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 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.

Baker Creek State Park

I didn’t realize Baker Creek State Park is open seasonally from March 1 to September 30 until I started this post. Keep it in mind when you go out in spring in summer and check the website in case the times have changed.

I visited this park two summers ago as I drove along Lake Thurmond, chugging along on my road trip. This was one of several sites I visited. It was a hot day, perfect for a swim and a wade through shallow water. Besides swimming, one can go fishing, boating, hiking and biking, and camping. There are three trails here. The Wild Mint Nature Trail is one mile long and the hike/bike trail is ten miles, but I suppose one can make it shorter as there are three interconnecting loops. This trail takes one along Little River Branch of Lake Thurmond, and into the park interior. The third trail is hiking only and .7 miles long. In the official description it’s described as being both easy and moderately difficult. Sometimes it’s just subjective. I’ve been on trails rated difficult that I found moderate and I’ve been trails rated easy that I found rather difficult.

Whatever trail you take, or don’t take, the views of the lake are quite nice. If the shelter, the Lake Pavilion, hasn’t been reserved, that’s a nice place to partake in lunch, or use the picnic tables right by the lake.

The park is located in the Long Cane District of the Sumter National Forest and consists of 1,305 acres.

How to Get There:

The park is located a mile off US378 and west of McCormick.

Links:

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

 

What’s Close By:

Hickory Knob State Resort Park

McCormick

Sumter National Forest

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/

Soda Cap Connector

Columbia’s The Comet Soda City Connector route started in late August. For now and until January February it will be free! According to the newscast, the free price may be extended if there’s enough interest. Otherwise it’ll be $1.50 (with no transfers). There are two routes. One goes from the The Vista to Five Points, and the other goes from the Vista to Taylor Street (Benedict College/Allen University area) It runs Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm. It begins/ends at the SC Museum, I think at the back near Washington Street. Both routes stop at Lincoln Street, on Main Street, the State House. Then one goes on to Taylor and Harden and the other to Five Points. Points of interest along the way are: Edventure children’s museum, Vista restaurants and shops, memorial park, Columbia museum of art, Maxcy Gregg park, Main street district, USC, Five points restaurant and parks, colleges.

Riverbanks Zoo

Even though this blog highlights sights of no or low cost places, I have to include Riverbanks Zoo.

I’ve been going to this zoo since it opened way back in 1974 and it’s well worth a visit. Check out the web page for specials. There are special two-for-one days when one brings a canned food item(s) and in January and February they have free Fridays for those who live in Richland and Lexington counties. If you don’t live here, maybe you know someone who does.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is located in both Richland and Lexington counties on the Saluda River off I-126. The zoo portion is in Richland and the botanical garden is in West Columbia, in Lexington County. A bridge over the river connects the two. On the zoo side, they’ve recently remodeled the entrance and added new exhibits like the sea lions.

There’s koalas, flamingos, gorillas, elephants, bears, lions, monkeys, and more, more, more. There’s a petting zoo with farm animals, there’s a merry-go-round, there’s Waterfall junction in the botanical garden where kids can play. I’d never seen that until this year and wished I was years younger so I could play there. I did anyway a bit when no one was around.

When I first came to live in SC, way back when, the zoo was still in the making. The first animal, Happy the tiger lived in a cage on Gervais Street. I think it was an Exxon station and a garage. That’s long gone now.

When the zoo opened we ‘adopted’ a Toucan and were Zoo members. How’s it changed since then and yet there are bits I remember from the old days like the small animal exhibit that’s like a long cave. You can play find-the-animal in some of those.

There is a gigantic birdhouse where birds live in a variety of ecosystems. They have penguins too. There’s the Aquarium Reptile Complex, where I can hours. Like the birdhouse, the complex shows fish in their various ecosystems, which in this case is the ocean, desert, tropics, and South Carolina. They even have sharks.

Riverbanks zoo is Columbia’s number one tourist attraction and is ranked as one of American’s top zoos. If you can, stop by and visit. It’s well worth the trips.

How to Get There:

It’s right off I-126 at Greystone Bvld.

 

Links:

https://www.riverbanks.org/

 

What’s Close By:

Downtown Columbia

Lake Murray

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.