Institute HallInstitute Hall, built here in 1854, stood until 1861. An Italianate building, it was designed by Jones and Lee for the South Carolina Institute, a progressive organization promoting "art, ingenuity, mechanical skill, and industry." The Grand Hall, Charleston's largest public space, seated 3,000 and hosted fairs, exhibits, concerts, and conventions. It hosted the 1860 Democratic convention, which split over the mention of slavery in the party platform.
"The Union is Dissolved!"Abraham Lincoln's election as president in Nov. 1860 was the catalyst for a secession convention in S.C. The convention met in Columbia on Dec. 17, but moved to Charleston the next day. On Dec. 20, 1860, S.C. became the first state to secede from the Union. That night delegates signed the Ordinance of Secession before a huge crowd in the Grand Hall. Institute Hall later burned in the "Great Fire" of Dec. 1861.