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.

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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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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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Stroll through the Jewish history of downtown Columbia

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CJHI Main Street Collage-01

 

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.

1905directory_parlorrestaurantPolish 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.

 

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Holiday Object Highlight

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Porcelain Doll

Guest Blogger: Catherine Davenport Flowers, Curatorial Assistant
As a graduate assistant at Historic Columbia, I have grown attached to a trove of old treasures. I recently lifted one object out of its case for our holiday exhibit: a doll whose delicate frame has somehow managed to stand the test of time. Her dark hair and rosy cheeks remind us that the houses of the past were home not just to adults, but also to children. Their story is as much a part of our history as that of their parents.
Maybe you received a porcelain doll growing up, only to be exhorted by your mother to handle it gingerly. Today, these fragile things are meant more for admiring than for playing. But this German figurine made in the mid-1800s has a more durable construction. In the 19th century, only a doll’s head was porcelain; the body was made of cloth stuffed with sawdust, resin, or cotton. The composition made the doll lightweight and sturdy in small hands.
The doll in our collection is a precursor to Barbie and other fashion dolls that would evolve well into the 20th century. She came bundled with a wooden trunk containing another gown, tiny socks, shoes, and a straw hat. Dolls also presented an opportunity for girls to hone their needlework skills by sewing new garments for the toys from spare fabric. In changing outfits, young girls of means used the doll to embody their own understandings of womanhood and refinement.
If the 19th century doll in our collections has lasted over a century, perhaps yours is still around somewhere, too—waiting someday to be treasured.
You can see this porcelain doll and other Christmas gifts of times gone by at Historic Columbia’s Hampton-Preston Mansion and Robert Mills House, decorated for the holidays until December 31. For images of the houses decorated for the season, CLICK HERE.

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Enjoy Cemetery Tours, Dollar Sunday & Summer Camp this July with HC!

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Historic Columbia’s house museums will be closed Saturday, July 4, but you can still get your fill of history this month with a moonlight stroll through Elmwood Cemetery, a dollar tour of Historic Columbia’s Robert Mills House and more.

Moonlight Cemetery & Secrets from the Grave Tours
Thursday, July 9 at 7:30, 8 and 8:30 pm

One hundred and sixty years of history will come to life during our popular Cemetery Tours! Grab your flashlight as we tour one of Columbia’s oldest cemeteries and discover centuries of stories etched in stone on the markers and headstones preserved within Elmwood Cemetery’s acres of carefully planned grounds. The perfect after-work activity, Historic Columbia’s cemetery tours are an event the whole family will enjoy.

HC Members: $8 adults, $4 youth. Non-members: $12 adults, $6 youth. 501 Elmwood Ave.

Mission: History Summer Camp
Monday, July 13 through Friday, July 17, 9 am – 4 pm

History will come to life through interactive activities and exploration of the gardens, grounds and houses of Historic Columbia. Children ages 8 to 12 are invited to take an adventure in time as we explore what it was like to live in the past! Each day, kids will have a mission to explore a different aspect of history including food, archaeology, music, art, storytelling and even silent film through games, crafts and play.

Registration is required. HC member youth: $160. Non-member youth: $200.

Dollar Sunday at Historic Columbia: Robert Mills House
Sunday, July 19, 1 – 4 pm

Residents of Richland and Lexington counties are invited tour one of Historic Columbia’s house museums for just $1! Each month, HC chooses one of its four properties to feature for Dollar Sunday on a rotating basis, and in July, the featured house will be the Robert Mills House.

Free for HC members. $1 for residents of Richland and Lexington counties. All others $8 adults, $5 youth. The Hampton-Preston Mansion is located at 1615 Blanding Street. Purchase admission at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills, 1616 Blanding Street.

For more information about Historic Columba and to purchase admission to these events, visit historiccolumbia.org or call 803.252.1770 x 23.

 

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HC & Blue Star Museums Offer Active Military Personnel Free Tours this Summer!

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From Memorial Day through Labor Day 2015, Historic Columbia will offer active duty military personnel and their families free tours of its historic house museums as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

A collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America, Blue Star Museums offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from May 25 to Sept. 7. This program provides families an opportunity to enjoy the nation’s cultural heritage and learn more about their new communities after a military move.

“Historic Columbia is proud to be a Blue Star Museum,” said Robin Waites, executive director of HC. “Through this collaboration, service members and their families can experience Columbia and Richland County’s rich history, and we are thrilled to give back to those who give so much for our country.”

Historic Columbia provides tours of the Robert Mills House, Hampton-Preston Mansion, Mann-Simons Site and Woodrow Wilson Family Home, South Carolina’s only presidential site, every day of the week except Mondays. Tours depart at the top of the hour from 10 am to 3 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 1 pm to 4 pm on Sunday; visit historiccolumbia.org for the complete schedule of tours. Purchase admission at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills at 1616 Blanding St. All tours begin at the Gift Shop.

