SC School for the Deaf and the Blind, Walker Hall

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  • Association for Learning Environments (A4LE, formerly CEFPI), Impact on Learning Award, 2005
  • SC Department of Archives & History, Historic Preservation Honor Award, 2005

The South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind (SCSDB) is the State’s only specialized school for pre-K – twelth grade students who are deaf or blind. Walker Hall is a landmark building on the campus of SCSDB, placed strategically in the center of campus life. Considered an architectural and historical treasure for decades, the facility was originally designed circa 1859 by Edward C. Jones from Charleston. Multiple periods of growth led to significant alterations in the early 20th century, however the building remained untouched after the 1950s and eventually earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. When the school decided to restore the historic structure, they partnered with McMillan Pazdan Smith to research the building’s physical history, document existing conditions, and chart a path forward.

Working from a previous feasibility study completed by another design firm, our team conducted a thorough chronological study of the building’s structural, building envelope, and systems conditions. Detailed written and photographic documentation allowed the team to collaboratively determine which interior and exterior features to save and enhance. They also identified critical life safety risks, accessibility concerns, and code issues inherent to a facility of this age.

Significant issues included water damage and a fallen ceiling, rendering a third floor uninhabitable and roof trusses that required reinforcement in the main part of the building. Study of the first-floor kitchen determined it was capable of structural modification yet required careful phasing for continued support of the second floor amidst total redesign and reconstruction.

Distinctive features of the beloved Italianate Villa style structure include a main front portico, two loggias on either side, large multi-storied windows, and a tiled arcade along the first floor and entry. The building now houses administrative offices, classrooms, a dining facility, a state museum for the deaf, and a 600-seat auditorium. It is a functional administrative and teaching space as well as an exceptional representation of our state’s architectural heritage.