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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Columbia Resources

I was surprised to find there are so little resources on tourist places in Columbia. Even the web sites didn’t do much for me although they offered some tidbits. Maybe because I already knew the sites they highlight. Maybe because they didn’t offer information on what I am interested in – low cost/no cost activities, walking tours, green spaces, and historical areas. The brochures I picked up at the visitor center are more chock full of ‘stuff’ than the websites. Book wise was the pretty much the same as the websites, general information only and emphasis on restaurants, shopping, and the higher priced activities.

Book wise the South Carolina travel books will have to do, but the websites are a better alternative.

 

Brochure Names (with associated web address)

Columbia South Carolina 5km/10km Historic Capital City Walk (www.columbiacvb.com)

General Sherman’s March on Columbia, South Carolina – Self Guided Tour (www.shermansmarch.com)

Home Places, Work Places, Resting Places: African-American Heritage Sites Tour (historiccolumbia.org)

Three Rivers Greenway (www.RiverAlliance.org)

 

Web Sites

http://www.columbiacvb.com/

http://www.historiccolumbia.org/

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/richland-county/

Courthouses

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Whenever I visit a county seat, I make sure to drive past the courthouse and take a photograph of it. Courthouses tell nice stories of history including how the county was formed. Some are pretty old, from around the time the county was created, and some fairly young. The styles vary with some ornate and picturesque and others looking like regular government buildings. Robert Mills, SC’s leading architect from the early 1800’s had his hand in a few like the one in Winnsboro (Fairfield County.)

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I’ve lived near two courthouses, the one in Hampton County which was built in 1878 and remodeled a few times. The last time they moved the fountain from the front to more to the side. The annual watermelon festival is held on the grounds of it. The Allendale courthouse was a few blocks from where I lived. The interior burned at the time a fact I didn’t hear until my mother asked me about it the next day. Even with the main road one block over I didn’t hear the sirens of the fire trucks roaring past. It’s since been renovated. Sad to say I don’t have a picture of it.

Here are a few more courthouses I’ve encountered in my travels.

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Union (Union County). This impressive neoclassical building was completed in 1913, replacing the Robert Mills courthouse of 1825. That was torn down in 1911. The police station down the road was also designed by Robert Mills.

Winnsboro (Fairfield Connty) This was designed by Robert Mills and built 1822-23. The distinctive circular staircase and piazza were added when the building was remodeled in 1939. This was when they covered the brick exterior in sandstone plaster. I think I would prefer to see the brick, but that’s just me. The picture is at the top of the post.

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Greenwood (Greenwood County) A much more modern building that was built in 1967 to replace a previous building from 1898.

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Chester (Chester County) This was built in 1852.

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To learn more about courthouses in SC, check out the website at sciway –

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/tag/courthouses/

Pacolet Mills

The Pacolet Mill I wanted to see no longer stands having been demolished in the late 1980’s. I asked the wonderful ladies at the museum why they were torn down. With no one wanting to buy the structures and the city not having the money to keep them up, there wasn’t much choice. While saddened, I could understand the reason. So, I didn’t get to the see the mills, but I did see where they’d been as well as the cloth room and warehouse. Plus there are the mill houses, all part of the Pacolet Mills Historic District. The museum, which used to be the Pacolet Mill office, sits close by the Pacolet River. When you go, make sure to visit it. I really enjoyed my time there.

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There’s more than just mill ruins to see in Pacolet. I misplaced myself for a few minutes and found myself on an interesting road that might have held more buildings from the mill. I wish I’d had more time to check it out. But there’s always a next time. I haven’t seen hardly any of Spartenburg county. I will return.

Pacolet started out Buzzard Roost. A small place, it grew in leaps and bounds when the Spartenburg and Union Rail Lines came through the area in the 1850s. It was at this time the town changed the name to Pacolet, from the river running past. Where the name Pacolet is derived from is unknown, but the two versions offered both include a horse. When you cross the bridge over the Pacolet River you’ll see a statue of a horse, the logo of Pacolet Manufacturing and mascot of the mill’s baseball team.

