Another Amazing Jubilee!

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On Saturday, Sept. 16, thousands of people made their way to the Mann-Simons Site for the 39th Annual Jubilee: Festival of Black History & Culture.

Special thanks goes to our wonderful sponsors without whom, this festival would not be possible.

 

Thanks also to our fantastic vendors, stalwart volunteers, dedicated HC staff and everyone who came out on this beautiful day to celebrate African American music, culture and history in Columbia, South Carolina. See you next year for the 40th Anniversary of Jubilee!

For the whole album of Jubilee 2017 images, CLICK HERE.

If you joined us at Jubilee and are interested in volunteering to give tours of this important house, please consider coming to the Mann-Simons Volunteer Training on Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. to find out more!

 

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39th Annual Jubilee Honors South Carolina Musicians

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On Saturday, September 16, the corner of Marion and Richland Streets will fill with singing as the 39th Annual Jubilee Festival of Black History and Culture takes place.

This year’s festival will celebrate the lives of two of South Carolina’s most influential musicians—John Blackwell and Skipp Pearson—both of whom died earlier this year.

Blackwell was a Columbia native who landed his breakthrough appearance playing with Patti LaBelle on her Grammy-winning LP, Live! One Night Only. In 2000, Prince recruited Blackwell to play drums in his band, New Power Generation, which he did for more than a decade. Blackwell appears on several of Prince’s LPs, including 2003’s N.E.W.S.

Pearson, South Carolina’s Ambassador of Jazz, was a native of Orangeburg where he purchased his first saxophone for $.50. During his more than 50 year career, Pearson shared the stage with Otis Redding, Parri LaBelle, Miles Davis, and Sam Cooke, among many others. In 2008, Pearson performed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball in Washington. For nearly 17 years, he played jazz at Hunter-Gatherer every Thursday.

To honor the memory of these two musicians, the Jubilee Festival will celebrate the musical lineage of South Carolina with a headlining performance by Cheri Maree. Maree is an international recording artist, songwriter and author who brings “soul jazz” to the center stage. A multi-talented vocalist and musician raised in Columbia, S.C., Cheri’s eclectic sound and style have graced the stage with legendary Grammy-winning artists, including Patti LaBelle, Al Jarreau, Hootie and the Blowfish and Brian McKnight.

A handful of other performances from South Carolina musicians – representing a variety of genres, including R&B, jazz, gospel and soul – will take place throughout the festival.

Jubilee will feature historic storytelling, artist demonstrations and family-friendly activities. Throughout the day, guests are invited to take house tours of the Mann-Simons Site and the Modjeska Monteith Simkins House for $1 and take the African American Historic Sites Bus Tour for $2. In addition, there will be a variety of outdoor vendors selling food, beverages, art and wares.

Historic Columbia invites you to experience the free Jubilee festival at the Mann-Simons Site (1403 Richland Street) from 11 am – 6 pm on Saturday, September 16.

This article was originally published in The Columbia Star.

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After a Flood | Recovery of Important Documents

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This article was written by Fielding Freed, Historic Columbia director of historic house museums, after the 1000-year flood in South Carolina almost two years ago. With the devastation in Houston and the impending arrival of Irma, we think it is very relevant today.

Every time a hurricane approaches the South Carolina coast, residents are reminded to put important papers in a readily accessible, waterproof box to make it easier to grab on the way out the door during an evacuation. Most Columbians who were victims of the recent flood did not have that luxury. For those whose irreplaceable family papers, photographs and artworks were waterlogged, there is a limited amount of time for successful recovery. Even though we are more than two weeks after the flood, if you have waterlogged papers, photographs, or artwork that have not been cared for yet there are a few things you can still do:

  • Freezing can buy you more time. A freezer with a “frost-free” setting can, over months, dry out items (“freeze-drying”), which can be preferable to air drying.
  • If a stack of family photos are stuck together, you can use distilled water to re-wet them then slowly ease them apart for air drying. Soak them in the water if needed.
  • Mold and mildew can be removed if it has already begun to bloom, but do not use chemical cleaners. Mild soap and water will work.
  • Avoid drying wet things in direct sunlight if possible.
  • Use paper towels to blot off excess water. Newspapers can rub ink onto other paper.
  • Un-frame works of art or photos behind glass if wet.
  • Many water-damaged items can be repaired or conserved—do not be too hasty in throwing them away.

