The Old Market Building and Town Clock
The brick and stucco Old Market Building, located in the Front Street Business District, was built in 1842 to replace a wooden structure that had been severely damaged in an 1841 fire that destroyed much of Front Street. The “new” Old Market Building was used originally as a law court and jail. The Town Clock was added in 1857, and it became the first building in Georgetown to be named to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1970, as part of the South Carolina Tri-Centennial Celebration, the Old Market Building and Town Clock became the headquarters of the Rice Museum and currently house the Museum’s permanent collection of dioramas, maps, paintings, artifacts and other exhibits that tell the history of rice cultivation in Georgetown County
By 1750, George Town was evolving into the center of rice production in the Carolina Colony. Five major river systems – the Waccamaw, the Pee Dee, the Black, the Sampit and the Santee – flowed through the county to the sea, allowing widespread use of the tidal-flow method of rice cultivation – a method that took advantage of the force exerted by the tides on fresh river water to direct the water into and out of the rice fields.
Critical to this process was the development of the trunk dock (shown in the diorama to the left), operated by a team of workmen with very specialized skills. The laborers in the rice fields were primarily West Africans who had been captured and sold into slavery. By 1840 the Georgetown District (later County) produced nearly one-half of the total rice crop of the United States. The decade of the 1850’s was the most profitable decade for the rice planters. The Rice Museum chronicles the development of this most important American industry and its impact on not only South Carolina, but internationally as well.
The Kaminski Hardware Building
The other building in the Rice Museum complex is the Kaminski Hardware Building, also re-built in 1842 just across the alley from the Old Market Building. By the mid-1850’s, more and more of Prussia’s Jewish population had began to emigrate to the United States. Young men like Heiman Kaminski left to escape conscription in the Czar’s army. Mr. Kaminski purchased the building at 633 Front Street in 1868 and re-modeled it in 1878 by adding a 3rd story and a 3-floor rear addition. An ornate inner stairway and a skylight with a 3-story light-well were added, both of which increased the building’s elegance and usefulness. Merchandise was lowered on a pulley system from the upper floors where it was stored, through the light-well to the retail first floor.
The Kaminski Hardware Building houses the Rice Museum’s Maritime Museum Gallery, the Rice Museum Gift Shop and the Prevost Art Gallery.
The Maritime Museum Gallery is located in the third floor of the Kaminski Hardware Building. The Browns Ferry Vessel, built in the early 1700’s and sunk in approximately 1730, is on permanent display in the Kaminski Building’s third-floor gallery. This is the oldest vessel of colonial manufacture on exhibit in America, and predates by 50 years all vessels previously found. The vessel is approximately 50′ long and was a general purpose freighter used on the rivers and coastal waterways during the 1700’s. Discovered in 1974 at the bottom of the Black River near the Brown’s Ferry crossing, the vessel was reconstructed, stored and treated by the University of South Carolina until it was brought to the Museum in 1992.
Also located in the Kaminski Hardware Building are the Prevost Art Gallery and the Rice Museum Gift Shop. Rotating installations provide visitors interesting and topical exhibits of art and history. Art by South Carolina artists and artisans is a major feature of the Gallery. The Museum Gift Shop is filled with unique and unusual pieces by South Carolina artists and artisans as well as from all around the world.
Lafayette Park and the Rice Museum Herb Garden surround the Rice Museum’s Old Market Building and is an idyllic urban greenspace on the banks of the Sampit River. A bust of the Marquis de Lafayette is situated there, commemorating his 1777 arrival in Georgetown harbor on his first trip to the New World to help the American colonists in their revolution against British dominion.