865 by the Union Army under General William T. Sherman that severely disrupted progress. Sherman’s occupation resulted in one third of Columbia being burned, including the existing wooden State House. Building material, construction equipment and architectural plans for the new State House were also destroyed. Shells from Sherman’s cannons damaged the new State House. Today the west and southwest walls wear six bronze stars to mark the cannon fire of February 1865. With only its exterior walls and foundation completed, and with the old wooden State House in ashes, the General Assembly met at the nearby University of South Carolina for approximately four years.
From 1867 to the mid-1880s, little work was done to complete the building other than to make it functional. A majority of the present interior décor was completed from 1885 to 1895. The dome, porticos and exterior steps were the last features added and the building was declared completed by 1907. The columns on the porticos are each carved from a single piece of stone and are believed to be the largest monolithic columns used in a public building in the United States.