One way to think about the situation is that the photographs and papers contain information that we want to preserve. Sometimes we just cannot save the originals. So, even if your family photos or papers were badly damaged, you can still take a digital photo of them which can be digitally corrected and printed later. You can then dispose of the originals, especially if they become a health hazard. No matter where we live in South Carolina, having those important family papers and photographs duplicated electronically and stored safely before a natural disaster is a lesson we can all learn from the floods caused by Hurricane Joaquin.

Beth Bilderback, Visual Materials Archivist at USC’s South Caroliniana Library, assists David Fulmer with dozens of flood water damages renderings drawn by his late father, preservation architect William Fulmer. The South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects sponsored the salvage of the collection.

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Historic Columbia Kicks Off its Homeschool Friday Program 

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By Lois Carlisle, Historic Columbia 

Homeschool Friday returns, and Historic Columbia invites homeschool students to participate on the first Friday of each month between September and May. Each month’s program is from 10-11:30 a.m. and includes engaging hands-on activities for students to explore the history of Columbia and Richland County. These dynamic programs are designed for elementary and middle school-aged students.  

On Friday, Sept. 1, students will take a walking tour through the historic Olympia Mill Village where they will learn the history of working men and women in the late 19th through the mid-20th century. This off-site program will explore several historic buildings in the Olympia Mill Village including the Union Hall where workers gathered to fight for better working conditions, including restrictions on child labor in Columbia. Students will learn of the varied uses of today’s 701 Whaley at a time when it served as a company store, bowling alley, library, and dance hall..  

On Friday, Oct. 6, the program will introduce students to the history of Columbia’s German population, which arrived during the city’s earliest years.  In addition to learning the many contributions immigrants made to the city. Students will explore various German cultural customs, including pretzel making and yodeling. As the year goes on, programs include a cross-section of the city’s music history,  a study in foodways, presidential visits in South Carolina, civil rights, and women’s history (to name a few).  

Registration is available for individual programs as well as a year-long package. Advanced tickets are $5 per student for members and $6 per student for nonmembers. Tickets bought at-the-door are $8 regardless of membership status. Accompanying adults get in free.  

Homeschool Friday is open to families and homeschool groups of less than 10 students. For larger groups, we recommend arranging a separate visit to explore that month’s topic.  

Visit HistoricColumbia.org to see the full Homeschool Friday schedule. To register, CLICK HERE, call 803-252-7742 x 26 or email education@historiccolumbia.org. We look forward to learning with you!

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Total Solar Eclipse in South Carolina

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We were all amazed at the total solar eclipse that made its historic path over South Carolina this past Monday. Thanks to everyone who joined us from near and far to witness history in the making #OnThisSpot in Columbia, S.C.

There were a few pieces published at the end of last week that we want to highlight, just in case you missed them. The following article was published initially in The Columbia Star on August 17.

In the Path of Totality

By John Sherrer, director of cultural resources, Historic Columbia

Have you ever been in the path of something that you cannot escape? Have you ever been faced with an event that cannot be avoided? Such situations often elicit anxiety or even dread. What if you knew exactly when and where such an event was to occur? What would you do? How would you prepare?

Rather than with anxiety and dread, it has been with rapt anticipation that Columbians have readied themselves for an astronomical event noteworthy of history books. We, and the anticipated hundreds of thousands of visitors to the capital city, stand in path of totality. On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cast us in darkness. Day will become night, as this breathtaking phenomenon impacts the city like no other has in generations.

Stories of earlier solar eclipses, recorded by The State newspaper reveal the concerns, preparations and observations of our forebears while providing us with intriguing glimpses into the capital city they knew. For instance, the total solar eclipse of June 8, 1918 found Columbia lying far northeast from its path of totality. Leading up to the event, which would ultimately cast a modest shadow on the city, writers offered that, “The moon and sun in their glory cannot greatly eclipse Columbia.” Looking forward, on June 12, a correspondent concluded, “We ought to be able to pay some attention to the next eclipse, which is scheduled for 2017. The [First World] War should be over by that time, even according to . . . some of our own choicest pessimists.”

