Fireproof Building and South Carolina Historical Society – Charleston, South Carolina - Atlas Obscura
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Charleston, South Carolina

Fireproof Building and South Carolina Historical Society

Once the most flame resistant building in the country, the South Carolina Historical Society building was almost burnt down in a fire. 

Designed by one of the earliest American-born architects of renown, Robert Mills (who designed the Washington Monument among other buildings), the Fireproof Building was specifically built to avoid fires, but in the end, it was almost devoured by one.

The building was constructed in 1827 for the expressed purpose of storing county records. In order to keep the delicate paper files safe from the much-more-common-and-devastating-in-those-days effects of fire, the entire structure was built to be fireproof. Using simple and linear thinking, the architect simply constructed the building without using any flammable materials. The walls and frame were made of pure masonry, and the doors, window frames, and even the shutters were made of iron.

Despite this hearty construction, a fire eventually managed to break out on the upper floors of the building, destroying a good portion of the interior. However, true to its name, the Fireproof Building did, in fact, manage to save the records held on the lower floors thanks to its stony construction.

The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, and now houses the South Carolina Historical Society Museum and offices.