Museums in Columbia

When it’s raining or there’s bad weather, museums are a good alternative. Of course, some cost money, but a few are free. Sometimes the fee based museums have specials. You’ll need to check out their website for that information. Columbia, being the capital, is home to several museums. These include:

Columbia fire Dept Museum – 1800 Laurel

Small, but full of interesting exhibits of the history of Columbia’s fire dept with fire engines including a horse drawn steam powered one. Any child who lives fire engines will love this place.

Free.

EdVenture Children’s Museum – 211 Gervais St.

If you have little ones, this is a definite place to go. I enjoyed it myself when I went with my nephew and crawled through the world’s largest child, Eddy. It proved a bit challenging. There are plenty of hands on activities. Check the website for special events. One can spend a whole day here.

Admission charged.

edventure.org

McKissick Museum – USC Horseshoe

At one time it was a library, but now it’s the visitor center and a museum. Some of the exhibits change.

Free

SC Military Museum – 1225 Bluff Rd – you can’t miss the tanks sitting out front.

scmilitarymuseum.com

SC State Museum – 301 Gervais (has SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in it)

This offers all sorts of things, special exhibits. There’s a 4-D theater, an observatory, and a planetarium. The permanent collection is great too and I go there for just that. The hands on activities are fun. I love the space section.

Admission charged – check website as they sometimes have specials.

scmuseum.org

Columbia Museum of Art – 1515 Main St.

Contains art from Monet, Botticelli, and Chihuly (he does glass work). Check the website to see what touring exhibit is currently being shown.

Admission charged – They sometimes have specials so check their website

Columbiamuseum.org

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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

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.

Three Rivers Greenway

Three Rivers Greenway is more than what lies in Richland County, which is already quite a bit. There’s also a good chunk in Lexington County in West Columbia and Cayce. But this post will be on the Richland County side.

The three rivers in the title refer to the Broad, Saluda, and Congaree Rivers. The latter is created by the Broad and Saluda. The northernmost point of the greenway can be accessed north of Broad River Road. At the parking lot you can see the lock that starts the Columbia canal. Walk across that and you can see the diversion dam. It’s a nice walk through the woods on the island especially on a hot day. From here you can walk all the way to Riverfront Park in downtown Columbia. Unfortunately due to the 2015 flood, part of the canal on which the walkway ran is gone so it’s not possible to get to the Gervais Street Bridge and the State Museum.

Further South, though, is Granby Park. It’s located at the end of Catawba. Here the trail continues, swooping into the Olympia and Granby Mill area and through Olympia Park before puttering out. While part isn’t along the river, it is still a nice walk through a historic mill village and mills. In Olympia Park I was lucky enough to catch sight of a blue heron.

The walkways on the river are lighted and paved with boardwalks and overlooks. You can walk, run, or ride your bicycle. It is also wheelchair accessible. It is currently twelve and a half miles long and growing. At this time they are working on a segment on the Richland County side of the Saluda River, along the zoo.

 

Link:

http://riveralliance.org/project/three-rivers-greenway/

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

Columbia Downtown Cemeteries

In all, Richland County has several hundred cemeteries. These include small family plots to large, public cemeteries, and those nestled against churches. In Fort Jackson lies a National Cemetery for our brave veterans. The entrance for this is at the intersection of Clemson and Percival Roads in Northeast Columbia.

In the downtown area, I visited a variety of cemeteries. I’ve always found them fascinating. When I was young, when we walked and came across a cemetery, we’d walk through, gazing at the graves and wondering about those buried within.

The largest cemetery is Elmwood Cemetery off Elmwood. It was established in 1854 as a rural cemetery and was ‘the’ place to be buried. A variety of grave markers such as obelisks, mausoleums, and grave art can be seen. Early in it’s next century, the trustees opened up a new section to reflect the current style for cemeteries – a lawn park. The cemetery is about 168 acres.

Abutting Elmwood cemetery is Randolph Cemetery. Founded in 1871, it’s one of the first black cemeteries in Columba. It’s named after Benjamin Franklin Randolph who was a black, state senator assassinated in 1868 in Abbeville County.

Hebrew Benevolent Society – established 1826.

Geiger Ave Cemetery. State owned plot of land that was formerly associated with the Confederate Soldiers home. Within a brick and iron fence rest those from the Confederate veteran’s facility. In the larger area are buried indigent or unclaimed deceased white mental patients.

St. Peter’s

Trinity Church

Douglas Cemetery – close to Elmwood cemetery

Olympia Cemetery established for the mill workers.

 

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.

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.

img_9907

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

richland-columbia-columbia-mills-building-2017-02

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