In 1961 the Ansley Hall Mansion, the Robert Mills-designed residence at 1616 Blanding Street, was under threat of demolition. The call to preserve this landmark building turned into a rallying cry that led to the formation of Historic Columbia Foundation. When we give tours of the property, known today as the Robert Mills House & Gardens, visitors are astounded that this regal, 1820s building was targeted for demolition. At the time, the potential for new development on this four-acre lot blinded some to the significance of the existing building, which is now a major draw for tourists and a defining feature of local architectural and cultural history. Unfortunately, many of our character-defining places have not been granted the same reprieve.
Before the adoption of the National Preservation Act in 1966 and subsequent establishment of the local Landmarks Commission (today’s Design Development Review Commission) the demolition of significant buildings went unregulated. Although review guidelines have been in place for more than 50 years, we still experience the loss, particularly of those structures that may not be perceived as mainstream historic sites. Over the last decade some of the unique buildings lost in this community include the Richland County Jail (SW corner of Hampton and Lincoln streets, George Elmore’s 5&10 Store (2317 Gervais Street), the Susannah Apartments (NE corner of Hampton and Bull streets), the Abbott Cigar Building (1300 Main Street) and several early 1900s residences along Devine Street. While perhaps not as iconic as the Robert Mills House, each of these sites represented a time period, building style and/or historic event and provided context to our fast-changing built environment.
Just last week we watched an 100-year-old building on a central commercial corridor fall to the wrecking ball. The structure at 1401 Assembly (NW corner of Washington and Assembly streets) stood at the entry point to the once-teeming Black Business District that centered around Washington Street. By 1916, in addition to housing the blacked-owned Regal Drug Store on the first floor, upstairs were offices for two African American physicians and a lawyer, Nathaniel J. Frederick, who was an educator, lawyer, newspaper editor and civil rights activist. Frederick argued more cases before the Supreme Court of South Carolina than any black lawyer of his day. The building stood as a touchstone for the story of Frederick and many others, but also as one of fewer than 10 buildings remaining that were part of this early 20th century district.
When we walk through thriving historic districts like the Congaree Vista or Cottontown it is clear that the preservation of our built assets can serve as an economic engine as well as providing context for who we are as a community. At Historic Columbia, we work actively to gain protections for endangered buildings and districts; however, key partners in this effort must include property owners, developers, real estate professionals, elected officials and the general public who reap the benefits and suffer the blows of the choices made in our built environment. Join our mission to save Columbia’s built history and get involved with Historic Columbia today. Become a member, join our volunteer force, make a donation, attend our events and follow along on social media. Visit historiccolumbia.org to learn how you can get involved.
In 2009, Historic Columbia began an initiative called Connecting Communities through History, which aimed to do exactly what it says—to bring people together by sharing the stories from their own back yards. In the South, you’ll often find folks on their front porches. Some may say hello, some may throw up a hand in greeting, others stop you to talk. This is true of each of Columbia’s neighborhoods. Here are a few friendly faces you might meet on your next Sunday stroll—
John and Victoria Dozier live in the 1900 block of Henderson Street in the Robert Mills Historic District. The Mills district boasts some of the oldest and most elegantly-designed homes in the city. The Doziers’ house is no exception. Their home, built in 1890, has been in the same family for six generations. The 1900 block was one of the first blocks in Columbia where prominent African American families lived. The Doziers recently received commendation at HC’s Annual Preservation Awards for restorations recently completed on their house. “It was definitely the experience of a lifetime,” said John. “Our hope is that our children will pass it to their children.”
Erika Ryan lives in Cottontown, which lies between Elmwood, North Main, and Bull Street. Last summer, she moved into a house on Marion St. She’s glad to have relocated to the neighborhood when she did. “Since I moved in last June, the businesses on Franklin have really taken off,” she told me. The War Mouth, a barbeque restaurant and bar, and Indah Coffee have generated an increase in foot traffic since their opening. “And we’re supposed to be getting a brewery down the street, too,” Ryan said. “I really love living within walking distance of places that are becoming local main-stays.”
