The Shull wedding in early September was an occasion of grace and whimsy (with a little goofiness thrown in for good measure). Austin and Michelle married on the front lawn at the Robert Mills House, located at 1616 Blanding Street. We are pleased to be able to share their special day with you.
Inspired by the lush gardens at Robert Mills, the wedding featured an earth-toned color pallet. The groomsmen’s suits were heather gray with pale pink lapel flowers and patterned bowties. The bridesmaids, too, had a pastoral air with floor-length moss green dresses and delicate flower crowns. Their bouquets were almost sculptural with snow bells for height and peonies for color. Under the hem of her lace dress, Michelle wore glittery silver sneakers.
The couple used antique furniture throughout their reception to create a natural wonderland atmosphere. The cake—adorned with fresh and fragrant eucalyptus—was placed on a rustic dressing table whose drawers had been filled with red velvet cupcakes. Teardrop candelabras framed the sweets, and flickered well into the night.
Dinner was served family-style at a long table across the back lawn, lit by lights strung from the property’s historic trees. The couple and their guests danced late into the late summer evening.
As the night drew to a close, guests formed a tunnel of sparklers across Blanding Street and the couple made their exit. With the Robert Mills House glowing in the background, guests can’t help but feel there’s something special about the place. We wish Michelle and Austin great happiness in their new life together.
Our historic homes aren’t just the perfect backdrop for a wedding or reception. We’re also a wonderful place to host corporate events and luncheons.
Located in Downtown Columbia, you and your guests don’t have to venture far from the office to get away for an hour or two.
In March, Seibels House welcomed the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) as they hosted their Be Bold for a Change luncheon. Nearly one hundred women gathered together to celebrate the achievements of women in the Columbia community. Because of its unique floorplan, Seibels House can accommodate layouts for groups of all sizes. And because tables and chairs are provided with your rental at the Seibels House, setup and breakdown are streamlined letting you to get back to business.
Because it was a daytime event, WREN opted to use a valet service. (We recommend Southern Valet.) While there is plenty of free street parking around Seibels, events with more than fifty attendees may find a valet helpful.
As guests entered, they were greeted by WREN staff and shown to their tables. During lunch, a presentation was given in the foyer, followed by breakout tabletop discussions in smaller groups.
Following lunch, desserts were served on the sunporch. Always a popular choice, Spotted Salamander—located right next door at 1531 Richland Street—catered the luncheon. (We can’t get enough of their cupcakes and their crack pie—it’s just as addictive as it sounds.)
The sunporch doors open directly into the gardens, so guests can network in nature.
As they left the luncheon, guests were presented with a rose and personalized wine glass to commemorate the event.
Whether you’re looking to host a luncheon, workshop, professional development session, or anything in between, we welcome you at Seibels House and Garden. Our door is always open!
Oct. 1 – 31 | All Day Event | Gardens of the Robert Mills House
Scarecrows have taken over the Robert Mills House gardens! This free exhibit features handcrafted scarecrows made by local families, business, organizations and classrooms. On a stroll through the gardens this fall, you’ll see dozens of ghoulish, historic and colorful scarecrows. Keep an eye out for “Sneaky Steve,” a mischievous scarecrow hiding somewhere on the grounds in a new location each week. For information, visit historiccolumbia.org, email email@example.com, or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
Thursday, Oct. 5 | 6 – 7:30 p.m. | 4100 Block on Kilbourne St. in Heathwood
Get an inside look at former home of Lester Bates Jr. This architect-designed mid-century home is nestled in the Heathwood neighborhood. Current owners will share stories of curating modern furniture on a budget, as well as a few renovation trials and tribulations. This house showcases some of the most quintessential mid-century furnishings designed by Harvey Probber, Florence Knoll, Thayer Coggins, Heywood-Wakefield, Eero Saarinen, and the architectural style of the home and extensive use of glass and open design concepts to help forge a connection with nature. It was designed by Robert Jackson, Jr., whose firm, Jackson and Miller Architects, also designed Palmetto Health Baptist hospital and the former Maxwell Furniture store on Main Street. Take a walk through a home so carefully restored, you’ll feel like an extra from Mad Men.
Tickets are $25 for members and $30 for non-members, and registration is for members only until Sept. 28. For more information, email or call (803) 252-7742 x 15.
