Investigating Randolph Hall's Historic Observatory at the College of Charleston
Its been over two years since any human has stepped foot into Randolph Hall's nineteenth century observatory. It has been closed to the public for decades and most people have no idea it even exists. On May 24, 2018, however, after climbing through a hole in the building's twentieth century drop ceiling, BVL HPR experienced the incredible space.
Constructed sometime in the mid to late nineteenth century for students to study the stars, the wooden observatory was rotated by gears as a pulley system opened portions of the dome to capture certain sections of the night sky. Hundreds of College of Charleston students (and some visitors to Charleston - check out the 1898 signature below!) have used the space, most of whom have left their mark. DOZENS of signatures cover the observatory's walls and dome. In the twentieth century, however, the college constructed a new observatory and renovations to Randolph Hall cut off access to the dome. Literally, the college cut the staircase and installed a drop ceiling that not only hides this original access, but also the building's historic third-story atrium and pressed metal ceiling! WHAT!
We want to thank College of Charleston's Randy Beaver and his team for the day's site visit, and we look forward to working with CofC in researching, documenting and SHOWCASING the original fabric of the
c. 1828 Randolph Hall, a National Historic Landmark!