Jessa Ross lives off Oak Street in Lower Waverly. She likes the village feel of the neighborhood—newer housing complexes make her feel alienated and distant from the people she lives next to. “I love the houses in Lower Waverly and that all of our neighbors talk to one another,” she said. “We watch out for one another. The other day, our across-the-street neighbor told a guy to get out of our yard, but it ended up being a man our landlord hired to do yardwork. It’s eyes on the street, you know. It’s what makes this a great community.”
If you’d like to get out and greet these porch-goers yourself, Historic Columbia has you covered. We offer self-guided walking tours, group tours once each month, digital web-based neighborhood tours, and a host of other ways to get out an interact in the Columbia community. For more information, please visit our website at historiccolumbia.org/take-a-tour.
HC’s director of cultural resources, John Sherrer gives a tour through the Historic Waverly neighborhood.
Historic Columbia is proud to announce the recipients of their 2017 Preservation Awards. Each year, Historic Columbia presents these awards to celebrate the accomplishments of local property owners; professionals in the fields of architecture, construction and design; and leaders who champion preservation as an opportunity to support the Midlands’ economy and culture. These awards, presented on Wednesday, May 3 at the organization’s annual Preservation Awards Luncheon, encourage and promote the importance of local preservation.
“Congratulations to our 2017 Preservation Award recipients for leading the way in preserving Columbia’s built history for future generations,” said Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director. “While we can use our research and experience to craft the case for preservation – these leaders in preservation are the ones who provide the financial, creative and sweat equity to make the advocacy worth it.”
Historic Columbia honored the following recipients in the areas of Preservation Leadership, Preservation/Restoration, Adaptive Use and New Construction in a Historic Context.
Preservation Leadership Award: Martha Fowler
Described by her peers as the “embodiment of the grassroots preservation movement,” Martha Fowler’s infectious energy and devotion to detail make her an invaluable asset to Columbia’s preservation community. Her commitment to preserving Columbia’s built history has resulted in the renewal of an ever-growing list of iconic properties, including Ebenezer Lutheran Church, the Habenicht-Seegers building and a trio of former family-owned properties on Main Street.
The recent designation of Melrose Heights/Oak Lawn as a National Register of Historic Places district and as a City of Columbia architectural conservation district is due in large part to Martha’s stalwart advocacy. She is a constant at neighborhood association meetings, happily volunteers for committees and is the ideal advocate for community and political outreach. She is always willing to contact decision makers, reach out to community supporters and advocate for common good.
Adaptive Use Award: Palmetto Compress
Owner: PMC Property Group Architect: Garvin Design Group Contractor: Triangle Construction
With the oldest section of this four-story warehouse dating to 1917, the Palmetto Compress stands as an exemplar of early 20th-century warehouse design. At its peak, the 350,000 square foot facility could store more than 50,000 bales of cotton, making it one of the largest cotton warehouses in the Southeast. The Palmetto Compress Warehouse is one of the last surviving vestiges of the industrial landscape situated in the midst of the Ward One neighborhood.
The rehabilitation project executed by Scott Garvin and his team, focused on preserving the original warehouse form and material, while introducing apartment and retail outlets within the existing framework. The rehabilitation retains the exterior walls and interior structure of the warehouse as well as its sloped, wooden floors. The creation of large openings, or light wells, from the first floor to the roof allows daylight into the central core of the building. The Palmetto Compress Warehouse now hosts high-end apartments as well as retail space. Its residents are a vibrant mix of college students and young professionals. The transformation of the space creates an anchor between downtown Columbia and the riverfront.
Adaptive Use Award: The Bakery at Bull Street
Owner: Hughes Development Corporation Designer: 1×1 Design, Inc. Contractor: Buchanan Construction Services, Inc.
Constructed in 1900 to accommodate the needs of the growing population of the South Carolina State Hospital, the Bakery cemented itself as an integral part of the campus at Bull Street. The 19th century saw the implementation of new methods of psychiatric treatment such as occupational therapy, which suggested that daily routine would allow for accelerated healing. It was in the Bakery building that patients made, baked and packaged bread as a part of their directed care.
Asheley Scott and her team at 1×1 Design, Inc. made an effort to reuse as much of the original building fabric as possible, including existing walls and openings. When the structure required a new roof, for example, they left the existing, in-tact ceiling joists and rafters exposed. 1×1 Design, Inc. designed the building’s reconstructed cupolas using historical photographs of the bakery’s exterior. The rear addition, not original to the building, serves as a covered porch overlooking the campus. The building now serves as an office, conference, education and co-work space.