Historic Columbia’s 2017 Preservation Workshop series, presented by Crawlspace Medic, returns in October. Historic Columbia and the Committee for the Restoration and Beautification of Randolph Cemetery (CRBRC) will host a Preservation Workshop at the Seibels House to explore the ins and outs of renovating and maintaining a historic house. The workshop, led by Sean Stucker, director of facilities for Historic Columbia, and Staci Richey, owner of Access Preservation (which specializes in window restoration) and board member of the CRBRC, will lead attendees through a presentation and discussion that offers tips and examines how to plan, outline and manage a home rehab project. Participants will go on to explore work done over the decades at the Seibels House and will have the chance to check out ongoing and recent renovations at several neighboring properties. The Seibels House is located at 1601 Richland St. Light refreshments are included, and tickets for the workshop are $5 for members and $10 for non-members. To purchase tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
Sunday, Oct. 8 | 2 – 3:30 p.m. | Tour begins at Melrose Park
Explore the Melrose Heights neighborhood with Historic Columbia from 2 – 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 8 during the monthly Second Sunday Stroll presented by Seed Architecture. The guided walking tour will travel through the historic neighborhood, which was recently listed as an historic site on the National Register of Historic Places. Stops will include highlights of various architectural styles, kit homes popular in the 1910s and historic locations in one of Columbia’s earliest suburbs. The tour will begin at Melrose Park located at 1500 Fairview Drive. Tickets are free for members and $8/adult and $5/youth for non-members. To purchase tickets, visit historccolumbia.org, email email@example.com, or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
Historic Columbia invites the public to help share the history of the Mann-Simons family and become a volunteer tour guide of the newly interpreted site. This training session will consist of the following: a sample tour of the site, an overview of the family, history of the site, broad topics related to the site: slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights and urban renewal, and a day in the life of a volunteer, which will cover logistics of giving tours and other opportunities at the site. Volunteer training is free. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided at the training.
As a volunteer for Historic Columbia, you will:
Receive a 15 percent discount on purchases at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills.
Enjoy complimentary admission to our historic museums for yourself and members of your immediate family.
Attend special Historic Columbia functions for free or at reduced rates.
Receive a free subscription to Historically Speaking, Historic Columbia’s quarterly newsletter.
Tour and visit other historic site during monthly volunteer meetings and presentations.
Plus, make new friends and share experiences with others who have similar passions.
Grab your flashlights and join Historic Columbia and Elmwood Cemetery staff for guided tours presenting some of Columbia’s eerie and peculiar past by the light of the moon. Different than the regular monthly tours, Spirits Alive! Cemetery Tours feature costumed tour guides, snacks and other Halloween-related activities. Tickets are $8/adults and $4/youth for members and $12/adult and $6/youth for non-members. To purchase tickets, visit historccolumbia.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
Sunday, Oct. 15 | 1 – 4 p.m. | Woodrow Wilson Family Home
Residents of Richland and Lexington Counties are invited to take a guided tour of one of our historic museums for just $1. This month, visit the Woodrow Wilson Family Home for Dollar Sunday. General admission prices apply for any house tours after the first. Walk-ins welcome! Tours leave at the top of the hour from 1 – 4 p.m. Purchase admission and meet for tours at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills. For information, visit historccolumbia.org, email email@example.com, or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
Thursday, Oct. 19 | 7 – 10 p.m. | Robert Mills House & Gardens
Join Historic Columbia’s The Palladium Society (TPS) at the 14th annual Bluegrass, Bidding & BBQ fundraiser presented by Jaguar Land Rover Columbia. This annual celebration of live music, delicious barbeque, specialty drinks and an assortment of silent auction items will be held from 7 – 10 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19 on the grounds of the Robert Mills House & Gardens, located at 1616 Blanding Street in downtown Columbia. This year’s silent auction will feature a variety of items, including destination packages to historic cities across the Southeast, experiential packages to explore local cultural sites, behind-the-scenes tours of Columbia’s hot spots, gift cards to restaurants, boutiques, gyms and much more. Ticket prices are $25 for TPS members, $35 for Historic Columbia members and $45 for the general public. Tickets are $50 at the door. All proceeds will support Historic Columbia. For information, visit historccolumbia.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call
Friday, Oct. 27 | 5:30 – 7 p.m. | Robert Mills House Parking Lot
Put on your costume and join Historic Columbia as we bring the fun of Halloween to the Robert Mills House during Trunk or Treat! Children will enjoy trick-or-treating with a twist in a safe and fun environment. Community members and organizations will display decorated trunks filled with candy in the parking lot of the Robert Mills House. Awards and prizes for best costumes and best decorated trunk will be given at 6:45 p.m. Don’t forget to visit the Gift Shop at Robert Mills and check out the Scarecrows in the Garden during this free event!
