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Law Range is a little world all of its own

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 8/31/19

Reflections remembers an article written by W. G. Barner for The News and Courier in 1957 concerning the growth and development of Law Range. According to most local historians, this former carriage path has occupied an important place in our city's …

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Law Range is a little world all of its own

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Reflections remembers an article written by W. G. Barner for The News and Courier in 1957 concerning the growth and development of Law Range. According to most local historians, this former carriage path has occupied an important place in our city's history, and numerous significant events have occurred there. The author of Reflections will reprint this article with additional comments to aid in understanding the importance of this Sumter thoroughfare.

"The famous old Law Range provides a historic link with Sumter's past that goes back over a century and features some of the county's oldest law practices. "Some citizens note that if a song were written about the street no one would be surprised. The street usually had a hustling atmosphere of men and women who might erupt all at once and fill to overflowing this one-way street. Or it may be deserted as the loneliest country road with only the warm afternoon sun bouncing off its red or yellow brick walls and only the birds in the magnolias across the streets chirping.

"There were signs (shingles) posted over every door and hallway, announcing the profession of the person occupying the office. The street's sidewalk was wide for a one-way street and covered the short block between Main on the south end and Harvin on the north. Traffic flowed in only one direction, and parking was in early cindered parking spaces which hugged the courthouse lawn. It's only been a few years that cars couldn't go both ways. That's when the street was a confusion of scraped fenders, high tempers and cars backing into oncoming traffic. But that's how the jokes about the range have come up. 'Bang two fenders,' goes the expression, 'or even pound an iron pole with a hammer, and you'll have this street full of lawyers.' In 1957, the street's name fit well. More than a third of the city's active lawyers practiced there. The block consisted of 13 law offices, a surveyor, several real estate dealers, civil engineers, the county service officer and a magistrate.

"The offices were located within a few steps of the courthouse. This proximity was convenient for the lawyers and accounts for how the name 'law range' came about. In the beginning - that's when the range was the first doughty old lady to rule here - she was a U-shaped street that surrounded the back of the old courthouse that was on Main Street and just vacated by the S.C. National Bank (Mills Courthouse across from the Opera House). A horse and buggy could drive around the courthouse and stop at any of the frame buildings. However, in December 1905, a Roman candle ignited a barn filled with hay on West Liberty Street, and fire swept Law Range.

"The following year the county purchased the A. A. Solomons property from three sisters - Kate, Augusta and Maude Solomons. Their Main Street residence was procured for the purpose of constructing a new courthouse; the county paid what was considered an exorbitant sum of $25,000 for the land. Located on the property was a narrow lane that ran down one side with a carriage house at one side. This land would be subdivided into 20 lots for use by Sumter attorneys.

"In 1957, Law Range had only one attorney who had practiced on the original street. His name was George D. Levy; he was president of the Sumter Bar Association and was considered to be the dean of the county bar. Law Range continues to house Sumter's barristers and remains a one-way street. The street continues as one of the most attractive and well-maintained historic pathways in the city of Sumter.

Sumter County

Judicial Center

According to an article about the "Penny for Progress" published by Sumter County, Sumter County Judicial Center became a reality because of a directive issued by the South Carolina Supreme Court. This new facility was designed to "address safety concerns at the courthouse where Sumter handled a per capita docket on par with Greenville and Columbia. The new Judicial Center was designed to address the concerns and make more space available in the current courthouse. The courthouse was too small to handle the sheer volume of cases generated by Sumter County. The office space was also inadequate for the Solicitor's Office as well as the Clerk of Court's offices. The former facility lacked the security needed to keep judges, court staff and jurors safe. There was also a lack of space to store legal records, which is required by state law."

The new center consisted of 80,000 square feet of space facing Harvin Street and running parallel to Canal Street located between the Chamber of Commerce and the Sumter County Library. The building provides adequate space for the "current courthouse, the Circuit Court, Family Court, and the Clerk of Court offices."