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Fort Johnson Powder House Uncovered

Charleston Evening Post, March 11, 1931

a sketch of the powder house

The familiar earthwork at Fort Johnson, James island, Charleston’s oldest fortification for harbor defense, having been partially demolished in the course of filling in a low, marshy area, a powder magazine of much historical interest and of considerable size has been brought to light. The structure is of brick with walls between four and five feet thick. Its floor area is 18 feet by 10 feet and its vaulted roof is 11 feet high in the interior.

The existence of the building, it is believed, was unknown to the oldest residents of Charleston and James island and definite information about it may never be forthcoming. Dr. C. M. Fauntleroy, of the U.S. Public Health service, who is in charge of the quarantine station now operated at the fort, has made researches into the history of the fortification and is of the opinions that the structure was included in the building projects carried out in 1793. Fort Johnson was first established in 1704 in anticipation of the arrival of French ships of war and was named for Governor Sir Nathaniel Johnson. It was used by the colonists in the Revolutionary War and fired the first shot in the War Between the States, inaugurating the successful assault of the Confederates against Fort Sumter, held by United States troops in April, 1861.

a photo of the powder house

At the present time work of uncovering the powder magazine is in abeyance, pending complaints which have been filed at Washington by residents of this section, who hold that the earthwork is of historical value and significance and should be permitted to remain.

Land which has been filled in with earth from the mound will provide space for various quarantine buildings which will be rearranged and constructed in the course of extensive improvements which are being carried out.