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Judge Thomas N. Dawkins House
("The Shrubs")

Located at the end of N. Church Street in downtown Union is an unassuming building that does not outwardly show its history as the one-time state capital of South Carolina during the Civil War. The Dawkins House was built around the 1800s in the Federal style. When Judge Dawkins purchased the property in 1845, he added a new front porch and facade. Today, the house is 4,500+ square-feet located adjacent to the University of South Carolina-Union campus. It is also a “terminus” home in that it is located and its front door is at the end of N. Church Street, which connects to Highway 176, the main route from Union to Columbia.

​​History: The Dawkins House is most notably regarded as the former home of Judge Thomas N. Dawkins and his second wife, Mary Poulton Dawkins. Initially named "the Shrubs" after Mary Poulton's childhood home in England, this two-story, clapboard building has a grand stature, with five bedrooms, two parlors, and eight fireplaces. 

During the Civil War, the state capitol would move four times with the intent of avoiding capture and destruction. Though Judge Dawkins was overtly a Unionist, he was held in high regard by his peers, including friend, Gov. Andrew Magrath. In 1865, Dawkins offered "The Shrubs" as the temporary state headquarters of South Carolina.

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Judge Thomas Dawkins

Judge Dawkins, despite his personal residence in the South, was a staunch Unionist amongst many Secessionists of the time. He remained cordial, however, and would continue to serve as an elected official during the Reconstruction era. When Judge Dawkins built his house in 1845 with Federal and Georgian architectural attributes, it was added onto a pre-existing structure. Portions of the pre-existing structure may date back to as far as the 1790s, making it one of Union's oldest homes, existing at the time of George Washington’s and John Adams’ presidencies. Much of the historic fabric is still intact today. The Dawkins House was placed on the National Register in 1974.

In November 2022, Preservation SC met with community leaders in Union to introduce its state-wide mission and disclose its initiative to save the Dawkins House from further deterioration. That initiative is now coming to fruition.

One year later, in November 2023, Preservation SC acquired the rights to the Dawkins House through a property tax sale.

Upon our acquisition of the property, we received $300,000 from the State Legislature for this project. This funding would not be possible without the help of our dedicated supporters and the leaders of Union, Laurens, Cherokee, Spartanburg, and York counties, specifically Representatives Doug Gilliam and Dennis Moss.

It is our intent to work with the community to not only find a purpose for this significant building, but also to ensure it will be standing for another 178 years.


An in-depth study of the condition of the structure is being developed by Bennett Preservation Engineering. This study will focus on the longevity of the building and the feasibility of its restoration. 

Our next steps are to develop a scope-of-work for stabilization.

Stay tuned!

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