The Babcock Building at the South Carolina State Hospital in Columbia


Was built in four campaigns, between 1857 and 1885, as the new asylum for the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum. The building is significant as the work of two distinguished architects, George E. Walker, a native of Charleston, and Samuel Sloan, a native of Pennsylvania. Actual construction during Walker’s lifetime was limited to the three northernmost blocks of the south wing, but these three blocks established the composition, scale, and style of the entire building. Gustavus T. Berg, in 1880-82, built the north wing in mirror image of the completed south wing. Sloan’s center building united the composition, and provided a focal center for the asylum. The building is also significant as an exceptional example of Italian Renaissance Revival design. The Babcock Building embodies the dedication of the state of South Carolina to the provision of adequate and comfortable care and housing for the mentally ill. The building follows, in overall plan, siting, landscaping and interior arrangements, the “Kirkbride system” for insane asylum design advocated by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride of Philadelphia. It is probable that the construction of the new asylum was inspired, in part, by the dramatic crusade in support of improved facilities for the mentally ill, led by Dorothea Lydne Dix, that was then sweeping the country. Listed in the National Register October 30, 1981.

View the complete text of the nomination form for this National Register property. In addition, the Historic Resources of Columbia includes historical background information for this and other related National Register properties.


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