The old Orangeburg County Jail, also called the “Pink Palace,” was built in 1860. It was designed by Charleston architects Edward C. Jones and Francis D. Lee. Union General William Sherman made the jail his headquarters during the occupation of Orangeburg in 1865 during the Civil War.
When the Union soldiers finally left the city, Sherman set the building on fire. Luckily, the jail was only partially destroyed by the fire and was repaired in 1867 by John Lucas, the contractor who built the jail.
In 1921 it was remodeled and used as the official county jail until 1976. It received its nickname in the 1950s when Margaret Williams, the wife of then-South Carolina Senator Marshall Williams, suggested it be painted her favorite color – pale pink.
The Orangeburg City Council purchased the building from the county for a dollar in 1984 for use as a museum and repainted the Pink Palace a neutral off-white. By 1989 the city was leasing part of the building and leasing parking spaces to earn more revenue for the museum. In 1995 the city sold the old jail to James M. Guthrie, III and John Townsend Sifly. They then leased part of the property to First National Bank for use as a parking lot. Today the building remains vacant.
The Old Orangeburg County Jail is listed in the National Register:
(The Pink Palace) The Orangeburg County Jail is one of the rare examples in South Carolina of Gothic castellated architecture. The fortress-like style is uniquely suited to the building’s primary function of confining prisoners. The Orangeburg County Jail was designed in 1857 by the prominent Charleston architectural firm of Edward C. Jones and Francis D. Lee. The architects drew on the 1840s English tradition of designing penal institution in a neo-Gothic style. Builder John Lucas, a local architect from England, completed the jail in 1860. After General William T. Sherman’s troops burned the building in February 1865, Lucas was commissioned for repairs, restoring the exterior to its original appearance. The two-story rectangular structure has a five brick thick foundation gradually sloping into two brick thick walls. The exterior is covered with cement, a technique originally intended to give the effect of stone. The building’s horizontal lines are emphasized by a continuous stringcourse, the projecting foundation, and the continuous crenellations while its vertical lines are emphasized by the corner turrets, windows, and the main tower. The jail’s dominant central tower was the site of executions by hanging.
Reflections on the Old Orangeburg County Jail
Painter Jerry Bridgers says: “The building is impressive and this painting depicts the stormy period of history where a jail would be a focal point of the emotions.”
James G. Hamilton says
My great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Peel, was county jailer in at least the 1880s. He lived with his family in the Pink Palace. My grandmother, Minnie Belle Peele, was born in the Palace in 1880. The 1900 Census indicates that he lived elsewhere in Orangeburg. I would be grateful if anyone could give me any further information, including a picture of him and his family.
Melvin Christopher says
The movie A Nuns Curse was filmed at this location.
Pat Keadle says
My grandparents were the county Jailers. Townsend Corbett untill he passed away in the mid 40s and his wife Annie I Corbett (5 feet/100lbs) until about 1960. I'n fact when she retired, the sheriff called her back as he couldn't find a good replacement. My cousin and her father lived with our grandparents until Grandmama finally retired and moved to Old Calhoun drive. My cousin and I thought it was a "palace" as it had turrets & crenellations, (no moat though.)
Pat Corbett says
My grandparents were the county jailers from the early 1940s until my grandmother’s second retirement in the late 1950s. The picture shows the entrance for the prisoners. A deputy accompanied and made sure the protocol was followed. If you look around to corner of the jail, the on Meeting Street side you see a larger porch. That led to the family quarters. As a child I spent many weekends and vacations “in jail.” Trustees cooked meals for the inmates and the family. Grandmama would check the inmates’ trays as they went up in the dumbwaiter. To get a better view look at the Colleton County jail restored as a historic place. Oh, and over the portico for the prisoners, there is a stained glass window!
Thank you, Pat, for sharing. What a fascinating story!
jon palmer says
I found him and his photo Born in Weisbaden germany in 1846 , christian august schulenberg fischer was the chief of police in Orangeburg sc and his son c a fischer was firechief fron 1956-1959. He was my great grandfather. jpalmer
Jon Palmer says
Trying to get information and possibly photos of the chief of police in Orangeburg in 1900. His name was Carl August Fischer.
Hi Jon! We don’t have any information to provide you with regarding the chief of police unfortunately. A great place to start however would be to take a look at our Orangeburg County genealogy resources. Here you will find links to genealogy resources, libraries, and archives for Orangeburg County. Hope this helps and good luck! – SCIWAY
Hi John! We checked its listing on the National Register, and if you look at the nomination form it lists Orangeburg County as the owner. But, this form is from 1973 so it certainly could have changed hands since then. Try giving the Orangeburg Chamber of Commerce a call at 803.534.6821 – Hopefully they can be more helpful. Let us know if you find out anything! – SCIWAY
I was there yesterday – the “castle” is pink, and I saw a treadmill indoors and a number “229” on the door. Who owns this building now?
Harris M. says
Claire, it’s called the Pink Palace because the building is PINK! Yes, PINK!
Claire K. says
Did they actually keep prisoners in there until it was set on fire? Did anyone die? Its actually really pretty – and why was it called the “pink palace”?
Hi Claire! We’re not sure about the prisoners, all of the prison records were destroyed in the fire. There is some great information on the National Historic Register about the jail – you can find it here: http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/orangeburg/S10817738003/index.htm