South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

United States Customhouse, Charleston County (200 E. Bay St., Charleston)
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Facade Right Oblique Left Oblique Right Elevation Right Rear
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Left Rear
Left Elevation Main Entrance Window Detail

Both architecturally and historically, the United States Custom House is an outstanding public building. Its continual use as a custom house completes the commercial history of one of the country’s busiest early ports. Construction began in 1853, with Charleston architect E.B. White serving as superintendent architect, but the building was not completed until 1879. The Roman Corinthian order was carried throughout the structure, not only in the pedimented porticos on the east and west fronts, but also the columns decorating the piers between the windows. The plan is a simple cross with one short and one long axis. Originally there was to have been a rotunda with a dome and skylight at the intersection of the cross arm, but apparently this was eliminated as construction of the building was prolonged and became costlier. The basement story is rusticated while the upper wall surfaces are smooth marble. Windows on both floors are rectangular and pedimented, as are the centrally located entrances on each portico. Surmounting the building is an entablature with a molded architrave, a wide unadorned frieze, excepting the “United States Custom House” carved into the west front in 1964, and a dentiled cornice. Above this is an open balustrade, behind which a low pitched roof is barely visible. Listed in the National Register October 9, 1974.

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