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One of the oldest and by far the largest building on the campus, the Babcock Building has long been seen as a symbol of the State Hospital. It is often taken for granted that as the most imposing and what appears to be the central building on the campus, it falls under the Kirkbride plan, a plan devised by Philadelphia physician Thomas S. Kirkbride with the notion that the building itself would be curative to mental patients. This design was followed by many contemporary mental health institutions, to the point where it became the standard construction design within the U.S. and beyond. While it was initially built to follow this plan in many respects, the Babcock Building has since undergone such radical interior changes and exterior additions that it can no longer be considered to fall within this design. These transformations have made Babcock into a unique style of asylum building, combining the exterior shell of a classic style with a specifically functional new interior design.
The Mills Building, at the time the main building of the institution, had become overcrowded and fallen into disrepair by the 1850s. Although both the superintendent Dr. John W. Parker and the asylum physician Dr. Daniel Trezevant agreed that a new building was essential to relieve overcrowding at the institution, they heavily debated its location and design. Trezevant firmly believed that the new building should become the new asylum, and should be built at least five miles outside of the city. Ironically, this one point which he shared in common with the Kirkbride plan was a battle he lost.
He also ultimately lost his battle against the implementation of the Kirkbride system. Philadelphia physician Thomas Kirkbride’s design, the officially adopted standard for asylum architecture, called for long corridors with patients’ rooms lining both sides of the hallway. Trezevant argued that in the heat of a South Carolina summer, it would be best for patients if rooms lined only one side of the corridor, as he had seen executed at an asylum in Derby, England. This would leave only windows on the other side for sunlight and ventilation, while also allowing for the creation of a unique South Carolina style of asylum architecture. Trezevant and Parker disagreed on many things within the running of the institution, and this was no different: Parker advocated adamantly for the implementation of the double-loaded corridor, and ultimately won out. His case was helped by a letter mailed to the Asylum board by Kirkbride himself.
Interestingly, the Babcock Building, known at the time of its construction as New Asylum, differed from the Kirkbride plan very clearly at one particular point. While Kirkbride was adamant that an institution should hold no more than 250 patients at a time, at the time of its completion, the New Asylum had the capacity for 309 patients, 189 male patients and 160 female patients. This was the one place where Trezevant got his way, at least partly. Trezevant believed that this new construction should factor in the ever-increasing population of the asylum, and so should hold at least 400 patients.
The New Asylum was built in four building campaigns, lasting from 1857 to 1885. The first campaign, lasting from 1857 to 1858, consisted of a small portion of the south wing, constructed by George E. Walker, an architect from Charleston. This section was constructed first to relieve overwhelming overcrowding of white male wards. The next campaign did not occur until after the Civil War, lasting from 1870 to 1876. This completion of the south wing was executed by an architect by the name of Jas. N. Allen. The third campaign, lead by German architect Gustavus T. Berg, lasted from 1979 to 1882, and consisted of the entire north wing. The final campaign to complete the building, the construction of a central section to connect the wings, lasted from 1883 to 1885. This was executed by the famous architect Samuel Sloan, a colleague of Kirkbride himself.
Other than its large capacity, there is strong evidence to suggest that the New Asylum fit the Kirkbride plan upon construction. In its initial design, the building consisted of a central core with two long wings extending to either side. According to the Kirkbride plan, the central portion was intended for administrative operations, with one wing for male patients and one wing for female patients. At the New Asylum, the south wing was intended for male patients and the north for female. Any aerial photograph of the building or even a glance on Google maps demonstrates that it still holds the symmetrical, shallow V of wards stepped back from one another classic of the Kirkbride design.
The exceptions can be seen more clearly in architectural drawings done by George E. Lafaye, Architect, for a major alteration to this and many other buildings across the campus, discussed in more detail below. The drawings reveal that the wings are not in fact symmetrical, but the female wing has an extra ward on each story extending perpendicular to the northern end of the south section, and the north section has a narrow three-story addition running along its east side. While the date of construction of the extra wards, not original to the building, is unknown, the narrow extension is most likely a set of verandas mentioned in the Department of Mental Health’s Annual Report for the fiscal year ending in 1895. This report explains that “the erection of verandas for the end section of the white women’s department leaves only the wards of the corresponding section at the other end of the building unprovided with these useful additions to our sanitary arrangements.” This three-story addition appears to have the open format of a veranda from the exterior.
Although initially the building had a few differences from a classic Kirkbride plan, and the building underwent several smaller alterations that further divorced it from this design, the biggest changes came with the alterations that occurred between 1915 and 1920. This is when the building, then referred to as the Main Building or the Administration Building, completely divorced from the Kirkbride plan. George E. Lafaye, Architect, was hired to survey the campus and make all needed renovations to the buildings. Most of the buildings on the campus at the time were drastically altered, and several new buildings were constructed, including a kitchen constructed as an addition to the center of the Main Building and two extant dining halls built for the male and female wings respectively. The Annual Report for 1919 explains that the alterations were so drastic that “Remodeling these wards means that they are made into new apartments, there is nothing left of the old, except the brick frame of the main building, the entire interior new.” Although the exterior retained similar elements to the Kirkbride plan, including the V shape, the interior was gutted and retrofitted for dormitories instead of individual patient rooms, making it entirely different from the Kirkbride style in most respects.