Trunk or Treat Vehicle Participation: Historic Columbia is accepting registrations for businesses and organizations and families to place a decorated vehicle at the event. This is a great opportunity for businesses and organizations to promote their mission, give away branded merchandise, and hand out candy to hundreds of children at a free community event.
Registered vehicles should arrive between 4:30 and 5:15 p.m. When giving out toys prizes or candy, remember that children will range in age from infants to young teens. Electricity will not be provided to registered vehicles in the event area, so please bring flashlights. Attendance is estimated at 400 families for the event. Please plan accordingly. For information, visit historiccolumbia.org, email email@example.com or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
Group Tours Historic Columbia is happy to arrange a private guided tour for groups of 10 or more with advance registration. Bus tours are available. To schedule a group tour, call (803) 252-1770 x 23 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Historic Columbia is proud to announce the recipients of their 2017 Preservation Awards. Each year, Historic Columbia presents these awards to celebrate the accomplishments of local property owners; professionals in the fields of architecture, construction and design; and leaders who champion preservation as an opportunity to support the Midlands’ economy and culture. These awards, presented on Wednesday, May 3 at the organization’s annual Preservation Awards Luncheon, encourage and promote the importance of local preservation.
“Congratulations to our 2017 Preservation Award recipients for leading the way in preserving Columbia’s built history for future generations,” said Robin Waites, Historic Columbia’s executive director. “While we can use our research and experience to craft the case for preservation – these leaders in preservation are the ones who provide the financial, creative and sweat equity to make the advocacy worth it.”
Historic Columbia honored the following recipients in the areas of Preservation Leadership, Preservation/Restoration, Adaptive Use and New Construction in a Historic Context.
Preservation Leadership Award: Martha Fowler
Described by her peers as the “embodiment of the grassroots preservation movement,” Martha Fowler’s infectious energy and devotion to detail make her an invaluable asset to Columbia’s preservation community. Her commitment to preserving Columbia’s built history has resulted in the renewal of an ever-growing list of iconic properties, including Ebenezer Lutheran Church, the Habenicht-Seegers building and a trio of former family-owned properties on Main Street.
The recent designation of Melrose Heights/Oak Lawn as a National Register of Historic Places district and as a City of Columbia architectural conservation district is due in large part to Martha’s stalwart advocacy. She is a constant at neighborhood association meetings, happily volunteers for committees and is the ideal advocate for community and political outreach. She is always willing to contact decision makers, reach out to community supporters and advocate for common good.
Adaptive Use Award: Palmetto Compress
Owner: PMC Property Group Architect: Garvin Design Group Contractor: Triangle Construction
With the oldest section of this four-story warehouse dating to 1917, the Palmetto Compress stands as an exemplar of early 20th-century warehouse design. At its peak, the 350,000 square foot facility could store more than 50,000 bales of cotton, making it one of the largest cotton warehouses in the Southeast. The Palmetto Compress Warehouse is one of the last surviving vestiges of the industrial landscape situated in the midst of the Ward One neighborhood.
The rehabilitation project executed by Scott Garvin and his team, focused on preserving the original warehouse form and material, while introducing apartment and retail outlets within the existing framework. The rehabilitation retains the exterior walls and interior structure of the warehouse as well as its sloped, wooden floors. The creation of large openings, or light wells, from the first floor to the roof allows daylight into the central core of the building. The Palmetto Compress Warehouse now hosts high-end apartments as well as retail space. Its residents are a vibrant mix of college students and young professionals. The transformation of the space creates an anchor between downtown Columbia and the riverfront.
Adaptive Use Award: The Bakery at Bull Street
Owner: Hughes Development Corporation Designer: 1×1 Design, Inc. Contractor: Buchanan Construction Services, Inc.
Constructed in 1900 to accommodate the needs of the growing population of the South Carolina State Hospital, the Bakery cemented itself as an integral part of the campus at Bull Street. The 19th century saw the implementation of new methods of psychiatric treatment such as occupational therapy, which suggested that daily routine would allow for accelerated healing. It was in the Bakery building that patients made, baked and packaged bread as a part of their directed care.
Asheley Scott and her team at 1×1 Design, Inc. made an effort to reuse as much of the original building fabric as possible, including existing walls and openings. When the structure required a new roof, for example, they left the existing, in-tact ceiling joists and rafters exposed. 1×1 Design, Inc. designed the building’s reconstructed cupolas using historical photographs of the bakery’s exterior. The rear addition, not original to the building, serves as a covered porch overlooking the campus. The building now serves as an office, conference, education and co-work space.
