SC174 Scenic Road – Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

 

Back in the 1970’s, when we drove from Columbia to Edisto Beach, it seemed like this stretch lasted forever. Like we’d entered the Twilight Zone and were doomed to go over the same stretch of road forever.

In my defense, I was a bored teen and we’d been on the road for hours, or so it felt.

It didn’t feel like that this time. I took in all the sights (and the road of course since I didn’t want to have an accident) and stopped at places of interest along the way.

This section of road, from the Mckinley Washington Bridge at Dawhoo Creek to Edisto Beach State Park became a South Carolina scenic byway in 1988. A little over twenty years later, 2009, the seventeen mile segment became a National Scenic Byway. Along the way, the road passes maritime forests, salt marshes and creeks, and historical sites. It pretty much represents the barrier island landscape typical of the southern South Carolina coast.

There’s a lot to see, more than one would imagine for a seventeen mile stretch especially if you want to take a proper look see.

 Oak Avenue to Botany Bay

In my day trip, I didn’t get to see all of it. My priority of the day was Botany Bay WMA and that took up most of day. It is well worth lingering over. I stopped at three historic churches, wandered a bit through Edisto Beach, the town, and took in the Intracoastal Waterway from the boat ramp at the bridge. I didn’t get to the state park, but I’ve been before, nor the aquarium or the museum. All of those cost a fee. The State Park is well worth the money, but I had to go home.

Edisto Island Presbyterian Church

The Mystery Tree

If you are able to camp or get a cabin at the state park, please take your time in visiting the places around here.

From SC174 you can visit :

  • Botany Bay
  • Edisto Beach State Park
  • Edisto Beach
  • Edisto Island Baptist Church
  • Edisto Island Presbyterian Church (oldest congregation in continuous existence in SC)
  • Mystery Tree
  • Old First Baptist Church

Zion Reformed Church

There’s also the Edisto Island Museum and the Serpenterian. Look online for hours and fees.

How to Get There:

From US17, drive south on SC174. It is west of Charleston.

Links:

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways/73595

What’s Close By:

  • ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dungannon Heritage Preserve
  • Caw Caw Interpretive Center
  • Charleston
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Robert Mills District

 

The official Robert Mills tour consists of two parts, but I’ll mash them into one. The district gets its name from the two buildings designed by Mills, The Robert Mills House and SC Asylum. By starting at the Robert Mills House, you should be able to get the brochures at the shop there. When I did the walk, I divided it into two, but took a few side trips such as to the Woodrow Wilson House.

One can take a tour inside the Robert Mills building, go to the website for the hours. Interiors do little for me, except for castles. Bring your comfy shoes. Walking on pavement is harder than hiking on dirt. You can eat at places around here, on Main Street, or you can do what I do, and bring your own sandwich and water bottle.

 

1615 Blanding – Hampton Preston Mansion

Built 1818. During it’s existence it has housed a governor as well as college women. It used to be nationally known for its gardens and they are currently on working on the grounds.

1401 Laurel – Debruhl-Marshall House

Built 1820. The architect is unknown and some say it might be Robert Mills as it’s similar to the Robert Mills House.

1410 Laurel –

Built 1900. It was a single family dwelling until the 1960’s when it was subdivided. It has since been remodeled for commercial use.

1422 Laurel – Shannon Smith Stuckey House

Built in the late 1880’s, this house is house for its distinctive architecture.

1511 Laurel – Sims-Stackhouse Mansion

Built sometime before 1853. It once sat on a raised basement, but in 1909, then owner T.B. Stackhouse removed the top floors and relocated them to this location.

2025 Marion – Modjeska Monteith Simkins House

Built in the 1890s, Civil Rights icon Modjeska Monteith Simkins lived here around 1932 to 1992.

1403 Richland – Mann-Simons Cottage

This is one of the few houses in Columbia owned by an African American in Antebellum times.

1601 Richland – Seibels House

This may be Columbia’s oldest standing house. Part of it is supposed to date back to 1796. It’s current look is from the 1920’s and is one many renovations it’s had.

How to Get There:

The Robert Mills District is in downtown Columbia. The district is on the east and west side of US76/Bull Street. A good starting point is the Robert Mills House. From Bull Street, go east one block on Blanding Street.

Links:

https://www.historiccolumbia.org/tour-locations?neighborhood=Robert%20Mills%20District%20West

What’s Close By:

Historic Main Street

SC State House and Complex

USC

Allen University

Benedict College

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

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.