New Construction in an Historic Context Award: Kennedy Greenhouse Studio at USC
Owner: The University of South Carolina Architect: The Boudreaux Group Contractor: Palmetto Construction Group
Located near the western edge of the University of South Carolina’s (USC) Historic Horseshoe, the Kennedy Greenhouse Studio provides new collaborative learning opportunities for the greater Carolina community, particularly the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. It also creates an active pedestrian link and gathering place in a formerly walled rose garden.
The new construction celebrates the architectural heritage of greenhouses while enhancing the existing gardens to become an attractive gathering space for both students and public passersby. Respecting USC’s design guidelines, while creating a technologically advanced space to showcase the work of mass communications students, the materials and treatments employed remain sensitive to the studio’s historic surroundings. As part of the site and landscape design, the non-historic brick walls were lowered to incorporate views from the gardens. This change enhances pedestrian connectivity to the heart of campus and promotes walkability while encouraging collaborative learning through outdoor spaces.
The nation’s first African American professionally licensed architect, John Lankford, designed the Chappelle Auditorium at Allen University in 1925. In its nearly 100-year history, the Chappelle Auditorium has served as a significant meeting place for African American political and religious leaders, as well as artists and musicians. In 1954, for example, the auditorium hosted a series of meetings in preparation for the Brown vs. Board of Education trial. With a seating capacity of more than 700, the space became one of the few in Columbia that could accommodate large gatherings. It was an especially significant landmark in the lives and experiences of black South Carolinians because they could not freely assemble in segregated public facilities in the first half of the 20th century.
Beginning in 2009, Allen University began a process of restoration and rehabilitation of the auditorium. Efforts included removal of paint on the wainscoting and wood paneling, repairs to the brick and mortar work, as well as the recreation of doors by local craftsmen. For the restoration of the tin ceiling, half of the tiles could be salvaged, and the other half were replicated and hand-glazed to match. The result is a beautifully restored landmark of both local and national significance.
Preservation/Restoration Award: 1931 Henderson Street
Owner: John & Victoria Dozier (on behalf of William Sumter) Contractors: Larry Yobs and Ernest Goodwin
1931 Henderson Street, built in 1890, has been in the same family for six generations. The 1900 block of Henderson Street was one of the first blocks in Columbia where prominent African American families lived. William Joseph Sumter was born on May 15, 1881 in Hopkins, S.C. With only a fourth-grade education, Sumter became the first African American to own and operate a barber shop in the state of South Carolina. Following the success of his business, Sumter purchased the house at 1931 Henderson Street from an African American carpenter, John Watson Bailey, on December 9, 1909.
John Dozier, a descendent of Sumter, and his wife, Victoria, undertook the renovations with both love and respect for the historic integrity of the home. Original exterior paneling, columns, windows, doors and fireplaces remain intact. The Doziers exposed the brick in the bedrooms and kitchen and refurbished the tin ceiling in the family room. In total, the project took five months to complete.
Please CLICK HERE for photos of the award ceremony on May 3, 2017.
In honor of one of Historic Columbia’s most popular tours returning next week, here are some highlights of just a few of the countless interesting stories hidden in the historic Elmwood Cemetery. James Henley Thornwell was a professor at South Carolina College who joined the faculty in 1837 and replaced William Campbell Preston as the institution’s president. Thornwell’s term is best remembered for the “Great Biscuit Rebellion of 1852” in which students and faculty clashed over compulsory dining rules and the almost 40% of the student body quit school in protest. In November 1854, Thornwell resigned his presidency to accept a chair position at the Columbia Theological Seminary, today’s Robert Mills House. Just two years after Thornwell’s move to the Seminary, this distinguished teacher and administrator experienced a personal tragedy as his son, Jackson Witherspoon, died at just 8 years old. His plot marked with a motif of a lamb bears the inscription, “The lamb is a fit emblem of this dear child who delighted to call himself his mother’s lamb.”
Reverend John L. Girardeau was born on October 6th, 1845 and died on April 5th, 1911.