New Construction in an Historic Context Award: Kennedy Greenhouse Studio at USC
Owner: The University of South Carolina Architect: The Boudreaux Group Contractor: Palmetto Construction Group
Located near the western edge of the University of South Carolina’s (USC) Historic Horseshoe, the Kennedy Greenhouse Studio provides new collaborative learning opportunities for the greater Carolina community, particularly the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. It also creates an active pedestrian link and gathering place in a formerly walled rose garden.
The new construction celebrates the architectural heritage of greenhouses while enhancing the existing gardens to become an attractive gathering space for both students and public passersby. Respecting USC’s design guidelines, while creating a technologically advanced space to showcase the work of mass communications students, the materials and treatments employed remain sensitive to the studio’s historic surroundings. As part of the site and landscape design, the non-historic brick walls were lowered to incorporate views from the gardens. This change enhances pedestrian connectivity to the heart of campus and promotes walkability while encouraging collaborative learning through outdoor spaces.
The nation’s first African American professionally licensed architect, John Lankford, designed the Chappelle Auditorium at Allen University in 1925. In its nearly 100-year history, the Chappelle Auditorium has served as a significant meeting place for African American political and religious leaders, as well as artists and musicians. In 1954, for example, the auditorium hosted a series of meetings in preparation for the Brown vs. Board of Education trial. With a seating capacity of more than 700, the space became one of the few in Columbia that could accommodate large gatherings. It was an especially significant landmark in the lives and experiences of black South Carolinians because they could not freely assemble in segregated public facilities in the first half of the 20th century.
Beginning in 2009, Allen University began a process of restoration and rehabilitation of the auditorium. Efforts included removal of paint on the wainscoting and wood paneling, repairs to the brick and mortar work, as well as the recreation of doors by local craftsmen. For the restoration of the tin ceiling, half of the tiles could be salvaged, and the other half were replicated and hand-glazed to match. The result is a beautifully restored landmark of both local and national significance.
Preservation/Restoration Award: 1931 Henderson Street
Owner: John & Victoria Dozier (on behalf of William Sumter) Contractors: Larry Yobs and Ernest Goodwin
1931 Henderson Street, built in 1890, has been in the same family for six generations. The 1900 block of Henderson Street was one of the first blocks in Columbia where prominent African American families lived. William Joseph Sumter was born on May 15, 1881 in Hopkins, S.C. With only a fourth-grade education, Sumter became the first African American to own and operate a barber shop in the state of South Carolina. Following the success of his business, Sumter purchased the house at 1931 Henderson Street from an African American carpenter, John Watson Bailey, on December 9, 1909.
John Dozier, a descendent of Sumter, and his wife, Victoria, undertook the renovations with both love and respect for the historic integrity of the home. Original exterior paneling, columns, windows, doors and fireplaces remain intact. The Doziers exposed the brick in the bedrooms and kitchen and refurbished the tin ceiling in the family room. In total, the project took five months to complete.
Please CLICK HERE for photos of the award ceremony on May 3, 2017.
As part of the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative, Historic Columbia has been conducting research on Jewish owned businesses in downtown Columbia. Below are a few highlights of our recent research.
Barrett Visanska first appears as a jeweler on Richardson (Main) Street in the Columbia City Directory in 1875. He moved his business to 1215 Hampton Street, in the rear portion of the Sylvan’s Building in 1904, where he remained in business until his death in 1932. Like most of Columbia’s Jewish population in the late-19th and early-20th century, Barrett immigrated from Eastern Europe (Poland) and led a prosperous life. His son, Morton, was a founder of Columbia’s Town Theater, and his son, Daniel, and daughter, Bertha, were musicians who played for royalty in Europe.
Polish immigrant Ben David operated the Parlor Restaurant at 1336 Main Street from 1900 until 1910, when plans for the Arcade Mall forced him to relocate. His advertisements in the Columbia City Directory and USC’s Garnet and Black yearbook often included his likeness. His obituary in The State newspaper remembered him fondly as “Uncle Ben.”
The I. Cassel Cigar Factory, owned and operated by Isidor Cassel (1872 – 1954), was a tenant in the Phoenix Building (1623-1625 Main Street) for more than 40 years. Cassel immigrated from Ritschenwalde, Germany, to the United States in 1884. He joined the United States Marine Corps when he was 15 and served more than three years. He arrived in Columbia in 1892 to work for Henry Bamberg (1857 – 1919), a highly regarded cigar manufacturer and who served as the first treasurer of the Tree of Life Congregation. In 1896, Cassel married Bamberg’s sister-in-law, Estelle “Essie” Epstin Cassel (1877 – 1948). In 1901, Cassel opened his own cigar manufacturing business in the 1400 block of Main Street.
