The City of Charleston Council Chamber is the second-oldest council chamber in continuous use in the United States. The Chamber contains twenty-seven black walnut desks made for council members in 1818. Two chandeliers, originally lit with gas, date to 1850. Above the main floor is a visitors’ gallery encircled by a bowed, cast iron railing. Exposed earthquake rods are incorporated into the design of the hand-painted, tin-paneled ceiling, the perimeter of which contains the original 1896 Thomas Edison light bulbs that burned in the room until 1983.
The Council Chamber also serves as an art gallery, displaying a priceless collection of original oil portraits of figures important to state and national history, including likenesses of four United States presidents. A beautiful, full-length portrait of George Washington painted in commemoration of his week-long visit to Charleston during his presidential tour of the southern states, dates to 1791. Four handsomely carved, marble busts of public figures of the 19th century adorn the wall niches. All figures exhibited have a particular association with Charleston beginning in the Pre-Revolutionary Era and continuing through the: