South Carolina State House

Columbia was not the first capital of South Carolina. That was Charleston. The first state house was built there in the 1750’s. About thirty years later, it was decided to have the capital more in the center of the state and thus Columbia was born. It was the nation’s first planned capital city. By 1790, the new State House was built. It, like the first State House was built of wood. It, like its predecessor, succumbed to fire.

I’ve been around the State House countless times. I used to stand at the bus stop kitty corner from it’s grounds as I waited to go home after a day at USC. I never went inside the capital building until recently though. It’s cool one can visit for free. Just know there is plenty of security and they will check your bags and that.

That same visit as I stood outside, looking for the stars on the building I saw then Governor Haley emerged from a side door with her entourage. That was a pretty neat experience.

The present State House was completed in 1907. It was under construction during the Civil War and you may have seen the iconic picture of the building with its exterior walls and foundation, looking as if it had been destroyed along with a whole lot of Columbia when General Sherman’s troops swept through. The stars I mentioned earlier, mark where cannon balls hit the structure.

Interesting tidbits of the building include that the columns on the portico are each carved from a single piece of stone. Next time I go by, I’m going to look at them closer. Also, the dome has two parts. The interior one is for looks and fits into the exterior dome which is made of steel and wood and finished with copper. When they renovated the State House in the 1990’s and redid the copper part, it shone like a bright penny. Now it’s dulled again.

The State House grounds are worth a tour too with its park like appearance and all the monuments.

How To Get There:

Address: 1100 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201

Links:

https://www.experiencecolumbiasc.com/listing/south-carolina-state-house/15796/

What’s Close By:

River Front Park

State Museum

USC Campus

Main Street

Visitor Center

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Robert Mills In Columbia

To continue from my last post on Robert Mills, there are several structures in Columbia that were designed by Robert Mills. These include a hospital, a memorial, and one of the few residences he ever created. Ironically, it was never used as a home.

Located at 1616 Blanding Street, the now named Robert Mills House was built in 1823 for Ainsley Hall and his wife, Sarah. Before Hall could move in, he died and his widow sold the Classical Revival townhouse to the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina who started a school, a seminary, in 1831.

The house was saved from demolition in 1961 by a group that would later become Historic Columbia. Six years later, after much restoration, it reopened as a house museum. One can walk around the grounds and gardens for free. There is a fee to tour the house. See the website for times.

Not far away, on Bull Street is the State Asylum. This famous landmark opened in 1828 and was one of the first public hospitals in the U.S. for those suffering with mental illness. It’s design was a marked departure from the earlier insane asylums. Instead of dank cells, dorm room were positioned southward to get sufficient light. It even had a heating system and protected fire stairs.

These two buildings are located in the Robert Mills District. Further south, on the USC campus, on the Horseshoe on, is the Maxcy Monument. Built 1827 it’s Mill’s first use of the obelisk style, the same style as the Washington Monument.

I couldn’t find much documentation on Robert Mill’s association with the Columbia canal, but I did find a notation that he was instrumental in it’s development. It was complete in 1824, when he was working for the state.

Historic Columbia Foundation has two self-guided walking tours of the area: Robert Mills District East and Robert Mills District West.

http://www.historiccolumbia.org/robert-mills-house-and-gardens

 

Robert Mills

Traveling around South Carolina, sooner or later you’ll come across a building designed by Charleston born architect Robert Mills. Born August 12, 1781, he’s been called the first U.S. professionally trained architect. His most famous work is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Other well known buildings are the Treasury Building and the Old Patent Office, which is now part of the Smithsonian.

After attending what’s now the College of Charleston, Mills moved to Charleston where he not only studied with the architect who designed the White House, James Hoban, but befriended then President Thomas Jefferson who granted him access to his library of architectural books.

In 1816, Mills moved to Baltimore, but when he found himself with too few projects, he accepted the State Architect and Engineer position in South Carolina in 1820. Thus you can travel the state and find his courthouses, jails, bridges, canals, and other public works.

In 1830, he moved back to Washington, DC and that is where he worked on the public buildings and Washington Monument.

There are numerous works around the state and I have chosen those I’ve visited to highlight.

Perhaps one of my favorites is the Fairfield County Courthouse in Winnsboro. Built in 1823, it’s across from the town clock. You can’t miss it with the sweeping black staircases. Those were added later. I believe they were part of Mill’s design however. Additional funding needed to be appropriated before they could be built.

Landsford Canal is another favorite. It’s a two mile long canal with locks along the Catawba River in the Landsford Canal State Park. A trail goes along and through it. It’s one well worth the hike.