The Blue Star Museums free admission program is available to any bearer of a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card (dependent ID), or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active duty U.S. military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps—and up to five family members.

More than 2,000 (and counting) museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and American Samoa are participating in Blue Star Museums, including history and science museums, children’s museums, fine arts museums and nature centers. For more information, visit www.arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums.

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May is National Preservation Month!

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May is National Preservation Month, and Historic Columbia has a full slate of events and activities to celebrate:

Happy Hour History Tour: Five Points | Fridays, May 1 and May 8 at 5:30 pm

Enjoy a Capital City cocktail with a twist on a Happy Hour History Tour of Five Points, highlighting the historic district’s stories and architecture in honor of Five Points’ 100th anniversary this year.

$20 for HC members, $25 for non-members. Tour meets at the Five Points Fountain.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour: Debruhl-Marshall House | Sunday, May 3 at 1:30 pm

Built ca.-1820, the Debruhl-Marshall House is one of Columbia’s most iconic historic homes. The Early Classical Revival-style brick building is on the National Register of Historic Properties, and the current owner is working closely with Historic Columbia, USC and other community partners to rehabilitate the home.

$15 for HC members, $20 for non-members. 1401 Laurel Street.

Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle, and Wolff: Building Modern Columbia | Monday, May 4 at 4 pm

Based in Columbia, Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle, & Wolff was perhaps the South’s preeminent architecture firm for thirty years following World War II and designed some of the state’s – and certainly Columbia’s – most notable buildings in a range of interpretations of Modernism. USC’s Modern architecture students will present on and then lead a tour of three of the most iconic buildings designed by LBC&W.

Free and open to the public. Lecture held in the Program Room at USC’s Thomas Cooper Library.

First Thursday on Main Street: Historic Tours | Thursday, May 7, 6 – 8 pm

Historic Columbia guides will give mini tours of significant historic sites on Main Street’s 1500, 1600 and 1700 blocks during First Thursday!

Free. 1500, 1600 and 1700 blocks of Main Street.

2015 Preservation Awards Luncheon | Friday, May 8 at 11:30 am

Historic Columbia will celebrate recent projects that have maintained or added to the historical, architectural and cultural heritage of Columbia and Richland County.

$25. Agapé Senior, 1620 Main Street.

National Public Gardens Day | Friday, May 8

Spend some time on National Public Gardens Day in Historic Columbia’s public gardens at the Robert Mills House, Hampton-Preston Mansion, Seibels House, Woodrow Wilson Family Home and Mann-Simons Site. National Public Gardens Day is an annual celebration of the nation’s public gardens to raise awareness of the important role botanical gardens and arboreta play in promoting environmental stewardship, plant and water conservation, green spaces, and education in communities nationwide. Historic Columbia’s public gardens are always free to visit and open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Second Sunday Stroll: Columbia’s Civil Rights History | Sunday, May 10 at 2 pm

2013’s Columbia SC 63 initiative endeavored to preserve Columbia’s Civil Rights History, and this walking tour is a direct result of those efforts. Explore Columbia’s rich Civil Rights history in this walking tour of Main Street, the site of many sit-ins, protests and marches where African American fought for self-determination and equality.

Free for HC members. $8 adults, $5 youth. Tour meets at S.C. State House.

Moonlight Cemetery & Secrets from the Grave Tours | Thursday, May 14 at 7:30, 8 and 8:30 pm

One hundred and sixty years of history will come to life during our popular Cemetery Tours! Grab your flashlight as we tour one of Columbia’s oldest cemeteries and discover centuries of stories etched in stone on the markers and headstones preserved within Elmwood Cemetery’s acres of carefully planned grounds. The perfect after-work activity, our cemetery tours are an event the whole family will enjoy.

HC Members: $8 adults, $4 youth. Non-members: $12 adults, $6 youth. 501 Elmwood Ave.

Dollar Sunday at Historic Columbia: Mann-Simons Site | Sunday, May 17, 1 – 4 pm

Residents of Richland and Lexington counties are invited tour Historic Columbia’s Mann-Simons Site for just $1! Each month, HC chooses one of its four house museums to feature for Dollar Sunday on a rotating basis, and in May, the featured house will be the Mann-Simons Site.

Free for HC members. $1 for residents of Richland and Lexington counties. All others $8 adults, $5 youth. The Mann-Simons Site is located at 1403 Richland Street. Purchase admission at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills, 1616 Blanding Street.