He was a professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary and served as a chaplain in the 23rd South Carolina Infantry during the Civil War. The 23rd SC Infantry fought in the Battle of 2nd Manassas where they suffered 68% losses. The regiment also incurred heavy losses at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) and at Petersburg, Virginia at the Battle of the Crater. His marker bears the distinct motif of a Bible on a pulpit. His marker is inscribed, “After patiently enduring he obtained the promise, Hebrews 6.15.” Reverend Girardeau had two grandsons who served in World War I, Hearne Girardeau Jr. in the American Ambulance Service attached to the Italian Army, and Charles J. Girardeau, his younger brother, who saw action at the Battle of Champagne and around the Verdun front. Both brothers died in their thirties and were buried next to their grandfather in Elmwood Cemetery. Today, many male and female veterans are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. The cemetery has set aside a portion of land for a veteran’s section to allow family members a National Cemetery-like atmosphere somewhere closer than Florence or Beaufort.
Find out more about these and other fascinating Columbians at Historic Columbia’s popular Cemetery Tours which return on Thursday, April 13 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Elmwood Cemetery. Offered on the second Thursday of each month, April through September, Historic Columbia’s Cemetery Tours bring 160 years of history to life. Grab a flashlight and discover centuries of stories etched in stone on the markers and headstones found within Elmwood Cemetery’s acres of carefully planned grounds. To purchase tickets, visit historiccolumbia.org, email email@example.com or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
“I love museums!” The comment was enthusiastic and genuine. It came from one of South Carolina’s Congressmen last month during Museum Advocacy Day organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A record attendance of more than 350 people from all 50 states who spent the day canvassing Capitol Hill underscored the concern over proposed cuts in federal funding for museums. Many of us do, as a matter of fact, love museums:
Museums are popular. There are approximately 850 million visits each year to American museums, more than number of people who visit theme parks AND attend major league sporting events. Just one local example, in 2016 the South Carolina State Museum had over 160,000 visitors and a school visitation of 68,000.
Museums impact our economy. Nationally, museums sustain more than 400,000 jobs and directly contribute $21 billion to the economy each year. Here in South Carolina, where tourism is our number one industry, museums play a vital role in both entertaining our visitors (where do summertime tourists go on a rainy day?) but also educating them about the role our state has played in American history.
Museums serve the public. Just one example includes the twenty-five museums in our state that participate in the NEA’s Blue Star Museums initiative giving free summer admission to all active-duty and reserve personnel and their families (serving over 923,000 people nationwide).
The South Carolina delegation visiting Capitol Hill included students from USC’s Honors College and museum folks from Richland, Horry, Charleston, and Oconee counties. We spent the day meeting with our representatives to request that they maintain funding for the Office of Museum Services (OMS). The OMS, which is part of the larger Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), awards grants that help to educate students, digitize collections, and engage communities.
Here are some interesting numbers that help to explain why we felt strongly enough to travel to D.C. to represent our state’s museums in person:
From 2014 to 2016, 3 South Carolina museums received IMLS grants totaling $139,000.
During those same years, 3 NEH and NEA grants totaling $553,000 went to five museums.
The Humanities Council of South Carolina received $2.1 million and the South Carolina Arts Commission $2.3 million. Those funds, in turn, flowed outward and supported a wide variety of museum programs and projects.
The proposed federal budget recently submitted by the White House will directly and negatively affect the historic and cultural organizations of South Carolina. Of particular concern is the proposal to eliminate entirely the NEA and NEH. Now is the time, if you love museums, to act. We have helped start the conversation, but now it’s up to those who value what South Carolina’s museums contribute to our quality of life to voice their support before it’s too late.
Caption: Fielding Freed with other SC delegates visiting Senator Lindsey Graham on Capitol Hill last month.
As part of the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative, Historic Columbia has been conducting research on Jewish owned businesses in downtown Columbia. Below are a few highlights of our recent research.
Barrett Visanska first appears as a jeweler on Richardson (Main) Street in the Columbia City Directory in 1875. He moved his business to 1215 Hampton Street, in the rear portion of the Sylvan’s Building in 1904, where he remained in business until his death in 1932. Like most of Columbia’s Jewish population in the late-19th and early-20th century, Barrett immigrated from Eastern Europe (Poland) and led a prosperous life. His son, Morton, was a founder of Columbia’s Town Theater, and his son, Daniel, and daughter, Bertha, were musicians who played for royalty in Europe.
