True Love at the Robert Mills House

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I was a newspaper photographer when I was a much younger man. During the late 1990s, as that field began to shrink, I went back to graduate school then on to work in the museum field. I’m still a shutterbug though, and I still shoot good old fashioned negative film from time to time. Having a camera (which also happens to be a cell phone) in my pocket allows me to snap photos for work and for fun every day. That accessibility also allows me to occasionally take a photograph that’s more than a snapshot; one that jumps out as something that must be captured and shared. Taking this couple’s photograph was one of those unplanned moments. While the image speaks for itself largely, it also has an interesting back story that I’ve been asked to share.
Securing and locking up Historic Columbia’s four historic house museums takes about an hour every evening. Every room, every external door, and every shutter must be checked and secured in each house, then alarms activated and gates locked. It’s one of those less than exciting but extremely important tasks of day-to-day operations that folks don’t think about unless it’s your responsibility.

Recently while locking up the Robert Mills, I’ll admit I jumped when I came around a corner to see someone with their face and hands pressed against a window peeking in the basement. I think I startled him as well-me thinking someone was trying to get in and him thinking goodness knows what was moving around in an empty house. We both waved to each other and with an elevated pulse rate I continued to lock the house. Sometimes we still have visitors on site when the Museums staff person begins locking up process which is not a big deal, and we don’t rush anyone away. When I exited, I saw the man again, this time with a companion.

In striking up a conversation with visitors in such circumstances, I introduce myself ask if they missed the last tour. If they are from Columbia, I invite them back and tell them what time tours start the next day. If they are from out of town, I’m usually able to give them at least a quick walk through of a first floor so they don’t leave disappointed. This time I was happy to meet Reverend Ed Lochstampfor who pointed up to a room on the first floor and said, “I used to live there.”

I soon learned that Rev. Lochstampfor and his wife Charlotte met and fell in love while students of Columbia Bible College which used the Robert Mills property as part of their campus from the 1930s to 1960s. I invited the Lochstampfors inside for a quick tour, but they declined saying they didn’t want to hold me up, and they were just there to walk the grounds. We spoke for a few more minutes, not more than ten in total, but throughout I got a sense of the depth of their relationship. Charlotte told me that she married Ed because she knew she’d have an exciting life with him. Apparently, she chose wisely because after they graduated in 1953, they married and were off to France for language school. The couple eventually served as missionaries for over 30 years in West Africa all the while raising a family. I’ve since learned they wrote a book about their experiences, “While There’s Still Time,” which is an account of their work in Burkina Faso and Guinea in West Africa.

We said our goodbyes, but we spoke of them returning for a longer conversation about their time here. As they walked out the gate ahead of me this moment appeared, and I scrambled to get my phone out to make the photograph. The realization is not lost on me that as well preserved as the house and grounds are, without seeing this couple literally walking down memory lane holding hands, I’d never have considered that a lifelong romance could have started at the Robert Mills. I’m thankful I was in the right place at the right time which is always the key to taking a meaningful photograph.

Fielding Freed
13 February 2018

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Preservation After Tax Reform

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By Sean Stucker, HC director of facilities

As the dust settles on the tax reform of 2017, preservationists are taking stock of what was won and what was lost.

Following five years of advocacy by a coalition that includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, and the Historic Tax Credit Coalition — as well as countless state and local organizations and individual preservationists—the historic tax credit (HTC) survived the most massive rewrite of the tax code in more than 30 years.

Bolstered by this advocacy and by support from business leaders and other stakeholders across the country, longtime HTC supporters in Congress worked with the House Historic Preservation Caucus to make sure the HTC remained a part of the tax reform conversation.

As a result, an amendment to maintain the HTC at 20 percent was introduced. Notwithstanding the “revenue positive” history of the HTC, holdouts against the amendment insisted the “cost” of the program be offset, which was achieved by requiring the HTC be taken over five years instead of in its entirety the year a rehabilitated building is complete.

The fate of other associated tax credits was a bit of a mixed bag. The 10 percent historic rehabilitation tax credit for pre- 1936 non- historic buildings was eliminated, and, while the nine percent and four percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and the new markets tax credit (NMTC)— which faced elimination in the original House bill—were retained.

The final version did eliminate the ability for NMTCs to offset the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT), which means investors may have less incentive to use these credits since they cannot be used to offset other tax liabilities elsewhere.

In the end, advocacy won the day. With their decision to preserve the HTC, Congress affirmed what all preservationists already know: incentivizing historic property redevelopment makes good economic sense.

Moreover, it was affirming to see one of South Carolina’s own senator Tim Scott as a cosponsor of the amendment showing he understands the value of our built history.

To find out how you can support Historic Columbia’s preservation efforts and for more reasons why #PreservationMatters, visit

This piece was first published in The Columbia Star.

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Jennifer Leaphart’s Art Nouveau Bridal Session

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We love when photographers showcase new perspectives at our historic properties. Through her lens, Caitlin from Coral Dove Photography transformed our gardens into a lush and mystical landscape fit for the most ornate New Orleans hothouse (which is perfect, because Jen and Hunter’s wedding was all about Louisiana nouveau).

From her headpiece to her beaded, open-backed gown, all the way down to her deep red pumps, Jen was the picture of Art Nouveau. And just as the artists of the 1910s found beauty in the natural world, this bridal session finds beauty in the gardens of Seibels House.

On the home’s exterior, the wraparound porch and garden make for a unique runway. We love Caitlin’s shot of Jen ducking though our wrought-iron gate into the Kitchen Garden. The ceremony and reception gardens, designed by Jenks Farmer, emerge transformed with each new season. Although in the heart of Downtown Columbia, the gardens of Seibels House envelop the senses and transport you to a lush landscape from years ago.

Jen took full advantage of the variety of spaces and textures found in and around Seibels House. The exposed brick and rustic 19th century paneling of the rear parlor contrast beautifully with the bride’s lace gown and veil. The foyer’s neoclassical detailing and abundance of natural light offer the opportunity for full-length portraits. The delicate beadwork and drapery of Jen’s dress perfectly complements the architecture of Columbia’s oldest home.

As always, the signature Seibels House sunporch makes a beautiful portrait studio. We love the incorporation of the checkerboard marble floor into the bridal bouquet image. The bouquet itself is lovely with deep reds and misty greens. Can’t you just smell the eucalyptus?

We are thrilled that Jen chose to capture her special moment with us at Historic Columbia. Almost as thrilled as we are to share it with you.

Ready to book your bridal session?

Visit our rentals page for more information or call Brittany at 803.252.7742 ext. 11.

Flowers – White House Flowers (Jennifer Pryor)

Dress, Veil, and Headpiece – London and Lace (Lisa and Kevin Kyzer)

Photography – Coral Dove Photography (Caitlin Taylor)

Hair & Makeup – Jennifer Leaphart

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Historic Districts are Working for You

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Sean Stucker, Director of Facilities

There has been recent concern over local historic district regulations in certain Columbia neighborhoods. Specifically, some Columbia citizens are concerned over the process owners must follow to renovate or make changes to their historic properties.

Historic Columbia understands how certain regulations might be seen as challenging in the short term, but when dealing with historic properties, it’s important to focus on the long-term benefits.

One major advantage for historic places is property value, plain and simple. National and local studies have shown that properties located in designated historic districts have values above average for their corresponding market. Since the value of your home is directly proportional to the value of your neighbor’s home, following consistent guidelines holds everyone to a higher standard.

There is a savings value as well. For example, repairing existing historic wooden windows is a more cost effective and environmentally-friendly way of maintaining your home.

While vinyl windows are guaranteed to begin failing within 20-30 years after installation, wood windows can be repaired and maintained, and as a result, can last for hundreds of years.

In addition to the value arguments, historic societies and districts have a positive community impact because they give us a unique “sense of place.” Old neighborhoods and their buildings, serve as the tangible backdrop for stories and memories. There is a reason people fall in love with these kinds of places. There’s a reason Soda City Market started in one historic building (701 Whaley) and moved into the heart of a historic district where it (and its home district) has thrived.

The idea people don’t like being told what they can and cannot do with their property has a long history in the Unites States, but the practice of regulating property and its uses has an equally long history. Take, for example, zoning. Most of us think it is a good idea to designate certain property uses away from or in relation to others, and as a result, almost all urban areas in this country have some form of zoning regulations.

There’s also the matter of homeowner associations. HOAs are permitted to place restrictions on things ranging from pet ownership to the types of flags owners can fly outside their homes, from what colors homes can be painted to how tall grass is supposed to be. HOAs can also play a role in the determination of which additions should be made to a house.

Every investment has pros and cons and should be considered through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis. In the case of our built and cultural heritage, the evidence favors preservation.

Check out some images of successful preservation projects in Shandon, Hollywood Rose Hill and Melrose Heights. Also look out for Historic Columbia’s Preservation Workshop series coming up in the spring.

This article was originally published in The Columbia Star.


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Love is Brewing at Historic Columbia

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Historic Columbia’s four downtown properties offer the perfect venue to host your next celebration. Whether it’s a fairy tell wedding, a staff retreat, a birthday party or a family reunion—whatever you need, Historic Columbia can accommodate you and your group.

Emily and Jesse Folk chose to make history on their wedding day at the Seibels House, Columbia’s oldest home. Located in the heart of the Robert Mills Historic District, this property was built around 1796 and has been a place of reflection and celebration for more than 200 years.

It’s easy to make the Seibels House feel like your own with customizable seating layouts as well as a flexibility to fit your style. While the house itself has a classic feel, its versatility allows renters to paint with their own contemporary brush. Emily and Jesse brought their own new Southern style on their wedding day.

The couple was married in the ceremony garden, used the patio and lawn for cocktails and hosted the reception on the home’s first floor. Emily and Jesse strung lights across the lawn to create an open-air “room” for their guests to sip and savor in at dusk. Over the course of an evening, the Seibel’s signature black-and-white tiled sun porch can go from a perfect portrait studio to a cocktail reception space to a dance floor.

The Seibels House also has private suites for the couple and their party to get ready. One suite features two full-length antique mirrors and brick fireplace, while the other affords a beautiful view of the home’s gardens. (A perfect spot to peep at your guests as they arrive!)

The couple put a twist on the typical antipasto spread by switching it up with a custom pickle bar from local favorite War Mouth. Growlers from the couple’s favorite local bars and breweries served as funky and playful centerpieces. (Jesse’s boutonniere was a fun combination of hops & wheat pinned neatly with a Stella Artois bottlecap.) In lieu of a guestbook, folks could sign the gorgeous rings of a cedar tree.

While the Seibels House was the perfect venue for Emily and Jesse, Historic Columbia does offer three other properties for you to choose from: the romantic Robert Mills Carriage House & Gardens, the stately Gardens of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, and the whimsical Gardens of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home.

Too difficult to choose? Why not host your ceremony on the grounds of the Robert Mills House, then stroll across to the magnolia alley at Hampton-Preston for the reception? Or have your rehearsal dinner in the Robert Mills Carriage House, and your ceremony under the canopy at Woodrow Wilson?

We invite you to explore the possibilities and schedule a tour. Our rental coordinator, Brittany Buckner, is here to make your event one for the history books. To learn more, visit, call (803) 252-7742 ext. 11 or email


Photographer: Alexis Schwallier

Tables/Chairs/linens: Something Borrowed

Catering: Hudson’s Classic Catering

Pickle Bar: Zarah Newton from The War Mouth

Invitation: Ali Loncar

Guest Book: Crafted by the best man

Hair & Make Up: Amy from Metropolis Salon

Bouquet & Florals: Mother of the bride

Centerpieces & decorations: Crafted by the bride

Koozies: Image Ink

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For Sale! Maltida Evans House – 2027 Taylor St.

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Historical Overview
The house at 2027 Taylor Street was once the residence of Matilda Arabella Evans, the first female African-American physician in Columbia. Built sometime between 1910 and 1919, the vernacular house went through a myriad of early owners, most of whom were employees of the nearby Southern Railroad Company, before the Evans family occupied the residence (1). In 1928, the Evans family moved from their home on Two Notch Road to this location and descendants owned or occupied the home until 2005. For years, the Matilda Evans House was the center of African-American medical and philanthropic life in Columbia (2).

Located in a predominately African-American neighborhood and a block west of Benedict and Allen Colleges, this property has played an important role in Columbia and South Carolina’s African-American culture since its association with Evans in 1928. However, from its construction until its purchase by the Evans family, the house was home to many predominately white families that earned their livelihood working on the nearby railroad and in local shops. During that period, these residents worked in occupations such as hostler, freight agent, and secretary master for the Southern Railroad.

The Evans family moved from its previous residence on Two Notch Road to 2027 Taylor Street when Matilda Evans’ niece, Jessie L. Hill, purchased the property. From 1928 to 1935, Columbia City Directories listed both Hill and Evans as primary residents of the home. After Evans’ death in 1935, Hill continued to own the property until 1997, when it was deeded to Hill’s niece, Etta Trottie. In 2005, Trottie’s nieces and nephews sold the property to Robert B. Lewis, a Columbia attorney with experience in adaptive use of historic properties.

Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans

A physician and philanthropist known to both Columbia’s black and white communities, Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans was born in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1872 and formally educated at Oberlin College and the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania with specialties in obstetrics, gynecology, and surgery. Evans was Columbia’s first African-American woman to practice medicine and the second African-American woman to practice medicine in the state of South Carolina (3). In 1901, Dr. Evans established the Taylor Lane Hospital, which was both a hospital and training school for nurses. Undaunted when the building was destroyed by fire, Evans started another, larger hospital facility, St. Luke’s Hospital and Training School for Nurses. St. Luke’s closed in 1918 allowing Dr. Evans to serve in the Medical Service Corps of the United States during World War I (4).

Dr. Evans’ role in Columbia’s history goes beyond medicine. Evans founded a weekly newspaper, The Negro Health Journal of South Carolina, to educate families throughout the state on proper health care procedures. She was instrumental in the establishment of Linenwood Park, a park for African-American children that boasted a swimming pool and recreational center located at the corner of Two Notch Road and Beltline Boulevard. Dr. Evans also served as the President of the Congaree Medical Association and the Palmetto State Medical Association.

Dr. Evans used her property as a medical clinic until a hospital could for Columbia’s African American citizens. She also attended to white female patients at this clinic who wished to keep their medical problems private and outside their social circles. With the fees Evans received from her white patients, she built clinics and gave free care to African Americans, especially children.

By the 1930s, 2027 Taylor Street had become a meeting place for black business, religious and community leaders to discuss problems associated with segregation. These meetings promoted the creation of the Columbia Clinic Association.

Architectural Overview
Located on the north side of Taylor Street only feet from the sidewalk, 2027 Taylor Street is a simple vernacular-built two-story home that reflects the Colonial Revival style of late 19th/early 20th century homes. Originally, the front elevation consisted of a flat porch roof supported by three round Tuscan columns—which also served as the second-story porch (as seem in the mid-1920s picture taken by local photographer Richard Samuel Roberts), a brick porch foundation, and a round pediment over the porch stairs that marked the entry of the house. Today, a hipped asphalt roof has replaced the original porch roof.

The house is predominately rectangular shaped (as shown in the 1919 Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map at right) with an asphalt-covered, clipped-gable roof and a bargeboard gable facing south. The structure is two bays wide at the south/front elevation and five bays deep, with an enclosed two-story porch on the north/rear elevation. The siding is the original wood clapboard that has been painted white. Throughout the house the windows are double-hung two-over-two with green shutters. The foundation is clay brick piers and the chimneys are also constructed of clay brick. The front door is a four-panel recessed wood door with decorative glass transom. By the time it was purchased from the family in 2005, the house was suffering from disrepair and covered in white vinyl siding. Under Lewis’s ownership, the siding was removed and many of the original features were preserved.

  1. Columbia City Directories, 1910-1914.
  2. Kathryn Silva. National Register of Historic Places nomination; Evans, Matilda Arabella Home. Written October 29, 2006.
  3. Darlene Clark Hine, “The Corporeal and Ocular Veil: Dr. Matilda A. Evans (1872-1935) and the Complexity of Southern History,” The Journal of Southern Medicine, (Vol. LXX, No.1, Feb.2004) 23.
  4. Palmetto Leader, Columbia, SC. March 22, 1930.

This property is now for sale. It is a local landmark, so the Bailey Bill tax abatement is available, and it is potentially eligible for state and federal tax credits. Contact the listing agent: Charles Adams, at Osmium Realty, 803.800.1145 for more details.

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Gifts from Historic Holidays

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By: Kathryn Kaslow

Diving into the imagination, playing dress up, hosting skits and talent shows for parents and friends—children have been dreaming up different ways to play for hundreds of years.

In 2017, it’s easy for a child to find entertainment. Conversely, because they did not have smartphones, video games, or TVs, children living in the mid-1800s relied heavily on creativity to entertain themselves.

Not all children received lavish gifts on Christmas. For some families, an orange in your stocking meant Santa had been generous. However, if a family could afford it, parents may have bought their children toys like the one pictured.

“The Visit of Santa Claus to the Happy Children,” made around 1870, is an example of a moving panorama.

Toymakers used the latest printing technology (chromolithography) to mass-produce a series of drawings on rolls of paper. A crank on each end could move the scroll in either direction, and the children narrated the scenes that passed by.

The panorama included a script that described how the main character, an adult, decided to immerse himself in the world of children and their light-hearted play in order to find happiness in life. The story culminated with a Christmas scene and the unveiling of Santa Claus as the narrator.

The manufacturer, Milton Bradley (a name associates with Christmases past, present, and future) also emphasized the toy’s educational value. Some of the scenes imparted moral lessons, and the instructions encouraged children to make up their own stories if they became bored with the script. Parents could use this toy to teach reading, speaking, composition, and art.

From a child’s perspective, though, playing with a panorama was pure fun. The scroll of pictures came in an ornate box decorated to resemble a theatrical stage. Some children even used curtains to frame their “stage.”

By hiding behind these curtains, the narrator could give the illusion he or she was invisible, and the scenes progressed on their own (almost like a movie).

Spectators would receive tiny tickets to the show, which usually took place in the parlor. Parlor theatrical performances were just one way that upper and middle-class families spent their leisure time, and children would have been delighted to receive gifts like these over the holidays.

If you’re interested in getting a closer look at holidays past, be sure to visit the Robert Mills House and the Hampton Preston Mansion through December 31 for Historic Columbia’s holiday tours.

This article was published originally in The Columbia Star.

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Urgent Action Needed: Advocate for a 20% HTC in Final House/Senate Reconciled Bill

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Senate Passes Tax Reform Bill with a 20% Historic Tax Credit, HTC Eliminated in House,
Urgent Action Needed: Advocate for a 20% HTC in Final House/Senate Reconciled Bill

Early on Saturday morning, the United States Senate passed its tax reform bill on a vote of 51-49, moving the legislation to a House and Senate Conference Committee to reconcile the two versions of tax reform. The Senate bill restores the 20% Historic Tax Credit (HTC) with a provision that it will be claimed over five years.


In November, Senate Finance Committee legislation eliminated the pre-1936 10% non-historic “old-building” credit and reduced the 20% HTC to 10%. HTC advocates were successful in working with Senator Cassidy (R-LA), and other Finance Committee Senators, to support a provision to restore the HTC to 20% for historic buildings. As a cost saving measure, the “Cassidy Amendment” provided that the 20% credit will be released over the 5-year compliance/recapture period (or 4% per year). The Finance Committee approved the provision, which was included in a Manager’s Amendment, on a party line vote.

The House passed a tax reform bill on November 16th. The House version of the bill eliminates both the 10% pre-1936 non-historic “old building” credit and the 20% HTC. With House Republicans highly motivated for a legislative win, few Republicans voted against the bill.

Next Steps

House members will still have an opportunity to voice their continuing support of the HTC when the House and Senate negotiate the final tax package. Many House members and supporters of the HTC have encouraged House Leadership to accept the improvements in the Senate bill and advocates are encouraged THIS WEEK to continue sending this message to their Members of Congress.

While advocates are disappointed they could not fully restore the 20% HTC to current law and prevent the elimination of the 10% pre-1936 rehabilitation credit, they are standing their ground, insisting on the Senate provision and that no further erosion takes place.

Your immediate ACTION is needed!


Please consider joining Historic Columbia to voice your opposition to the elimination of the Historic Tax Credit. Contact your Representative and let them know that we will be watching their vote on this important issue that has moral and economic ramifications for communities across our country.

For a robust preservation advocacy toolkit including talking points and statistics developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, please CLICK HERE.

In Columbia, we are represented by Congressmen Jim Clyburn and Congressman Joe Wilson. You can find your House member HERE.

Congressman Jim Clyburn

Chief of Staff:

Legislative staff:

Congressman Joe Wilson

Chief of Staff:

Legislative Director:

Legislative staff

It is also not too early to contact Senator Graham and Senator Scott.

Senator Tim Scott

Chief of Staff:

Legislative Director:

Tax Legislative Asst:

Senator Lindsay Graham

Chief of Staff:

Legislative Director:

Tax Legislative Asst:

Taking action won’t take long and is important for building the groundswell we will need to save the Historic Tax Credit.

Thank you for helping Historic Columbia shine a light on this important issue.

Great HTC #TBT from Cola Today

More on the HTC from The Columbia Star


Call (during office hours) the offices of your Members of Congress. Ask to speak to tax staff, your staff contacts in offices or ask for email addresses of tax staff.

A suggested outline of your email message or phone call:

1. Introduce Yourself as a Constituent

Republican House Members: Say “I am extremely concerned that the House eliminated the Historic Tax Credit, an important community redevelopment incentive available to revitalize our main streets, towns, and cities and preserve our heritage. Will you please work with House leadership to include the Senate’s 20% Historic Tax Credit provision in the final tax package when you work out the differences in the House and Senate bills?”

Contact info:

Republican Senators: Say ““I would like to thank the Senator for supporting a tax reform bill that includes a 20% Historic Tax Credit in Senate tax reform bill. This is a significant improvement compared to the elimination in the House bill. Please communicate to Senate Republican Leaders and Chairman Hatch (R-UT) that they must not weaken important protections for the Historic Tax Credit when they reconcile the House and Senate bills.”

Contact info:

2. Explain why you value Historic Tax Credits, and that the redevelopment of historic buildings will not get done without the HTC.

3. Let them know some previous and future HTC projects in your state/district (Link to State HTC Map and Project List under Advocacy Resources below).

4. Touch on why these historic buildings are so challenging but important to our communities.

5. If your Member of Congress has agreed to help, please remember to thank them and tell others about their support!

It is extremely important to keep all Capitol Hill communication constructive and respectful.


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Historic Holidays Around the World

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By: James Quint – Director of Education

Celebrating the holidays often means taking part in family traditions year after year. Each activity holds meaning and value for a family—from trimming the tree to caroling in the neighborhood.

But have you ever wondered where these traditions originated? The staff and volunteers at Historic Columbia love sharing these stories with guests on tours and at programs during this time of year.