Historic Windows Restoration Workshop | Saturday, May 30, 9 am – noon

Historic Columbia and the Committee for the Restoration and Beautification of Randolph Cemetery will hold a hands-on window restoration workshop at Thompson Cottage to wrap up Preservation Month! Led by historic preservation professionals Sean Stucker, Historic Columbia, and Staci Richey, City of Columbia, explore reasons to restore historic windows and techniques for doing so. Light breakfast is included, and tools and protective gear will be provided.

HC Members: $5. Students: $5. Non-members: $10. Thompson Cottage, 1623 Richland Street.

For more information about Historic Columba and to purchase admission to these events, visit historiccolumbia.org or call 803.252.1770 x 23.

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Celebrate Five Points’ Centennial with a Happy Hour History Tour

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HHHT 5 Points

Enjoy a Capital City cocktail with a twist as Historic Columbia’s Happy Hour History Tour series returns to Five Points every Friday from April 17 to May 8.

As Five Points celebrates its centennial this year, meet at the Five Points Fountain at the corner of Greene and Harden Streets for a guided tour to explore the history and architecture of this shopping and commercial district. Tours cost $20 for Historic Columbia members and $25 for the general public. Admission includes cocktails and appetizers along the way, and participants must be 21 or older to enjoy adult beverages. Reservations aren’t required but are encouraged as these tours tend to sell out, and walk-up registrations will only be accepted if space permits.

What began as a trolley hub for Columbia’s first planned suburban neighborhood has evolved into one of the city’s entertainment hot spots. This guided tour highlights the history and architecture of this historic district and how they played a role in transforming this area into the “famously hot” spot it is today.

For more information or to reserve a spot on a tour, please call 803.252.1770 x 23, email reservations@historiccolumbia.org or visit historiccolumbia.org.

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Take a Second Sunday Stroll through Old Shandon

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Discover the history of the Old Shandon neighborhood on a guided walking tour with Historic Columbia’s Second Sunday Stroll on Sunday, March 8.

With property lots laid out in 1893, Old Shandon is accepted as Columbia’s first planned suburb. Named for Reverend Peter J. Shand, a former rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Shandon was incorporated as its own town in 1904 and annexed in 1913. An extension of Columbia’s streetcar line into the suburb prompted growth to the south and east over the next few decades. Today’s “Old Shandon” neighborhood includes the blocks bounded by Maple, Devine and Heidt streets, Millwood Avenue, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

This Second Sunday Stroll will meet at Richland Library’s Wheatley Branch, 931 Woodrow St. at 2 pm, and the tour is free for HC members, $8 for adults and $5 for youth. Reserve your spot online at historiccolumbia.org, by calling 803.252.1770 x 23 or by emailing reservations@historiccolumbia.org, and walk-ins are also welcome.

Second Sunday Strolls and Rolls provide a guided walking or bus tour for many of the neighborhoods featured in Historic Columbia’s Retrace: Connecting Communities Through History brochures. Each tour highlights part of Columbia’s history through its historic neighborhoods and districts. Take a look at some of our neighborhood tours at historiccolumbia.org.

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Famously Historic & Delicious Two Gals and a Fork Food Tours Return in 2015

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Our friends at Two Gals and a Fork have announced the 2015 dates for their popular Vista food tours!

Two Gals and a Fork Food Tours has partnered with Historic Columbia to offer monthly historic walking and tasting tours in the Vista. Historic Columbia’s trained and certified tour guides will share Columbia’s rich history while you savor and experience tastings from the many wonderful Vista restaurants.

You will experience delicious restaurant tastings and learn the rich history of Columbia and the Vista. Two Gals promises you will leave these tours stuffed with delicious food and facts! For more dates, tours, pricing and to register, check out twogalsfoodtours.com. Because after all, #historyiscool and so is delicious food.

Upcoming Tours:

Saturday, January 10
Historical Vista Brunch & Munch Tour | 11 am – 1:30 pm
Historical Vista Sites & Bites Tour | 4 – 6:30 pm

Saturday, February 7
Historical Vista Brunch & Munch Tour | 11 am – 1:30 pm
Historical Vista Sites & Bites Tour | 4 – 6:30 pm

Saturday, March 7
Historical Vista Brunch & Munch Tour | 11 am – 1:30 pm
Historical Vista Sites & Bites Tour | 4 – 6:30 pm

Saturday, April 11
Historical Vista Brunch & Munch Tour | 11 am – 1:30 pm
Historical Vista Sites & Bites Tour | 4 – 6:30 pm

Saturday, May 9
Historical Vista Brunch & Munch Tour | 11 am – 1:30 pm
Historical Vista Sites & Bites Tour | 4 – 6:30 pm

Saturday, June 20
Historical Vista Brunch & Munch Tour | 11 am – 1:30 pm
Historical Vista Sites & Bites Tour | 4 – 6:30 pm

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