Polish immigrant Ben David operated the Parlor Restaurant at 1336 Main Street from 1900 until 1910, when plans for the Arcade Mall forced him to relocate. His advertisements in the Columbia City Directory and USC’s Garnet and Black yearbook often included his likeness. His obituary in The State newspaper remembered him fondly as “Uncle Ben.”
The I. Cassel Cigar Factory, owned and operated by Isidor Cassel (1872 – 1954), was a tenant in the Phoenix Building (1623-1625 Main Street) for more than 40 years. Cassel immigrated from Ritschenwalde, Germany, to the United States in 1884. He joined the United States Marine Corps when he was 15 and served more than three years. He arrived in Columbia in 1892 to work for Henry Bamberg (1857 – 1919), a highly regarded cigar manufacturer and who served as the first treasurer of the Tree of Life Congregation. In 1896, Cassel married Bamberg’s sister-in-law, Estelle “Essie” Epstin Cassel (1877 – 1948). In 1901, Cassel opened his own cigar manufacturing business in the 1400 block of Main Street.
Join Historic Columbia on March 12th for our Sunday Stroll of downtown Jewish sites to learn more about the Visanskas, “Uncle Ben”, the Cassels and other downtown merchants in Columbia. This guided walking tour will highlight Columbia’s Jewish heritage and explore how Jewish merchants have shaped this downtown district. The tour will begin in front of Michael’s on Main Street, travel down to Lady Street where the tour will cross over to Assembly Street, then end at The Big Apple on Hampton Street.
Also be sure to check out HC’s web-based tour of Jewish historical sites in Columbia.
By: Candace Cunningham
University of South Carolina
South Carolina’s 1940s teacher salary equalization campaign was one of the state’s most vibrant and impactful moments of black teacher activism. The state’s first three equalization cases—Malissa Theresa Smith, Eugene C. Hunt, and Viola Louis Duvall—originated in Charleston, but Duvall’s case was the only one to make it to federal district court. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) won Duvall’s case in 1944, but they were eager to guarantee salary equalization. When Albert N. Thompson, a teacher at Columbia’s Booker Washington Heights Elementary School, submitted his salary equalization petition to the Richland County School Board on June 7, 1944, the NAACP was more than willing to offer legal support. Thompson’s case would serve as the final nail in the coffin for unequal teacher salaries in South Carolina. The NAACP abandoned the local appeals process, and instead directly petitioned the federal district court.
On May 26, 1945, Judge Waites Waring ruled in Thompson’s favor, concluding that Columbia’s black teachers were entitled to a fair salary plan. Waring believed that since Duvall’s case, the school district had made an effort to alleviate unequal pay, but there was still a “startling disparity” between black and white teachers’ salaries, even when they had the same amount of experience. The Board had to begin a new classification system, effective spring 1946.
The state based the new classification system on the National Teacher Examination (NTE). Some white officials, such as Columbia school superintendent A. C. Flora, were hesitant to support the exam out of concern that it could prove that black teachers were better trained than some white teachers. But despite the overwhelming evidence that black teachers were dedicated professionals, they were also the products of an unequal education system. Ben D. Wood, the NTE creator, predicted that black teachers would score lower than white teachers. The South Carolina State Board of Education did a two-year study that supported Wood’s prediction, and beginning in 1945 all the state’s teachers were required to take the exam. Rev J. A. De Laine—the Clarendon County teacher who became the foremost leader in the state’s desegregation case, Briggs v. Elliott—rightly called the new certification program an “effort to legally dodge an equal salary decision by the Federal Court.”
South Carolina’s use of the NTE not only facilitated unequal salaries between black and white teachers but also emphasized the black community’s preexisting economic disparities. The gap between the highest and lowest paid teachers widened. Those who did well on the exam and earned higher wages were better financially situated to pursue advanced degrees and increase their earning potential. These additional economic and educational achievements helped legitimize the state’s use of standardized testing since white officials could now present this as proof of the exam’s alleged objectivity. Therefore, while race remained the defining factor in teacher salaries, post-NTE remuneration was also bound to individual socioeconomic status.
