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Historic Babcock building catches fire

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The historic Babcock Building, a former hospital located on the Bull Street property in Columbia, caught fire last night, the Columbia Fire Department reported.

The fire was called into dispatch around 5:48 p.m. Around 50 firefighters fought the blaze for more than four hours, extinguishing it around 10 p.m., Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said. No injuries were reported.

The fire was concentrated on the top floor, spreading to the attic area and the roof of the building, which is vacant and has no electricity or tenants. The Columbia Fire Department said an investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.

“We were concentrating on putting it out last night,” Jenkins said. “This morning, our team is back out there investigating it now.”

The Babcock Building was built between 1857 and 1885. It operated as a hospital designed to better care for mentally ill people in the state, according to the S.C. Department of Archives and History. It was formerly called the S.C. Lunatic Asylum and later the S.C. State Hospital, which operated until the late 1990s. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

The building is a recognizable landmark in the BullStreet District, a 181-acre redevelopment led by Greenville-based Hughes Development Corp that is transforming the former hospital and surrounding campus into a mixed-use neighborhood with commercial, retail and residential spaces in a 20-year buildout.

The district is currently home to Spirit Communications Park, the Columbia Fireflies’ baseball stadium, as well as Bone-In-Barbeque restaurant, townhouses and businesses in the First Base Building.

“We are all heartbroken at the damage to the historic Babcock Building and thankful to the brave men and women of @ColaFire who protected and fought to preserve this treasure,” Columbia Mayer Steve Benjamin said in a tweet.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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