Georgetown County Courthouse was a bit difficult to take a good picture of with all the necessities of modern living, like telephone and electrical wires dangling in front. This was built in 1828 in temple form using a variety of styles such as Greek Revival with Roman Doric columns and a Renaissance style foundation.

Mills designed the Union County Courthouse and Jail, but only the jail remains, now the police station. A pity about the courthouse. Built in 1823 with walls of granite blocks, it survived the Union soldiers who marched through, but didn’t survive the wrecking ball. The jail was built 1822.

Pointsett Bridge may have been designed by Robert Mills. It was built in 1820 when he was state architect. There’s no definite yea or nay if he did or not.

 

He also designed a few structures in Columbia and I’ll highlight them in my next post.

Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site

It was a rather warm day when I visited this park. I’d just dropped off someone at the Augusta airport and detoured through Beech Island on my way back to Columbia. The town of Beech Island isn’t an island at all, but it may have gotten its name from a former island on the Savannah River. The town is one of the oldest settlements in SC.

While not large, 396 acres, Redcliffe Plantation packs quite a bit of history. I spent some time walking the grounds after talking a good while with the friendly ranger. The ranger I spoke with in the park store was enthusiastic and knew the stories of the place. I learned quite a bit from her. After our conversation I wandered out, up the red clay hill from which the place gets its name. Redcliffe. It’s covered in a green lawn and dotted with trees. There’s this humongous clump of cactus that catches my eye. It’s not what I expected. The flowers on are pretty.

The antebellum house was owned by the James Henry Hammond. Besides being governor of the SC (1842-1844) , he was also a senator, congressman, and cotton planter. He acquired the property in 1855. The house was completed in 1859 and is an example of Greek-Revival Style. It was remodeled in 1886, restored in the mid 1900s. In 1973 it was donated to the state. Besides the house, there are two slave cabins and a stables.

When it was a working plantation, they grew indigo and sugar cane here. Plus there were orchards and a vineyard.

Tours of the mansion are offered Thursday through Monday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Visit the website in case there are any changes. There is a fee for the tour. Again, consult the website for prices.

 

How to Get There:

Off SC125, northeast of Beech Island, on Redcliffe Road.

 

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/redcliffe/introduction.aspx

 

What’s Close By:

North Augusta

Aiken

Historic Columbia Foundation Brochures

I’ve mentioned these brochures before and today I’m going to go a little more in-depth. These are nice, quality, attractive, little booklets put out by the Historic Columbia Foundation. They are 4″ x 9″ closed (8″ x 9″ open) with a fold out map in the back. The number of pages vary. There are also one page pamphlets. Besides giving background information on various historical sites in Columbia, they make excellent souvenirs.

I nabbed most of mine at the visitor center on Lincoln Street. It’s located at the convention center. You can also pick them up at the Robert Mills House gift shop on Blanding Street. One can’t download them from the website (historiccolumbia.org), which is a pity, but the website does have different tours to view.

The brochure contain driving and walking tours, most of which are in the downtown area. Some expand further out such as the African-American Heritage Sites Tour. You’ll need a car for that one. Most of the others are guides for walking.

Each brochure begins with a short introduction. Next are pages with of the stops on the tour complete with a picture or drawing of site mentioned and a description. On the last page is the fold out map. It makes learning about Columbia fun.

If you don’t want to do the tour thing on your own, the foundation offers tours for a fee. Visit the website to find out more.

Columbia Main Street

I picked up the Main Street: Self-Guided Architectural Walking Tour brochure at the visitor center on Lincoln Street. The brochure is written by the Historic Columbia Foundation. You can’t download it (at least not in 2017). As soon as I had my hands on it, I planned my trip. The map inside points out the places of interest and there’s nice information about each building highlighted.

The tour starts at the capital building, but I started at Main and Hampton and worked my way up, then down. It being Saturday, Soda City, the downtown market, was in full swing. If you don’t want to wade through people, you may want to come another day. Sunday should be nice. If you want to do a little bit of shopping and eating, come Saturday.

While most buildings are from the twentieth and twenty-first century, there are a few from the 1800’s. When General Sherman and his troops came through they pretty much burned Columbia down to the ground. Throughout the years older buildings have been updated and rehabilitated. Of one, 1320 Main, only the 1912 façade remains, having been incorporation into the much younger (built 2006) Meridian Building. But even newer structures have character. Here’s a shortened tour.

1200 Main is Columbia’s third skyscraper. It was built in 1914 and updated twice, 1965 and 1980. It’s in the Chicago style of architecture with Tudor Gothic elements. It houses the local ABC station.

1210 – 14 Main – The Brennen Building. This is one of the oldest buildings downtown, built around 1870. It’s a good representation of what buildings looked like after the Civil War. The balcony, half hidden by the tree, was added later.

