Anna & Andrew at the Seibels House & Garden

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Anna and Andrew
Seibels House & Garden

We are pleased to share Anna and Andrew’s beautiful wedding reception at Seibels House & Garden with you all.

Following the ceremony at a nearby church, Anna and Andrew celebrated their special day against the romantic backdrop of Seibels House & Garden. The reception featured voluminous, elegant floral arrangements, which transformed Columbia’s oldest home into a lush oasis. Stunning mantle vignettes and other flourishes by Cricket Newman lent an elegant air to the interior of the Seibels House. The bride’s gardenia bouquet was echoed through the foliage of the gardens themselves.

After dinner, the party made themselves right at home on the dance floor. The gardens were filled with laughter and champagne late into the evening. When the night was over, the bride and groom made their daring escape in the back of a classic car—a perfect marriage of vintage and contemporary.

Congratulations, Anna and Andrew!

Event Coordination and Flowers: Cricket Newman Designs
Catering: Southern Way
Bartending: Black Tie
Rentals: Party Reflections
Band: East Coast Entertainment
Transportation: Southern Valet and Transportation
Photographer: Liz Roberts Photography

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

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A World-Class Museum of Reconstruction

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By Dawn Mills Campbell

Historic Columbia and Richland County have a long-standing partnership in preserving some of the Midlands most significant historic assets, including the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. Today, this site serves as the home to A Museum of Reconstruction and explores the racial, social and political landscape of Columbia and Richland County after the Civil War from 1865 through 1877.

As an African American and a member of Historic Columbia’s Board of Trustees, the message of this museum is deeply personal for me. The meaning is doubled when you consider that the Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction is the only museum in the country dedicated to telling the story of Reconstruction, a time when our nation began to guarantee basic rights and equality to individuals who were formerly enslaved.

The museum, owned by Richland County and operated by Historic Columbia, closed in 2005 to undergo major structural and curatorial revisions. After an eight-year rehabilitation, this landmark building reopened in February 2014 as a 21st-century museum showcasing the Reconstruction era Columbia and Richland County during the 1870s. The museum explores the time in which formerly enslaved African Americans negotiated with opportunities and obstacles faced as new citizens of the United States. These exhibits address history with remarkable transparency. It is my hope that African Americans will join me in embracing the home for its historical significance and that everyone who visits the home will understand the foundation of what citizenship means to us today.

Since its reopening in 2014, the site has seen more than 17,000 visitors. Of that, 52% of visitors travelled from outside of South Carolina to the site, creating a positive boost to the local economy. And, 34% of visitors reside right here in Richland and Lexington counties.

As a resident of the midlands, I am proud to have this world-class museum located right here in our capital city. While we knew we were creating a special product, the accolades and awards from across the state affirm that the ground-breaking exhibits are unique not just to the state and region, but to the country. Since debuting in 2014, the site has won a variety of awards, including the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission’s 2016 Preserving Our Places in History Project Award, the American Association for State and Local History Award for Merit in 2015, as well as the highly coveted Heritage Tourism Award in 2015.

Recently, the site was added to the Green Book of South Carolina, a travel guide to the state’s African American cultural sites, as an exemplar representation of the history of Reconstruction and is featured on the site’s “Reconstruction in South Carolina Tour.” I invite you to join me in exploring South Carolina’s heritage and history at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction. For more information and to plan your visit, please CLICK HERE.

Originally published in the Columbia Star.

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Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative Launches Kugels & Collards with Groucho’s Recipe

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Every dish has a story to tell. Even the ones that don’t quite make it on the menu. Harold “Groucho” Miller’s parents immigrated from Russia at the turn of the 20th century. While Miller and his family are known across South Carolina for their popular deli outfit, Groucho’s Deli, there’s one menu item that didn’t quite make the cut. While working as the emcee at a Philadelphia vaudeville theater in the 1920s, Miller befriended a Russian Jewish comedian. Here, Miller learned to make one of his favorite treats—Russian Blintzes.

Blintzes are a time-consuming and labor-intensive dish, but worth the effort. They were available for sale at Miller’s Deli on opening day in 1940. Because of the cooking process, the blintzes had to be cooked at the Millers’ home in Shandon and brought in every day. The sweet treats soon disappeared from the deli’s menu. They remained, however, a Shabbat staple in the Miller house.

  • Blintzes

Fortunately, Harold Miller’s grandson Bruce, shared his family’s favorite recipe with Kugels and Collards—the new digital repository from the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative. Historic Columbia, in partnership with the College of Charleston’s Jewish Heritage Collection, the Jewish Community Center of Columbia and Columbia Jewish Federation, the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina and Richland Library, has established the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative—a multi-discipline project, which will document as well as provide access and awareness to local Jewish history.

Kugels and Collards is a blog devoted to the exploration of Southern Jewish cuisine. The project seeks to preserve and share the history of Southern cooking in Columbia’s Jewish community. Each memory shared can be accessed freely on the Kugels and Collards blog. For Miller’s full Blintzes recipe, and to submit your own recipe and story, please visit kugelsandcollards.org or send an email to kugelsandcollards (at) historiccolumbia.org. Also, be sure to check out the Jewish Heritage walking tour available for free HERE.

 

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Ayala & Boyer Wedding at the Seibels House

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Karen Ayala and Chris Boyer
May 6th, 2017
Seibels House and Gardens

We are excited to feature Karen and Chris’s stunning Seibels House and Gardens wedding for our first blog post in our new Historically Ever After series!

