The old public building in Charleston, South Carolina is a must-see, because of its history as a revolutionary heritage. It was publicly used as a slave trade site, a revolutionary war prison, and was the place the Declaration of Independence was read to the town’s citizens.
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In 1771, the wealthy citizens and business owners in Charles Town argued that the large import/export business had grown overwhelmingly, and the town needed a new exchange building. A massive structure was erected at the end of Broad street and finished in 1772. The purpose of the exchange was always a public building for people to conduct business. The Portland Stone façade was a marvelous feature on the new America’s east coast that brought in traders and business alike.
During the time of heavy importing and exporting, pirating became a problem in the Charles Town Port. The infamous Blackbeard, an American pirate, had drawn the attention of the town when he kidnapped several important citizens and seized over nine ships and held them all for ransom. The Governor, Robert Johnson, assigned Colonel William Rhett to defeat the pirates who ransacked the ships of the town so often. A famous military hero of Queen Anne’s War, Stede Bonnet, had turned pirate, and was under the command of Blackbeard. Major Bonnet was captured, along with his men, and brought back to Charles Town to be tried and executed. Major Bonnet and his men were kept in the Guard House in the Half-Moon Battery, which is the site of the Old Exchange, until the public execution took place December 10th, 1718.
Many Political events were also held at The Old Exchange such as the elections of delegates to the first continental congress in 1774, a reception ball for George Washington and many other revolutionary war related events. In 1913, The Exchange was transferred to the Daughters of the American Revolution for preservation however, a commission, funds and comprehensive plan for restoration was not completed until 1976. The building was open to the publicly in 1981, restored to its original glory as a living museum.
Touring The Old Exchange
The Old Exchange is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. Admission includes a public, self-guided tour of the three floors of The Old Exchange with exhibits and furnishings from the Colonial and Revolutionary Eras in Charleston. All three floors of The Old Exchange are handicap accessible with elevator access provided.
The Old Exchange is an exciting place for students and educators. Group tours and field trips should be requested three weeks in advance with registration forms and fee information available on the Old Exchange website. Programs are based on age appropriate content and learning materials and range from 1-2 hours in length. Students can learn about Colonial times, pirating, go on a scanveger hunt, or simply tour the museum with their educators and group leaders. All educational programs include a tour of the Provost Dungeon.
Renting the Facilities
Private rentals of The Old Exchange can be accommodated in the evenings outside of the museum business hours. The downtown location of the facility, hardwood floors, and authentic elegant design make this location a prime venue for wedding receptions, business meetings, fundraising events, and more.
There are three different rooms available for rent. The Great Hall is the largest and can seat 250 guests. This room is most often used for banquets and weddings. This room also has elevator access for guests, vendors, and a commercial kitchen that is available for use by caterers. Adjoining the Great Hall is the Isaac Hayne room which can be used for spill over seating, staging areas, or dressing rooms. The SCDAR room is elegant and sophisticated with historical significance and artifacts on display here. This room has a policy of no food or beverage in this space, there is also no dancing allowed. This is a great space for meetings, lectures, press releases, or speeches.
The Gift Shop
The Old Exchange Gift Shop offers a quaint selection of educational gift items and souvenirs that tell the fascinating history of the Old Exchange, Provost Dungeon, and Charleston. Much of the gift shop wares related to historical events that happened in or around Charleston or at the Old Exchange with many souvenirs available for all ages.
Discounts to the Gift Shop are available through being a Friend of the OXB. This annual membership also includes free admission to the building and member only invitations to special events and workshops at the Old Exchange Building.
122 East Bay Street, Charleston, South Carolina, 29401, Phone: 843-727-2165