Though many little improvements were made over the years, such as fresh paint and reflooring, only four larger alterations to the Babcock building occurred after 1920. The first was in the fiscal year ending in 1949. The first floor of the central section of the building was renovated to accommodate additional offices, including a treasurer’s office. Elevator shafts were added to the building in the fiscal year ending in 1962. In 1969, the building was renamed after Dr. James W. Babcock, who had been superintendent of the State Hospital from 1891 to 1914. The final major renovations occurred in the fiscal year ending in 1974, when vinyl-asbestos tile flooring was added, partitions were raised in the wards, air conditioning units were installed, and a number of other improvements were made to Babcock and other buildings.
Plans to close the Babcock Building began in 1977, but were delayed by overcrowding. All patients were moved to the first floor by the fiscal year ending in 1980, and the following year saw Babcock closed to residential use. It was reopened to patients one year later due to overcrowding. The last patients were removed from Babcock for good around 1990. Three years later saw minor repairs and a repainting of the cupola “in the original historic color,” but in 1996, Babcock was abandoned for good.
Ultimately, it appears as though Trezevant got his wish for a unique South Carolina style of architecture. Between the long initial construction completed by four different architects, minor alterations over the years, and the major alterations to the interior in the late 1910s, the Babcock building stands today as a truly a unique form of architecture. Though it remains a long, stepped, Greek Revival building, its unique reliance on wards harkens to medical hospitals of the early twentieth century, though unusual in their square shape. While similar institutions used hallways and any other available space to deal with overcrowding, and the South Carolina State Hospital ultimately had to resort to these measures as well, the design was an uncommon solution to the ever-present problem of overcrowding, and an example of ways in which Kirkbride buildings can be repurposed.
 Peter McCandless, Moonlight, Magnolias, and Madness: Insanity in South Carolina from the Colonial to the Progressive Eras (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 127.
 Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007, 51.
 Kimberly Campbell, “‘Ill Adapted for the Purpose’: The Clash of Medicine and Politics at the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum” (unpublished paper), 12.
 McCandless, Moonlight, Magnolias, and Madness, 130-131.
 Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 14; Inez Fripp, “Babcock Building, South Carolina State Hospital, 1969,” in folder labeled “Administration Building, South Carolina State Hospital, 1883 to June 1969,” Box 1A, Series 190018, State Dept. of Mental Health Office of the State Commissioner Administrative, correspondence, and speech files of the superintendent/state commissioner ca. 1919-1973, “Administration,” South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
 Campbell, “‘Ill Adapted for the Purpose,’” 11.
 National Register of Historic Places, Babcock Building, Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina, National Register #S10817740064.
 South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH), Report of the Regents of the Lunatic Asylum to the Legislature of South Carolina: November, 1856. Columbia: Edward H. Britton, 1856.
 National Register of Historic Places, Babcock Building.
 Fripp, “Babcock Building, South Carolina State Hospital, 1969.”
 National Register of Historic Places, Babcock Building.
 Lynda H. Schneekloth, Marcia F. Feuerstein, and Barbara A. Campagna, eds. Changing Places: Remaking Institutional Buildings, Fredonia: White Wine Press, 1992, 45.
 Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 51.
 While never explicitly stated, this information can be gleaned from the order of construction and relocation of patients into the building. As explained above, construction began with a portion of the south wing, intended to relieve overcrowding in the male wards; white male patients were moved in immediately upon completion in 1858. McCandless, Moonlight, Magnolias, and Madness, 138.
 Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 51.
 Commission No. A-153-L, Lafaye Associates Records, 1902-1981, Sheets 1-5.
 SCDMH, Seventy-Second Annual Report of the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, for the Fiscal Year 1894-’95, Columbia: Charles A. Calvo, Jr., 1895, 21.
 SCDMH, Ninety-Fifth Annual Report of the South Carolina State Hospital for the Insane for the year 1918, Columbia: Gonzales and Bryan, 1919, 16.
 Commission No. A-153-B, Lafaye Associates Records, 1902-1981, Sheets 1-5; Commission No. A-153-C, Lafaye Associates Records, 1902-1981, Sheets 1-5.
 SCDMH, One Hundred And Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the South Carolina State Hospital for the year ending June 30, 1949, Columbia: Joint Committee on Printing, 1949, 8-9.
 SCDMH, One Hundred and Thirty Ninth Annual Report, State Carolina State Hospital, For the Year Ending June 30, 1962, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1962, 179.
Fripp, Inez. Folder label for “Administration Building, South Carolina State Hospital, 1883 to June 1969.” Box 1A, Series 190018, State Dept. of Mental Health Office of the State Commissioner Administrative, correspondence, and speech files of the superintendent/state commissioner ca. 1919-1973, “Administration.” South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
 SCDMH, South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Annual Report, 1973-74, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1974, 55.
 SCDMH, South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Annual Report, 1977-78, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1978, p. 37.
 SCDMH, South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Annual Report, 1979-80, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1980, 34; SCDMH, South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Annual Report, 1980-81, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1981, 35; SCDMH, South Carolina Department of Mental Health, Annual Report, 1981-82, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1982, 35.
 Mike Mefford, as interviewed by Kimberly Campbell, March 25, 2014.
 SCDMH, South Carolina Department of Mental Health Annual Report, 1992-1993, Columbia: State Budget and Control Board, 1993, p. 8; Mefford, March 25, 2014.
 Yanni, The Architecture of Madness, 138.