A little less than two decades earlier, on May 29, 1900, Columbians and other South Carolinians witnessed an eclipse of greater local impact, as they found themselves just outside of the path of totality for an event that engrossed most citizens but particularly “scientists, professors, students, ministers and ladies galore,” who traveled to the town of Little Mountain for a better view. Their journey involved rising early, making their respective ways to various electric streetcar stops and congregating at the train station where they boarded eight cars for the 30-mile trek.

They carried with them window panes and broken bottles caked in smoke from “lightwood splinter,” or fat wood to protect themselves from the eclipse’s harmful light. Following the event, in which animals were said to bed down for the night and birds ceased their songs, the 450-strong crowd returned to Columbia, many with “sooty nose or blackened cheek” from their protective “glasses” and several suffering from “barked shoes [and] torn dresses.” These inconveniences aside, their brush with the path of totality left many of them with an incomparable lifetime memory.

Soon, we, too, will experience an event of our lives. Unlike those of our predecessors’ our solar eclipse experience places us directly in the path of totality. But, while Columbia will be bathed in total darkness, albeit briefly, the sun and the moon will not truly eclipse the excitement and celebration citizens of and visitors to the capital city will enjoy during this once-in-a-lifetime event #OnThisSpot where #HistoryIsCool.

 

And this article was part of our #ThrowbackThursday collaboration with Cola Today.

Total Eclipses #OnThisSpot

The last total eclipse to cross the US was in 1918, but on the eastern seaboard, it only crossed through Orlando.

The last time the path of totality touched South Carolina was on May 28, 1900.

The very edge of the path skirted the City of Columbia creating a dusky haze for a few moments, according to eye witness accounts.

USC’s Garnet and Black noted that a total solar eclipse would be visible in Columbia on May 28, 1900 in their annual school calendar (they made it a holiday).

South Carolinian Oscar Montgomery Lieber (eldest son of Francis Lieber, who lived at South Carolina College and is the namesake of the admissions building) traveled to Labrador in 1860 on an “Eclipse Expedition” and recorded his findings in an attempt to have them published (it never was).

During the 1900 eclipse, some folks were not too impressed with the spectacle. John Coleman Feaster, a native of Fairfield County was a farmer who wrote in his diary on May 28, 1900: “We all saw the total eclipse of the Sun this AM, i.e. Gussie, Wife, Self, and Pen James. I plowed some corn and watermelons this A.M. Wife and Gussie gone to Pelt’s.” (But were they Bradford watermelons, tho?)

Apparently nonplussed by the potential for cosmic event, the State only mentioned the total eclipse once in their May 28, 1900 issue. The next day? Almost every page was devoted to the event.

Why should you get pumped over this eclipse? Solar eclipses aren’t uncommon. Usually, however, you have to travel out of your way to see them—swim to the middle of the ocean, freeze in Labrador, etc. Never again in our lifetimes will the path of totality cross through our backyards. So while people from Texas and Maine and Nevada are scrambling to find a Columbia hotel room, we can post up in our lawn chairs for an early happy hour next Monday.

 

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Karli & Ben at the Robert Mills House & Gardens

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We are pleased to share Karli and Ben’s enchanted ceremony at the Robert Mills House and Gardens with you.

The couple chose to host their intimate ceremony indoors, at the Robert Mills Carriage House. As thunder rolled overhead, the couple and their guests gathered together to celebrate the spirit of love and adventure.

The wedding had a refined bohemian ambiance with the bride donning a custom crown of greenery for her walk down the aisle. Not to be outshined—Ben’s bright floral-printed tie lent additional playfulness to the ceremony.

The reception was held under a tent on the back lawn with an open-air dance floor adjacent. Even rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the wedding party who chose to dance in the storm.

The grounds were given an additional aura of romance by lighting installations provided by Ambient Media. Rope lights hung from the trees to create an atmosphere of enchantment on the lawn of the Robert Mills House and Gardens.

To top it all off, the couple processed through a tunnel of sparklers at the end of the night. Their last kiss was truly a scene for the history books.

Congratulations, Karli and Ben!

