Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Historical Columbia, South Carolina will surprise the average tourist because Columbia, well, Columbia just isn’t considered to be a tourist town. Columbia has points of interest for history buffs regardless of the type of history that holds your interest.
Starting at the State House grounds, the traveler will find over twenty-five statues and monuments to moments and people in South Carolina history. There is a beautiful twelve-panel monument dedicated in 2001 to the history and roles played by African Americans in South Carolina. It is a wonderful piece of art that reflects history in a twelve panel layout of how this history evolved. The George Washington Monument portrays a proud moment in our country’s history while also having a history of its own. The statue is a replica of the original located in Virginia; however the one difference between the two is the broken cane on the South Carolina replica that occurred during its move. The Wade Hampton monument was dedicated in 1906 as a tribute to the general and governor of South Carolina. This statue also has a “haunted history”, but that is another story. Other statutes include monuments to fallen Civil War soldiers, police officers who died on active duty, and a monument to South Carolina’s veterans of the Armed Forces. During a walk around the State House building, visitors will notice six bronze stars affixed to the outside walls. These mark places where the building was hit by artillery fire from General Sherman’s troops as they invaded Columbia. Tours of the State House take place daily with the exception of Sundays and holidays. Those interested in the law will be interested to see how the system worked in the past and how it works in the present. Both guided and self-guided tours are available.
The historic homes of Columbia are a look at a different type of history. There are almost a dozen home and gardens that are maintained by Historic Columbia, a nonprofit group with a mission to preserve Columbia’s history. One of the ways they generate the funds to maintain this project is through offering tours of the historic homes and gardens that are under their care. One such home is the Robert Mills Historic Home and Gardens. This home is one of only five national landmarks located in Columbia, SC. Built by the first architect born and trained in the United States, the Mills House displays a collection of period art along with furniture and clothing of the day. The basement includes service areas set up to display the storage, preparation and service techniques of the 1800s. Other homes under the care of Historic Columbia include the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, the Seibels House and Gardens, and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. At Christmas, candlelight tours are scheduled, showing off the homes in their 1800s finest.
Want history off the beaten path? From the gardens of the Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens, visitors can view the remains of the bridge that was destroyed by Sherman’s troops when they invaded Columbia. Visit GROW (Grass Roots Organizing Workshop) – the building has served many purposes including a boarding house and bar & grill before it was taken over by first the hippies and then the political leftists. GROW has seen a diverse mix of individuals of varied thought and is currently being renovated in hopes of the revival of a place for the open exchange and discussion of ideas. Around the corner stands Columbia’s very own Egyptian monolith to the sun god, Ra. In Five Points, a shopping and restaurant area near the University of South Carolina, travelers will find not only good food and unique gifts, but also a sculpture dedicated to Hootie & the Blowfish. Most of the band members are alums of the University and some still locate their home base in Columbia.
With every historical find in Columbia comes information that leads to even more. Come explore! Columbia has a history all its own.