United States Custom House – Charleston, South Carolina
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Located at 200 East Bay Street in historic downtown Charleston, the United States Custom House was completed in 1879 and is one of only several historical custom buildings that continues to serve its original purpose.
Historically, a custom house was a building that served as a port of entry into a country, where government officials regulated commerce and collected shipping taxes. By the mid-1800s, Charleston had become one of the busiest port cities in the country and the US Custom Service had outgrown its headquarters in The Old Exchange Building.
In 1849, Congress purchased the waterfront site on East Bay Street to construct a new headquarters. The following year several architects were invited to compete for the commission to design the building. Although Charleston architect Edward C. Jones was initially declared the winner, federal authorities ultimately awarded the project to Ammi Burnham Young, supervising architect of the United States Treasury Department. Young was selected to produce a new design based on the previous entries of Jones and fellow Charleston architect E.B. White, who also designed the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia.
Construction began in 1853, but was interrupted in 1859 due to increasing costs and the possibility of South Carolina‘s secession from the Union. The building sustained considerable damage during the Civil War and wasn’t repaired until construction resumed in 1870. The new United States Custom House was completed nine years later. It was designated part of the Charleston Historic District in 1960 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
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