Wedding Planner Alisha Millwood

Rentals Something Borrowed

Photographer Jessi Nichols 

Catering Hudson’s

Full Bar Service Ed’s Bartending

Margarita Machine Famously Frozen

Lighting Ambient Media

DJ Services Best Carolina DJ  (Mike Siomacco)

Hair 193 Hair

Make-up – Melanie Thompson

 

Karlie and Ben’s beautiful wedding at the Robert Mills House was also featured in the Budget Savvy Bride!

To rent any of our historic properties, or for more information, please contact our rental department or call at 803.252.7742 x 11.

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Experiencing the Eclipse in Columbia

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By James Quint, director of education, Historic Columbia

During its 230-year-history, many travelers ventured to Columbia in order to interact with politicians and businessmen in the budding state capital. Even more travelled here to work, to trade, or to sell their goods from the far corners of the state. Some come to learn at Columbia’s colleges and universities. Unquestionably, the most famous visitor of the 18th century was George Washington when he made his stop during his tour of the South in 1791.

On August 21, hundreds of thousands of guests will arrive in the Midlands, as it has been named the best place on the East Coast to watch the total solar eclipse with 2 minutes 36 seconds of totality. As our state prepares to welcome record crowds, city services, law enforcement, cultural organizations and a variety of other groups prepare for an influx not seen since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987.

While Myrtle Beach and Charleston may be viewed as the tourist meccas of South Carolina, and to be fair there are many others, including Columbia, our city has an array of engaging activities to ensure a positive experience for those visiting during this historic weekend. Residents and visitors will look to the sky at 2:41 p.m. on to see the Great American Eclipse, which may be one of the most visually impressive events of their lifetime.

Undoubtedly visitors from all over the world will want to learn more about Columbia’s history and culture, which is why Historic Columbia has planned a series of events and tours to engage them in our rich past.

Our community’s longtime connections with the military will be explored during a Historic Water Balloon Battle Happy Hour on Friday, August 18 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. This popular annual event will explore military tactics in ways that will also cool participants in famously hot Columbia with more than 1,700 water balloons. Thousands of water balloons will be discharged in four battles tracing tactics used in the Revolutionary War, World War I and later 20th century conflicts.

Tours of Historic Columbia’s four historic house museums, the Robert Mills House & Gardens, Hampton-Preston Mansion & Gardens, Mann-Simons Site and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction, will be offered throughout the weekend.  Each site tells a compelling story of individuals and events who have shaped the capital city and beyond.

Walking tours of Main Street and the Vista will be offered simultaneously at 9 and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings and are perfect options for folks to explore the area’s architecture, development and history.

More than 600 people will gather at the historic Robert Mills House & Gardens on Monday afternoon to watch the Eclipse. While this event is sold out, the gardens and grounds are open daily to the public and free to access during normal business hours – so be sure to come and visit on another day.

Just as city leaders and residents welcomed George Washington in 1791, we hope you’ll join us in welcoming the thousands who will arrive in the Midlands and encourage them to learn more about our city and county. Visit historiccolumbia.org to learn more about the events scheduled during Total Eclipse Weekend.

This article was originally published in The Columbia Star.

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Total Eclipse Merchandise Now Available!

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We are getting so excited about the historic total eclipse coming to Columbia in just two weeks! Whether you’re a seasoned celestial aficionado, or a newbie to historic astronomical phenomenon, we’ve got all your eclipse viewing needs covered at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills!

Historic Columbia also has an exciting lineup planned for the Total Eclipse Weekend, including an epic Happy Hour Water Balloon Battle and special tours of Main Street and the Vista! Click here to find out more or come on by the Gift Shop at Robert Mills today! #historyiscool

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Peter Parley’s Tales of an Eclipse, 1836

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They have been the subject of legends, seen as dark omens for kings, and in the lyrics of popular songs. Unless you have been living on the dark side of the moon, you know about the total eclipse coming on Monday, August 21. While looking through Historic Columbia’s museum collection for a particular book, I recently discovered a volume that caught my eye because of its small 4-by-5 inch size.

The book’s cover read: Peter Parley’s Tales About the Sun, Moon, and Stars. With numerous engravings. Philadelphia, Desilver, Thomas & Co. 1836. Curious, I carefully opened it. I was immediately taken by the detailed and artistic engravings scattered through its pages. Going back to the introduction I learned that this was one in a series of children’s books. Since the average fourth grader knows more about astronomy than I do, I kept reading.

