During a recent work-related visit to Columbia, I took advantage of visiting Historic Columbia to learn and see more the history of the capital of South Carolina. If history especially pre and post civil war history is something of interest to you, you would not be disappointed with a visit to Historic Columbia
This non-profit organization offers a variety of tours both guides and self-guided options. They also can host special events including weddings. I chose to take advantage of the combo historic house museum tour pass and use the AAA discount costing $28 per person (originally $36 pp).
The four historic house museums are now known as: The Robert Mills House & Gardens, The Hampton-Preston Mansion & Gardens, Mann-Simons Site, and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. Historic Columbia is working on restoring a fifth home, but it is not currently home for tours. In addition, the homes are open for docent tours at various times. I recommend going to the Historic Columbia to plan your visit.
The Robert Mills House (circa 1823)
In brief, this Classical Revival home has had been known by locals and in history by a couple of names from its original owners townhouse-The Hall House to its present name Robert Mills House; its designer. This home was to three religious schools before the historic preservation society saved it from destruction. I recommend seeing this museum visit as this is where you will purchase your tickets to any of the tours in the gift shops on the ground floor (see image below). There is free parking at the site. Just pull in through the open brown gates or park in any of the spaces without meters directly in front of the home.
The Hampton-Preston Manson & Garden (circa 1818)
Stepping back 200 years, this pre-civil home has probably seen quite a lot throughout the last two Centuries. The home survived Sherman’s march to the sea leading to most of Columbia’s Business district being burned. This is each walk from the Robert Mills House as it is directly across the street and was built by Sarah Hall, who lived in the home for until 1823. The Hampton’s owned the home for the next 50 years. Hence, the first name and then, the Preston families who owned this home both owned the gardens and land around the home. The historic society does a excellent job detailing the historic depiction of the many enslaved individuals prior to the Civil War from the records that they can find and verbal accounts. Other owners including colleges and hotel-like home was also part of this homes history.
The Mann-Simons Site (circa early 1840’s)
This site is setup more like a museum with videos, old images, graphs, videos, etc. This little gem of a home and site is over 130 years and was owned by the same African-American. You can trace the family from enslavement through urban renewal as they were one of the first families to combine commercial and domestic spaces together. Another historic house on the Historic Columbia worth visiting.
Woodrow Wilson Family Home (circa 1871)
I have been to Augusta and seen our 28th President’s boyhood home. So, why not see this one during the visit to Columbia? This Italian Villa looking home was recently renovated and now, is setup similar to the Mann-Simmons Site like a museum with little historic items within the home. The home offers an interpretation of the racial, social, and political landscape during the time of the Wilson’s in Columbia before the moved to Wilmington, NC. Some interesting finds are in the next couple of images.
Where I Stayed
This five room bed & breakfast about directly across the street from the Woodrow Wilson family home is worth a stay. The owners Gale and Sherwood will make your stay as comfortable as possible. They is plenty of parking, fresh coffee, and Sherwood makes an outstanding breakfast each morning during our two night stay. Highly recommended.
The newest offering in the Main Street District of Columbia offers 41 boutique-style rooms that are uniquely decorated in a retro-style feel. The warmth of a brick wall on one side makes for historic feel and love the pillow quote (see below). The staff was welcoming and warm. They offer a small breakfast of juice, fruits, cake and coffee. This is reasonability priced and an easy walk to Main Street. Check it out on Booking.com