In Charleston, South Carolina, we are accustomed to preserving our historic structures. Frequently, those historic structures take on new purposes unimagined at the time the building was originally constructed.
The Sol Blatt Jr. Law Library, Charleston School of Law, is no exception and has a unique home in historic downtown Charleston.
Founded in 2003, our law school was originally located in an antebellum railroad structure at 81 Mary Street, identified as “South Carolina Railroad Warehouse.” As part of the William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures grouping, the associated buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Properties in South Carolina and designated as National Historic Landmarks. The buildings are nationally significant for their role in the development of the railroad industry in the United States.
Our law library’s home, the Railroad Warehouse, was constructed in 1857. Architectural features visible today include a barrel-vaulted roof supported by Howe arch trusses. The roof extends the length of the building and one of the warehouse’s long sides served as a railroad platform. You can explore more about the history of the William Aiken House and Associated Railroad Structures at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
Long ago, excited railroad passengers arrived at 81 Mary Street in steam locomotives.
Today, excited law students arrive at 81 Mary Street by foot, bicycle, and automobile to begin their legal educations. The railroad building originally housed our entire law school.
As the school grew, it expanded into neighboring buildings. Now, the former railroad warehouse is home to the Sol Blatt Jr. Law Library, Information Technology department, classrooms, study and conference rooms, and student lounge.
Where once railroads served Charleston, now librarians, staff, and student staff serve our students, faculty, alumni, and local bar. In addition to a print collection and extensive database collection, our law school community’s scholarship needs are met with research consultations, course instruction including 1L legal research, course reserves, interlibrary loan, faculty services, outreach programs, student publications support, The Barrister blog, informative Briefings, faculty/student Barrister Breaks, libguides, and student peer research fellows.
The law library’s collection is varied, from holding one of the oldest print collections of South Carolina Reports in the state, to modern databases and legal internet portal. Students and faculty have access to federal and state codes and reporters, legal encyclopedias and reference materials, South Carolina materials and practice aids, study aids, bar review items, and course reserve books.
Just as those excited Charleston travelers began their journeys at the railroad building, so are our law students starting their journeys into legal education at the Sol Blatt Jr. Law Library.
Next time you’re in Charleston, come by for a visit and see our law library’s unique home.
This story was written by Deborah C. Turkewitz, Faculty Services/Publications/Reference Librarian at Charleston School of Law and was originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of the Southeastern Law Librarian, a publication of the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.