Nonetheless, the teacher salary equalization campaign also revealed the shifting tides of civil rights activism. These suits helped to increase the NAACP’s southern membership. They were sometimes the first experience African Americans had in formal protests and provided the foundation for a broader protest movement. Indeed, those who participated in the campaign found it transformative and defining. For NAACP secretary Modjeska Simkins the equalization campaign served as a catalyst—a move from racial uplift to protest politics. Furthermore, many of the individuals who helped realize teacher salary equalization—civil rights attorney Harold Boulware, teacher/activist Septima Clark, journalist/politician John McCray, military veteran/activist Osceola McKain, and Modjeska Simkins—would become seminal figures in the state’s civil rights movement. As this campaign transformed activists it also transformed the whole movement.
These individuals are only a few of the people who played a vital role in Columbia’s rich cultural history. To learn more about them and other black Carolinians please join Historic Columbia for one of its Lunch & Learn Series as it celebrates Black History Month, February 21 & 28, 12-1PM at the Mann-Simons Site, 1403 Richland Street.
Today, South Carolina remains one of the most diverse states in the union. According to the 2015 census, nearly 37 percent of South Carolina’s residents identified as a racial minority. Approximately, 28 percent of the state’s population is African American. The state’s racial diversity is grounded in the history of the founding of the colony.
Closely linked to the island of Barbados, South Carolina was the only colony where blacks outnumbered whites at the turn of the eighteenth century. The arrival of African slaves and free people of color from Barbados and a limited number of white women in the colony all contributed to a society that was accepting of racial diversity and interracial relationships. Unlike other southern states including North Carolina and Virginia, South Carolina never adopted a one-drop rule and did not have an anti-miscegenation clause in its constitution until 1865.
Indeed, South Carolina society had changed by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Racial slavery was embedded in its society and whites viewed slavery as their key to prosperity. What did not change about the state, however, was that as such, South Carolina offers a unique opportunity to study race, law and society during the antebellum period.
To learn about the common-law definition of race and how it related to social and political thought on race in antebellum South Carolina, attend Historic Columbia’s Lunch and Learn series from noon – 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21. This session will be led by guest presenter, Rochelle Outlaw, J.D., Ph.D. Candidate at the University of South Carolina and will be held at the Mann-Simons Site located at 1403 Richland Street. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit historiccolumbia.org/BlackHistory, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803-252-1770 x 23.
This year’s Black History Month recognition comes at an exciting time for Historic Columbia. Only a few months ago, Historic Columbia reopened the Mann-Simons Site with newly installed exhibits, interactive touchscreens, recorded audio and numerous visuals – enhancing the overall experience for each guest. I recently had the opportunity to take a tour and was blown away by the comprehensive updates Historic Columbia had incorporated into the renovation. Each and every display came to life, allowing me to better understand the people, places and stories directly associated with the house I had entered and was exploring.
Two such women the tour discusses are Celia Mann, and her eldest daughter, Agnes Jackson. Both – and so many more – laid substantial and necessary groundwork for African American women, and African American’s in general. In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to highlight their stories by sharing my tour experience. My hope is that this story will encourage you to visit the site and help further broaden Historic Columbia’s message regarding the importance of history, preservation and progress.
On the way to the Mann-Simons Site, I made a concerted effort to turn off my normally hectic inner dialogue, so I could fully engage in the experience I was stepping into. Because the site was undergoing a renovation, slated to reopen with new interactive and social components in a few months, I had the privilege of having a personal tour with a few representatives from Historic Columbia. Historic Columbia manages, maintains and preserves five historic landmark sites in downtown Columbia. Starting the tour outside, I was immediately introduced to the woman for whom the site got its namesake. I did not realize at the time, but later grasped, I would forever remember – Celia Mann.
One of the first things discussed was the fact that Celia was once enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina. After managing to purchase her freedom, she, as well as her husband, Ben Delane, left Charleston and ended up settling in Columbia. Around the property were various ghost structures – steel frames outlining and representing buildings her future family members would own and occupy. Hearing this information gave me chills. The will and resourcefulness to not only survive enslavement, but face odds to make a life for herself, her family and posterity better, as a newly freed African American woman in the divided and very broken South, was somewhat unimaginable.
We made our way around the side and then to back of the house, finally stepping inside the site. With the wood beams creaking and cracking under our feet, we started our way through the interior. Period pieces and replica furniture told of times past; simple, yet obviously difficult and constantly trying.