Among other astronomical facts and observations that Parley, the pen-name of author and publisher Samuel Griswold Goodrich, described was a total eclipse he had viewed some 20 years before. He observed it all through a piece of smoked glass. He was especially interested in the changes in nature and behavior of the animals around him:

“The air grew chill as if it were evening; the whole face of nature was dark as the evening twilight; the birds ceased their songs and retired to rest. I well remember to have seen an old hen, apparently much disturbed, retire to her accustomed shelter, where she gathered her brood of twelve chickens under her wing, as if for the night.”

The plain language and conversational tone of the book was different than a modern reader might expect from one published in the first half of the 19th century. While written for children, it does not talk down to them.

Some books in our collection are inscribed either on the blank front or back pages. Frederick Foster signed this book with his name multiple times in 1844. He did so in a hand that looks like a young person learning cursive and making the letters his own. Unfortunately, there are no other clues to help know more about Frederick, so for now his story is lost to time.

Goodrich (Parley) did a great job explaining the mechanics of how an eclipse occurs, but he also wrote fondly about their fleeting magic. On August 21, for those brief minutes I will do my best to forget about the how’s and why’s of the eclipse and focus simply on its natural wonder. If only I had some chickens to watch, too.

To learn more about Historic Columbia’s Total Eclipse Weekend programs and our upcoming Happy Hour Water Balloon Battle, visit HistoricColumbia.org.

By Fielding Freed, director of historic house museums, Historic Columbia

This article was originally published in The Columbia Star.

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In Defense of Mid-Century Modern

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At the corner of Pickens and Gervais streets in downtown Columbia, there stands a Queen Anne mansion. The home is uniquely Victorian with a high turret and cedar-shingled roofline. There are few people in Columbia who, today, would say the house is anything short of beautiful.

If you traveled back in time to 1917 to that same street corner, this building would be one of many Victorian homes. However, as tastes and technologies changed, these homes fell out of fashion. In fact, they were often labeled “tacky” and fell prey to the wrecking ball of “progress”.

If a community tore down every building that fell out of fashion, the built landscape would more closely resemble an Etch-a-Sketch than a city. There is a tendency to preserve only the “best” examples of an architectural style or period. Exceptional structures deserve praise and recognition, yes, but so do commonplace buildings. Preserving the corner store or bus station gives us a better idea of the full context of a community – of all the pieces that make up the whole. The preservation of the grand and the vernacular provides us with this wide span of context.

In June, the City of Columbia’s Planning Commission voted to approve a development plan for eight blocks of Main Street south of the State House. Overall the plan addresses much needed changes to the area; however, in doing so it not only ignores but portrays the demolition of several Mid-Century buildings, which may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mid-Century was Columbia’s moment. Stepping out of the shadow of the Civil War and into a rapidly-changing world, the city’s attentions turned to modernization—to catching up with the rest of the country. Major Southern hubs such as Atlanta and Raleigh were constructing Modern government offices, higher education facilities, homes and hotels. With the construction of Cornell Arms in 1949 by Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle & Wolff, Columbia stepped into the stoplight of this building boon. Standing at the corner of Senate and Pendleton streets, Cornell Arms was touted as the tallest building between Richmond and Orlando. People took notice of this—they prized the apartments as being the finest, most technically and spatially innovative in the city.

Just down the street from Cornell is the James F. Byrnes International Center. Built in 1957, Byrnes originally housed federal government offices for the region. It was with this building that the government chose to represent itself. Gone were the looming columns and dark doorways. Instead, Byrnes’s lobby is made of glass. It’s literally a transparent government building. There was nothing else like it in Columbia. Nowhere else could you peer through glass and see government officials going about their daily lives—you could see your tax dollars in motion.

The buildings on South Main encapsulate what it meant to be alive during a tumultuous, rapidly-changing point in history. If we lose our Mid-Century landscape, we ignore the importance of this transition and in the process set ourselves on the track to make the same mistakes as those who demolished the Queen Anne homes that once defined Gervais Street. It takes an appreciation of the past, even the recent past, to establish an informed context for the future.

To learn more about Mid-Century Modern architecture in Columbia and to get involved in preservation efforts, visit historiccolumbia.org.

By Lois Carlisle, Historic Columbia

This article was originally published in The Columbia Star.

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