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The area includes several sections with Pacolet in the name: Pacolet, Central Pacolet, and Pacolet Mills

In 1903 this area got hit with the worst natural disaster in Spartenburg County when heavy rains caused the river to flood and swept sections of the textile mill along with a church and other buildings downstream. Seventy people died and 600 were left homeless. The mill rebuilt and became one of the largest in the south.

Besides the mills the town has other historic sites including the Marysville School and Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church.

How to get there:

One goes through all three sections, Pacolet, Central Pacolet, and Pacolet Mills via SC150. If you’re coming from I85, take US176 South. If you’re on I26, you can take SC49 (exit 44) east and turn left onto SC56, or exit 52 north. Then east (right) onto SC150.

 

Links:

www.townofpacolet.com

 What’s Close By :

Croft State Park

Pacolet River Heritage Preserve

Walnut Grove Plantation

Cowpens National Battlefield

Sumter National Forest

Rose Hill Plantation

Poinsett State Park

I’m going to keep with the Poinsett theme by detailing Poinsett State Park in Sumter County. It sits amid Manchester State Forest. On your drive there make note of the forest on the east side of the road. It’s the Poinsett Electronic Combat Range and used for military maneuvers.

It’s a nice drive into the park. My first stop was up, onto a hill, one you don’t really expect in this part of the midlands. From the picnic hut is a grand view of the surrounding countryside. From there I drove down back to the main road and to the lake, a mill pond. The dam was initially built to impound water for rice cultivation and then the pond was used to power a mill, parts of which are still evident. One can go fishing and boating on the lake.

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After visiting the dam I took the Coquina Trail. The name comes from the coquina stone that can be found throughout the park. This stone is a limestone with shows fossil seashells, evidence that once, long ago, this used to be ocean.

Besides this trail there are the Laurel Group Trail, Hill Top Trail and the Scout Trail. One can also access the Palmetto Trail. I made sure to walk on that aways. I’ve only walked short stretches of the Palmetto Trail, but one day I hope to do a long stretch.

Poinsett State Park is known for it’s interesting mix of flora and terrain. It combines sandhills with the Piedmont with the coastal plains and mixes in a bit of Blue Ride mountains. I didn’t expect to see such hills as I found at the picnic shelter.

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The park is named after Joel Poinsett, the first ambassador to Mexico. His grave is north of here in Statesburg. He was also an amateur botanist. There are cabins one can rent here and a campground. The county of Sumter donated 1,000 acres. It was opened 1936. It was the first of the SC parks to be built by the CCC and many structures they built are still used.

How to Get There:

North of US76/US378 on SC261, past Wedgefield.

Links:

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

What’s Near by:

Stateburg

Sumter (the town)

Manchester State Forest

Congaree National Park

Poinsett Bridge

My trip to Poinsett Bridge began with the hunt for South Carolina’s only remaining covered bridge, Campbell’s Bridge. From there we drove back to SC11 and took County Road 42/Callahan Mountain Road toward North Carolina. Not knowing exactly where the bridge was, I drove right by it. It being a narrow road, I continued down before I found a place to turn around. It’s a lovely road anyway and no hardship to drive. I don’t know if it’s still there, but we saw a rusted up truck in a kudzu patch that made for a nice picture taking opportunity.

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Poinsett Bridge sits on the 120 acre Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. There’s not much parking and take care to watch for pedestrians. The stone bridge is a short stroll away. It sits over Little Gap Creek and is surrounded by trees. I’d love to come here in the fall. When I went it was summer.

The bridge is thought to be the oldest surviving bridge in the state and is believed to have been designed by Robert Mills. Built in 1820, it was one of three stone bridges that stood on the route known as Saluda Mountain Road, part of the State Road that ran from Charleston to North Carolina and into Tennessee. The State Road was a toll road.

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Poinsett Bridge, named after Joel Poinsett is constructed with locally quarried stone. There is a fifteen foot Gothic arch for the creek to run through. One can view it easy from paths that span out alongside the creek.

How to Get There:

It is off SC11, near Traveler’s Rest. The address is 580 Callahan Mountain Road/Rd 42,

Link:

http://greenvillerec.com/parks/poinsett-bridge/

What’s Near By:

Campbell’s Bridge

Jones Gap State Park

Ceaser’s Head State Park

Table Rock State Park