In the front room, I was told of Celia’s profession as a midwife, a position traditionally held in high regard throughout the community. She, for years, cared for the needs of both white and African American families, in addition to caring for her own children and family. I did not say much as we kept moving through the home, but I could not help putting myself in Celia Mann’s shoes. Her strength – mental, physical and spiritual – was endless.
As we walked in the last room on the tour, the conversation shifted to the latter part of Celia’s life and her offspring. I stood there, taking in the information, when one note caught my eye. It made mention of Celia’s passing stating, “The Daily Phoenix publishes note saying: “Death of a Respected Colored Woman—Celia Mann, an old and respected colored nurse, who was present at the birth of many of our citizens, departed this life yesterday.” A flood of mixed emotions came over me when realizing this formerly enslaved woman had finally received the respect she so deserved. A caged song bird for so many years, finds the will to escape, and soar – not because of that recognition or their acceptance, but because she sought better for herself and her family and achieved what so many came up short in trying to do. It was a true testament to her unwavering perseverance.
While Celia had four daughters, the majority of information presented focused on her youngest, Agnes Jackson. Embodying many of the same traits and qualities as her inspirational mother, Agnes, aided Celia and her family on the site we were standing, in downtown Columbia at the corner of Richland Street. A few years prior to Celia’s death in 1867, Agnes moved in to assist with family matters.
Following in the similar business-minded footsteps of her mother, Agnes provided for her family by becoming a skilled baker and a laundress. Standing tall as another example of a fearless, headstrong and determined African American women, Agnes served in all respects of the word as the ‘head of the household,’ raising, shaping and being an example to her six children – one of which, John Lucius Simons, went on in later years to open a thriving lunch counter on the grounds.
Driving home I couldn’t help but think back on these truly phenomenal women. I knew it was grossly unfair for me to compare my life, my current situation and my circumstances to theirs, however my mind wandered there. Could I have done what they did? Endured what they endured? Pushed as hard as they pushed if the roles were reversed? While I’ll never know the answers to those questions, I could say with complete certainty that I was incredibly thankful to know more about what they overcame for me and my family, my future and for those generations to come. Having had that greater exposure to this particular history, I, by principal, could never forget it. It was imperative I remember it and carry it with me each day. After all, I was one for whom these women fought for.
What is it about chili that causes temperatures to rise and elicits such passionate responses? Why do Americans from generation to generation have such a steadfast belief in what is the right and true way to make a proper chili? People throughout history have made their mark on the culinary evolution of this simple dish – from Lyndon B. Johnson claiming no one outside of Texas can make it, to Stephan Crane and O’Henry writing about it, to famous frontiersman Kit Carson exclaiming with his last breath “Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.”
Join Historic Columbia’s Palladium Society Saturday February 11th at the Music Farm to continue the tradition of perfecting the ever elusive quintessential chili. While South Carolina might not be seen as the hotbed of chili creations it is known for its ability to think outside the box and come up with some creative concoctions. Local ingredients like the Carolina Reaper (the hottest pepper in the world) and a ‘famously hot’ temperament give Carolina chilis their own unique flair. The competition heats up every year as 20 to 25 local cookers compete for different categories – from best vegetarian to hottest chili there is an array of opportunities to show off that Carolina culinary pride.
While local celebrities will be on hand to judge all categories, the people’s choice award comes down to the voters. When you are done tasting and sampling stay around to listen to the live music provided by both the Kenny George Band and the Nick Clyburn Band. Enjoy the all-you-can-drink beer and wines that will be on tap that evening and learn more about the roll that HC plays in creating a stronger foundation for the City of Columbia and Richland County. And if your taste buds aren’t on fire by the end of all that then dig into a heaping bowl of the TPS famous house ‘Godzilla Chili’.
The Palladium Society is a dynamic organization of young professionals that supports the mission of Historic Columbia through educational, social and fundraising initiatives. Now in its 19th year, the Palladium Society’s Chili Cookoff has become one of Columbia’s most popular events, and by attending, not only do you get to enjoy delicious chili but you are also supporting the projects and programs of Historic Columbia, including the rehabilitation and reinterpretation of the Hampton-Preston Mansion. To find out more and to get your tickets online, please CLICK HERE.