Every detail in Karen and Chris’s day was thought through to create a simple and clean but dramatically elegant aesthetic to their day. They used the lush backdrop of Seibels House and Gardens as a perfect canvas for a gorgeous palette of cream, greenery and neutral yet modern colors. Karen designed her unique bouquet of white orchids spilling from an elephant ear leaf and Chris’s corresponding boutonniere, which stood out against the deep blue suits and dresses of the wedding party. Karen’s ethereal veil was the perfect complement to her structured bouquet and the smooth, flowing lines of her dress. The emotion of the day was clear, from the sweet looks exchanged between father, daughter, and brother as she walked down the aisle, to the couple’s clear joy after their ceremony!

Congratulations Karen and Chris – we wish you a lifetime of love and happiness!

Thank you to all the vendors who made this day special!
Cake: Sugarability, LLC.
Catering: Southern Gourmet Catering
Bartending: Ed’s Bartending
DJ: Nice Entertainment
Event Rental Company: Ruth’s House
Florist: FiftyFlowers
Wedding Dress: Amsale from Nitsa’s Apparel
Bridesmaids Dresses: Atom Attire on Etsy
Tux/Suits: The Black Tux
Wedding Coordinator: Brittany Buckner
Videographer: Hayden Media Co.
Photographer: Brennan Booker Photography
Rehearsal Dinner: Spotted Salamander
Wedding Layout Design, Floral Designer, Invitation & Stationery, Snapchat Filter: Karen Boyer

 

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

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Turning Heads: Columbia’s First Mid-Century Masterpiece

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By Lois Carlisle, Historic Columbia
At the northwest corner of Assembly and Laurel streets stands one of the earliest examples of Modern architecture in Columbia. The Veterans Administration Regional Office Building (VARO), with its sleek, horizontal lines and use of innovative building techniques, was the first of its kind in the capital city. At the time of its construction in 1949, the VARO would have featured prominently on the city’s shifting skyline. Imagine looking up from the bottom of Arsenal Hill and seeing such a building—one whose design linked it with that of other major cities in the United States –Atlanta, Raleigh, Richmond, and most importantly with Washington DC. Satellite or regional offices for Federal agencies were new at the time. To generate a sense of authority, the VARO’s architects aligned its design with that of the newest additions to the nation’s capital.

One of the most distinct features of the building is the granite relief sculpture at its entrance. Edmond Amateis, a Beaux-Arts trained sculptor for numerous War Memorials and works for the Department of Commerce Building in DC, completed the piece in 1952. The work depicts an agricultural allegory in South Carolina with Dr. Thomas G. Clemson, the prominent farmer, instructing scientific agriculture. The work depicts symbols and images that represent equal rights and opportunity African Americans amidst South Carolina crops and agriculture.

Previously the Veterans Administration offices were located outside of the city at Fort Jackson. By building the VARO in the heart of downtown’s commercial district, it became easier for veterans to access healthcare, military benefits, and housing services. The location of the building itself allowed for increased visibility not only with clientele, but also with the general public. This building was proof that the federal government not only had a presence in South Carolina, but a vital one.
The VARO’s architects were LaFaye, LaFaye, & Fair and Stork & Lyles—the latter being the precursor firm for Lyles, Bisset, Carlisle, & Wolff (LBC&W). The Columbia-based LBC&W was one of the most prominent architecture firms in the Southeast, with a prolific body of work that shaped South Carolina skylines for decades. (If you’ve seen Cornell Arms, the Palmetto Club, Russell House, Claire Towers, Thomas Cooper Library, or the VARO’s neighbor, Columbia’s Main Post Office, then you are familiar with the firm’s body of work. If your house sits in Forest Acres, then you might live in an LBC&W original.)

The VARO Building holds significance for its function as a pivot point for federal architecture in Columbia. Prior to the VARO’s construction, the city’s government buildings were executed in the Renaissance Revival Style. LBC&W veered from the traditionalist mode of construction and opted for a sleek, linear form which reflected the contemporary, dynamic values of the federal government’s new post-WWII agencies. In other words: the VARO was sexy.
Currently, this ground-breaking, style-shifting, emblem of a generation stands empty. In 2015, upon learning that the General Services Administration (GSA) was calling for the building’s demolition, Historic Columbia requested that the State Historic Preservation Office consider VARO as eligible for National Register status. Once determined eligible, GSA decided to offer the building for sale. This iconic mid-century modern building, located at the cusp of the key commercial district, now has the opportunity for new life.
May is National Historic Preservation Month. Visit HistoricColumbia.org to learn more about its role in advocating and preserving historic sites like the VARO.

This article originally appeared in the Columbia Star on May 26, 2017.

Veterans Administration Building_1 Veterans Administration Building

 

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Lost Landscapes

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By: Robin Waites

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.

1401 Assembly 1401_assembly_02 IMG_9534

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.

 

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From Columbia’s Front Porches

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By Lois Carlisle

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.

DSC_0538

HC’s director of cultural resources, John Sherrer gives a tour through the Historic Waverly neighborhood.

 

 

This piece was originally published in The Columbia Star on May 12, 2017.

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2017 Preservation Award Winners

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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

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

compress exterior
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

The Bakery at Bull Street_Exterior
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

Kennedy Greenhouse Studio_ Exterior
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.

Preservation/Restoration Award: Chappelle Auditorium

Chappelle Auditorium_Interior
Owner: Allen University
Architect: GMK Architects

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

1931 Henderson St_Exterior
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.

 

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Popular Elmwood Cemetery Tours Return

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Cemetery

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 reservations@historiccolumbia.org or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.

Originally published in The Columbia Star

 

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A Critical Time for our Nation’s Museums

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Fielding Freed, HC director of house museums

“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.

With Senator Graham

Caption: Fielding Freed with other SC delegates visiting Senator Lindsey Graham on Capitol Hill last month.

Originally published in The Columbia Star

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