Visitors can explore two historic properties— the Robert Mills House and the Hampton-Preston Mansion—to see what a South Carolina Christmas looked like in years past. Holiday guides share fascinating tidbits on how current traditions emerged in our community while others have faded away.

One character who has changed over the years is the big man himself. The 1821 book, The Children’s Friend: A New Year’s Present, to Little Ones from Five to Twelve, reveals one of the most important animals to Santa Claus, his sleigh was pulled by one reindeer.

One year later, the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, would further expand on our knowledge of Santa Claus. Today, we know this poem as “The Night Before Christmas.” It’s amazing to think how this poem remains popular after 195 years.

Christmas in South Carolina—especially in the 18th and 19th centuries— drew inspiration from other nations and cultures. Wreaths and greenery were fashioned from what was on hand in the nearby woods or—depending on where you lived—what grew in your yard.

The tradition of decorating with dried fruit comes from England. Mulled wine comes from the Portuguese tradition of serving hot Madiera during the holiday season.

Native South Carolinian Joel Poinsett brought Poinsettias back with him to the United States while serving as ambassador to Mexico. All these traditions are reflected in the seasonal décor at the Robert Mills House and Hampton Preston Mansion.

There are many opportunities for families to learn more about the holidays in the 19th century at Historic Columbia.

Mark your calendars for December 15 to spend the evening at Historic Columbia to take part in Candlelight Tours and Carriage Rides.

Children and their families will enjoy Breakfast with Santa the next day, December 16. It’s the perfect event for visiting with Victorian Santa and taking part in fun holiday activities.

Holiday Tours run through December 31, so there is time for everyone to embrace the holiday spirit before the German tinsel comes off the tree.

CLICK HERE for more information on these events and to see other programs offered this holiday season.

This article was originally published in The Columbia Star.

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Options open up as VARO heads to auction

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By Lois Carlisle

If you’ve been looking for the chance to buy into Columbia history, this is your chance. The former Veterans Administration Regional Office Building at 1801 Assembly Street is up for auction.

Built in 1949 and designed by Stork & Lyles (later known as LBC&W), the Veterans Administration Regional Office Building ( VARO) was one of the flagship Modernist buildings in Columbia. ( What’s more, it stands beneath celebrated Modern architect Marcel Breuer’s Strom Thurmond Office Building—one of his final works in the United States.)

With its sleek horizontal lines, innovative building techniques, and incorporation of contemporary structure, the VARO was unlike anything Columbia had ever seen. It now stands empty, ready for its second life.

More and more, mid-century structures are being successfully restored and adapted for new use. In cities like Savannah and Charlottesville, mid-century offices, warehouses, and shopping centers are being adaptively reused as theaters, upscale condominiums, retail space, and event venues. Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood has especially embraced its utilitarian modernism and upcycled spaces into doggy daycare centers, bakeries, bike shops, boutique storage facilities, bars, and an ever-growing number of breweries.

In Charleston, the former Federal Building on Meeting Street (also an LBC&W project) underwent a careful renovation and is now a luxury hotel. Known as The Dewberry, the former office space boasts a bar, restaurant, and retail spaces, all highly styled in Scandinavian Modernism. The hotel has attracted national attention, appearing in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, the Chicago Tribune, Thrillest, and the New York Post . The Dewberry embraces its Modernist heritage and makes the past new again.

A similar outcome is now possible in Columbia with the sale of the VARO. Its panoramic views of downtown and the river front, proximity to Main Street and the Vista, and easy access to both I-26 and 277 all make this a desirable area to live. The building’s window patterns and floor layouts are also highly compatible with residential use.

The VARO’s potential as an apartment space or boutique hotel is immense. Perhaps a sleek rooftop bar could find itself opening in Columbia’s original Modern gem.

For those interested in touring the property, open houses will be held December 6 from 1– 4 p. m. and December 7 from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. For more information, visit the GSA website.

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