1230 Main – First Citizens Bank Building. It was built in 2006. The style is post-modern with Art Deco influences.

1320 Main – Former Consolidated Building and now an entrance to the Meridian building. The façade itself is at 1328 Main and was built 1912 in the Spanish Gothic style.

1332 Main – Arcade Mall. Interior. This too is from 1912. I always though it weird they had a mall like this back then. I always though of malls as something in the late twentieth century. It’s L-shaped and was Columbia’s first indoor shopping center.

1339 Main – This is an interesting building in an intriguing style – New Brutalism. I’d never heard of that before.

1400 Main – Palmetto building, now Sheraton Hotel. This was Columbia’s second skyscraper (the first one is the Barringer Building at 1338). It was built in 1913, updated in the 1980’s, and rehabilitated in 2008. The style is the Chicago School and Gothic Revival. It almost succumbed to the wrecking ball, but survived.

1508 Main – Kress Building. Art Deco. It was built in 1934 and rehabilitated in 1999. During the Civil Rights movement, black and white college students held sit-ins at the white’s only lunch counter.

To date myself, I remember once going into Kress some time before it closed. I found it unique in that it was L shaped with an entrance on Hampton as well as Main Street. The façade is terra cotta.

1530 Main – Canal Dime Savings Bank. This Richardsonian Romanesque style building was built in 1895. The Canal Dime Bank closed three years later, but three other banks used this building until 1936. I like it because it’s so different.

1607 – 13 Main – These three buildings are, from left to right:

State Theater (now Nickelodeon), built 1870’s, modified 1936, rehabilitated 2012.

King’s, built 1870’s, modified early 1900’s and 1970s.

Lever Building, 1903, original storefront altered.

Train Depots in Columbia

I began my tour of the capital city’s train attractions at Union Station on Main Street, south of the capital building. Like most all the surviving depots it is a restaurant and they’ve all taken care of the historic structures. The Union Station was built around 1902 and is the most ornate of the Columbia depots. Frank Pierce Milburn, who designed the building also designed the SC Statehouse dome. Service stopped here 1968. A pity, but that’s the way it is.

Union Station

My second stop was the Amtrak Station on Pulaski Street. It’s a block east of Huger Street. It’s not hard to miss with the caboose right by the road. It’s not much of a building, but then there aren’t many trains that come to call. Used to busier train stations, I have to admit this floored me. I guess that explained the near empty, small parking lot and single platform.

Amtrak Station on Pulaski Street

In order to visit the rest of my railroad related sites I walked along Gervais Street. My trip included the bridge over the railroad tracks allowing me a different view of the Amtrak station. Further up, I was walking toward Lincoln from the bridge, at 800 Gervais is what used to be the South Carolina Railroad (at one time the SC Canal and Railroad Company) freight station. The lot east of the buiding, the parking lot area, used to be train tracks. The station was originally built around the 1850’s and was burned during the Civil War in 1865 when Sherman’s troops came through. It was rebuilt in 1867 and functioned as a depot until the train tracks here were removed in the 1980’s to ease traffic congestion. It is also a restaurant as is the Seaboard Air Line Station at 1200 Lincoln just of Gervais and the Seaboard Air Line Freight Station across the street at 902 Gervais. Both were built in 1903.

South Carolina Rail Depot

Seaboard Air Line Station

Another must see was the Lincoln/Seaboard Air Line tunnel. This is now a pedestrian way going underneath an entire block from Washington to Lady Street and parallels Lincoln Street. When I went the last time it was being fixed up as it flooded during the 2015 October flood, but one could still go through. I thought it was pretty neat, definitely a cool spot for the summer.

Train Depots

Aiken Train Depot

I’ve always been a fan of train locomotives and the railroad. I’ve traveled on a variety of trains, no Amtrak, but on some special excursions from kiddie trains to old time trains powered by locomotives. I decided to indulge my interest in railroads by stopping at train depots and taking pictures of them and learning more of the railroad industry in South Carolina. At the website below one can see how the industry grew throughout the years starting in the 1830’s when the Charleston to Hamburg line started. There’s also a list of all the Railroad lines, passenger and freight, that existed in the state from the Air Line Railroad to the Wilson to Summerton Railroad. There’s more too so check it out.

http://www.carolana.com/SC/Transportation/railroads/home.html

Two other good website not to miss are:

http://scdepots.com/ and http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/tag/trains-depots/

The former lists the train depots by county. Click on a county name and find all the depots by county. The latter, Sciway, has always good information but its list is not as intensive as scdepots.

