Georgetown’s Town Clock is the most notable feature of the Old Market Building, a Greek Revival structure which now houses the Rice Museum. The lot where it is located has housed as a town market since 1788. In 1841 a fire destroyed many Front Street structures between Queen and Screven Streets. An earlier market, made of wood, had sustained severe damage in the Hurricane of 1822 and was torn down as a fire break.
The following year, this entire block – including the market and neighboring Kaminski Building – was rebuilt. The clock tower, however, was not added until about 1845. Near the close of the Civil War, in February of 1865, Federal troops occupied Georgetown. Confederate officials signed surrender papers in this building. In addition to serving as an open-air market, this structure has also served as a jail and a town hall. It was the site of slave auctions.
Contributor Paige Sawyer, who donated one of the photos above, adds the following information:
In 1970 the Georgetown County Historical Commission purchased the town clock from the City of Georgetown. The Commission restored the structure and ever since it has housed the Rice Museum, which opened in May of that year during the celebration of the South Carolina Tricentennial. The clockworks in the tower were made operational again in 1975.
The tower was struck by lightning in May 2007, freezing the hands at 4:27. After years of hard work by Georgetown’s residents and leaders, the clock tower began ticking again in 2012. The Old Market Building, including the Georgetown Town Clock, is listed in the National Register:
(The Rice Museum) The Old Market Building is an outstanding example of architecture utilized to serve both the political and economic life of the 19th century. As one of the few remaining brick market buildings in the US with a bell tower and clock, this structure has served as a town hall, a jail, an open-air market, and a slave market. At the time of nomination it served as the Georgetown Rice Museum. Built ca. 1832-1835, this distinguished one-story Classical Revival temple form building was designed to rest on a high arcaded base. The arched area was used as an open air market but was enclosed in the early twentieth century. The front façade of the market is laid in Flemish bond, with the side and rear wall in common or American bond. The tower and market are unified by the belt course encircling them. In ca. 1842 a tower topped by a square stage and an open belfry was added. The tower houses a four-sided clock. Listed in the National Register December 2, 1969.