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The Charleston Earthquake of 1886

Earthquake damaged building

Medical College of South Carolina - 1886
(South Carolina Library Archives)

In August 1886, the College faced another disaster with the Great Earthquake of 1886. The city experienced widespread destruction. Damage to the Medical College Building was extensive, as can been seen in the above photograph taken shortly after the earthquake.

1886 Charleston Earthquake Facts

Approximately 110 persons lost their lives in the quake.

90% of Charleston's brick buildings were damaged.

The quake was a magnitude 7.6.

Dollar estimates of the damage caused by the quake were $5.5 Million*

*This converts to over $101 Million in today's economy.

Once again, after the quake the College's faculty determined that the College would open its doors. They determined that the College would not suffer from this disaster like it had in previous ones like the Civil War.

The process of repairing and rebuilding the College was started immediately.

Of note was the generous support from the citizens of the City of Boston, who contributed some $2,500 to the rebuilding of the College. In addition to these donations, the state legislature appropriated $5,000 for the rebuilding effort.

The restored building served the College until it moved to its present day location. Unfortunately, the original College building was demolished in the 1930's to make way for a housing project. 
Despite adversity, the College was reborn, and the spirit behind this great institution lived to see another day.

Earthquake Safety Information - FEMA

For more information about the history of MUSC, contact the Waring Historical Library.


Roper Hospital

Roper Hospital (1886)

"Roper Hospital Charleston, looking north." Although the Roper Hospital building suffered severe earthquake damage, it was not razed until after the 1920's, despite engineers' and architects' contentions that the building was structurally unsafe after the earthquake of 1886. By the late 1920's, however, the building was no longer being used as a hospital but rather as an apartment house for large numbers of Charleston's poor. (Dr. E.P. Howland, photographer)

Source: South Carolina Library, USC

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael's Church (1886)

"St. Michael's Church, Charleston, from N.W." St. Michael's Episcopal church, the oldest existing church edifice in Charleston, viewed several weeks after the great earthquake as efforts were under way to repair and refurbish it. A discerning person today can still detect the earthquake fractures in the building's walls despite the wonderful cosmetic "surgery" of recent years.
(Dr. E.P. Howland, photographer)

South Carolina Library, USC


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