The Powder Magazine: Charleston’s Oldest Public Building

powder magazine charleston sc

If you’ve stuck around this site, you might know a thing or two about Charleston history. But one question remains: what’s the oldest building Charleston has to offer? Which site’s history goes back even further than all the rest? The answer, as you might have guessed from the title, is The Powder Magazine. No, it’s not a publication: a gunpowder magazine was used to store gunpowder in a relatively safe way, keeping it separate from wooden buildings and other explosive elements in the military. And as it happens, Charleston still has one of its gunpowder magazines from the 18th century standing.

The Charleston Powder Magazine: A Brief History

Located on the south side of Cumberland Street, the Charleston Gunpowder Magazine is so old that it claims the status of the oldest public building in all of South Carolina. It’s so old in fact that there was no South Carolina when it was built. It was ordered to be built by the Province of Carolina in 1703 during Queen Anne’s War. It continued to see active use as a gunpowder storage facility throughout the 18th century—and yes, that includes the Revolutionary War.

That’s not where the story ends, however. The Powder Magazine might have gone out of fashion as a storehouse of gunpowder, but Garbiel Manigault, the famous Charlestonian architect, saw fit to use it as a wine cellar.

Over time, the Powder Magazine grew in status thanks to its enduring monument to a different time of warfare and life in colonial America. In 1902, it was acquired by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America—a date that goes so far back that even other historical buildings weren’t raised by then. Today, the Powder Magazine is in more use than ever, serving as a museum and providing an opportunity for students and families alike to get a taste of life during Revolutionary days.

Visiting the Powder Magazine in Charleston, SC

Powder Magazine has changed through the ages—from storage house to wine cellar to historic site. It’s now a museum, which means a visit to the Powder Magazine will be an educational experience whether you’re a student proper or just a student of history.

Like many of the historical experiences in Charleston, this museum is a throwback to what life was like well before the 20th century. But as the Powder Magazine can trace its roots to the dawn of the 18th century, it’s fair to say that if you’re in the mood for history that goes back a little further, the Powder Magazine is for you.

Explore the History of Charleston, SC

To get a taste of pre-Revolutionary Charleston life, book a carriage tour with Charleston Carriage Works today. Enjoy a relaxing horse-drawn carriage ride through one of America’s oldest cities, and learn about all the amazing sights you see.