Kershaw County Courthouse — Camden, South Carolina
SC Picture Project | Kershaw County | Kershaw County Courthouse
This grand Greek Revival structure in Camden, located along Broad Street, was built in 1827. The building was designed in 1825 by the renowned architect Robert Mills for use as the Kershaw County Courthouse. Mills is one of South Carolina’s most famous sons. He was born in 1781 and is responsible for building such notable landmarks as the Washington Monument and United States Department of the Treasury in Washington, DC. In South Carolina he is responsible for the Union County Jail in Union, Brookland Plantation on Edisto Island, Lancaster County Courthouse in Lancaster among many others.
The courthouse features an imposing facade originally dominated by six Ionic columns. An 1847 renovation replaced them with the four Doric columns you see today. At that same time, the second-story balcony and central stairs were added. Underneath the staircase is the original headstone for Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb, a major general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War who was killed by British forces in Camden. The headstone was found in 1901 in the basement of Bethesda Presbyterian Church. The slab was moved and mounted to the back of the stairs by the Hobkirk’s Hill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Today, a monument commemorating the celebrated general stands in front of Bethesda Church where he is interred.
The courthouse was built to be fireproof; its masonry walls are 22-inches thick on the ground floor and taper to about 15 inches on the second floor. The walls are covered in plaster. The floors are brick with a vaulted ceiling in the central hallway and double-arched ceilings downstairs. The courthouse has been restored to its 1845 appearance with pine floors covering the brick on the upper level. The judge’s bench and witness stand look as they did when Mills designed them. The courthouse was in use until 1906 and is now home to the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. The facility can be rented for special events, and tours are free and available during business hours.
The historical marker, found directly across the street from the courthouse, pictured below, reads: “On this corner stood the gaol [jail], built in 1771 and burned in 1812. During the Revolution the British imprisoned in it many American soldiers and civilians. Among them, after his capture near the Waxhaws, was the boy Andrew Jackson, later seventh President. He is said to have watched the Battle of Hobkirk Hill through a hole he cut in the wall of the gaol’s second story.”
The Kershaw County Courthouse is listed in the National Register as part of the Camden Historic District:
Architecturally and militarily significant, Camden was a center of activity in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and its architecture reflects the two centuries of its growth. The city was named in honor of Lord Camden, British champion of colonial rights. In 1774 wide streets were laid off in a grid pattern. The town expanded northward as shown in a 1798 plat. The plat set aside six parks which formed the basis for the city’s present 178 acres of beautiful parkland. Most of the original town was destroyed by the fire of 1813. This accelerated growth northward to the Kirkwood area, north of Chesnut Street. Originally, the houses in this area were summer cottages, but by 1840 Kirkwood was a year-round residential area of handsome mansions and elaborate gardens. Many of the mansions were built around the cottages, which still survive at their core. Contributing properties are mostly residential but also include public buildings, a church, and a cemetery. Camden’s architecture is classically inspired and includes examples of Federal and Classical Revival, in addition to cottage-type, Georgian, Charleston-type with modifications, and mansion-type houses. Several of the city’s buildings were designed by noted architect Robert Mills.
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Kershaw County Courthouse Info
Address: 607 South Broad Street, Camden, SC 29020
GPS Coordinates: 34.239379,-80.606795
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