The South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro has a website: http://www.scrm.org/ Check it out to see when the train trip is scheduled to run. And, of course, don’t miss The Best Friend of Charleston Museum (http://bestfriendofcharleston.org/) which features a replica of the first train in South Carolina.

Textile Mills

I’m sure there is quite a bit of information on the textile mills in Columba. I just haven’t found it yet. So far it’s a few snippets here and a bit there and usually the same thing. I will give you what I know.

According to the book The Cotton Mills of South Carolina, 1907: Letters Written to the News And Courier (by August Kohn c1907, a reprint published years later) SC ‘was probably the very first state to undertake the development of cotton manufacturing.’ A mill in Beverley, MA will contend this bit of information, but the author maintains the state of South Carolina was the first and who am I to argue. The first mills built, 1790, used the English mills as models. Power looms weren’t included until circa 1812. The first mill workers were slaves such as Fisher’s Mill Gilles Creek. While what I read makes it sound the building is still standing, I didn’t find it. I can’t imagine it would be what with the 2015 flood. It was located a quarter of a mile off Forest Drive along the creek. There’s a historical marker there for those who want to take a gander.

richland-forest-acres-forest-drive-gilles-creek

Around 1800 a Colonel Thomas Taylor build mill that wove cotton goods, items used on the plantation. Later John and Edward Fisher made one of the first spinning mills in the county. Like Taylor they used slave labor to create yarn. The same Fisher brothers may be the ones who built a mill on Sand Brook by the Saluda River. This one didn’t do well.

The Saluda Factory was built in 1828 across the river, in Lexington County. I include it because of the connection to Columbia and because it’s accessible via trails in Riverbanks Zoo and the botanical garden. There are only ruins left because Sherman’s troops burned it down in 1865, but not before taking the wood to build a bridge to cross the river. The mill made something called oznaburg, a heavy cloth. (Tales of Columbia by Nell S. Graydon, published 1964 in Columbia, SC by R.L. Bryan Company)

lexington-riverbanks-zoo-2017-16-saluda-factory-ruins

As far as I can tell there were at least six textile mills in Columbia around the turn of the century. Most of the mills have been repurposed. Granby, Olympia, and Whaley Mills (Richland Cotton Mills) are now apartments as is the Palmetto Compress Warehouse on Devine Street. Columbia Mills Company is today the South Carolina State Museum. That leaves Capital City Mills and the Palmetto Cotton Mills. I think both were smaller than the others in the city. Other signs of the textile industry are the mill villages and the Columbia canal.

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Columbia Mills Company opened in 1894 and was the first electric-powered textile mill in the world. It’s located on Gervais Street.

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Granby Cotton Mill, built by W.B. Smith Whaley, was the first off-site hydroelectric powered textile mill. It sits between Whaley and Heyward.

richland-olympia-granby-mill-01

Olympia Cotton Mills was also built by Whaley. When it opened in 1899 it was the largest cotton mill under one roof in the world. Across the street is Granby Mill. It’s located on Heyward Street.

richland-olympia-olympia-mill-09

Richland Cotton Mill – ala Whaley’s Mill after its architecture W.B. Smith Whaley. completed 1895. It’s on Main Street, south of the Capital building.

richland-columbia-whaley-mill-01-main-st

richland-columbia-palmetto-compress-cotton-warehouse-02

Sally Salamander Tour of Downtown Columbia

This is a fun activity to do with kids and visitors to Columbia. Sally Salamander, ‘Columbia’s Newest Ambassador’, is an interactive walking tour. The downloadable brochure gives you a map and the clues on how to find Sally who’s hanging on walls in downtown Columbia. My sister, nephew, and I did this during one Christmas break and had a great time. If you go on Saturday, like we did, and don’t go too late, which we did, you can partake in the Soda City Market that sets up on Main Street. The tour goes right past it. We ended up in some of the shops too. Didn’t buy anything, but it was interesting to browse.

richland-columbia-2016-26-salamander-for-never-bust

The tour starts at the Columbia Regional Visitor Center. That’s located in the convention center and there are parking garages close by. From there you walk up to the State House. Sally hangs out across the street, corner of Gervais and Main. While you’re on the State House grounds look for the stars on the State House that show where cannon balls struck.

There are currently 10 Sally Salamanders to hunt down. I admit, we didn’t find one of them, but maybe you can. The brochure gives you the clues as well as the address of the building.

Good luck!

How to Get Here:

The Visitor Center is at 1101 Lincoln Street, two blocks from the State House. From US1/Gervais Street, turn south on Lincoln. The visitor center is on the right.

Links:

http://www.columbiacvb.com/salamander/

What’s Close By.

State House Complex

Three Rivers Greenway

Finlay Park