Join Historic Columbia on March 12th for our Sunday Stroll of downtown Jewish sites to learn more about the Visanskas, “Uncle Ben”, the Cassels and other downtown merchants in Columbia. This guided walking tour will highlight Columbia’s Jewish heritage and explore how Jewish merchants have shaped this downtown district. The tour will begin in front of Michael’s on Main Street, travel down to Lady Street where the tour will cross over to Assembly Street, then end at The Big Apple on Hampton Street.
Also be sure to check out HC’s web-based tour of Jewish historical sites in Columbia.
By: Candace Cunningham
University of South Carolina
South Carolina’s 1940s teacher salary equalization campaign was one of the state’s most vibrant and impactful moments of black teacher activism. The state’s first three equalization cases—Malissa Theresa Smith, Eugene C. Hunt, and Viola Louis Duvall—originated in Charleston, but Duvall’s case was the only one to make it to federal district court. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) won Duvall’s case in 1944, but they were eager to guarantee salary equalization. When Albert N. Thompson, a teacher at Columbia’s Booker Washington Heights Elementary School, submitted his salary equalization petition to the Richland County School Board on June 7, 1944, the NAACP was more than willing to offer legal support. Thompson’s case would serve as the final nail in the coffin for unequal teacher salaries in South Carolina. The NAACP abandoned the local appeals process, and instead directly petitioned the federal district court.
On May 26, 1945, Judge Waites Waring ruled in Thompson’s favor, concluding that Columbia’s black teachers were entitled to a fair salary plan. Waring believed that since Duvall’s case, the school district had made an effort to alleviate unequal pay, but there was still a “startling disparity” between black and white teachers’ salaries, even when they had the same amount of experience. The Board had to begin a new classification system, effective spring 1946.
The state based the new classification system on the National Teacher Examination (NTE). Some white officials, such as Columbia school superintendent A. C. Flora, were hesitant to support the exam out of concern that it could prove that black teachers were better trained than some white teachers. But despite the overwhelming evidence that black teachers were dedicated professionals, they were also the products of an unequal education system. Ben D. Wood, the NTE creator, predicted that black teachers would score lower than white teachers. The South Carolina State Board of Education did a two-year study that supported Wood’s prediction, and beginning in 1945 all the state’s teachers were required to take the exam. Rev J. A. De Laine—the Clarendon County teacher who became the foremost leader in the state’s desegregation case, Briggs v. Elliott—rightly called the new certification program an “effort to legally dodge an equal salary decision by the Federal Court.”
South Carolina’s use of the NTE not only facilitated unequal salaries between black and white teachers but also emphasized the black community’s preexisting economic disparities. The gap between the highest and lowest paid teachers widened. Those who did well on the exam and earned higher wages were better financially situated to pursue advanced degrees and increase their earning potential. These additional economic and educational achievements helped legitimize the state’s use of standardized testing since white officials could now present this as proof of the exam’s alleged objectivity. Therefore, while race remained the defining factor in teacher salaries, post-NTE remuneration was also bound to individual socioeconomic status.
Nonetheless, the teacher salary equalization campaign also revealed the shifting tides of civil rights activism. These suits helped to increase the NAACP’s southern membership. They were sometimes the first experience African Americans had in formal protests and provided the foundation for a broader protest movement. Indeed, those who participated in the campaign found it transformative and defining. For NAACP secretary Modjeska Simkins the equalization campaign served as a catalyst—a move from racial uplift to protest politics. Furthermore, many of the individuals who helped realize teacher salary equalization—civil rights attorney Harold Boulware, teacher/activist Septima Clark, journalist/politician John McCray, military veteran/activist Osceola McKain, and Modjeska Simkins—would become seminal figures in the state’s civil rights movement. As this campaign transformed activists it also transformed the whole movement.
These individuals are only a few of the people who played a vital role in Columbia’s rich cultural history. To learn more about them and other black Carolinians please join Historic Columbia for one of its Lunch & Learn Series as it celebrates Black History Month, February 21 & 28, 12-1PM at the Mann-Simons Site, 1403 Richland Street.
Today, South Carolina remains one of the most diverse states in the union. According to the 2015 census, nearly 37 percent of South Carolina’s residents identified as a racial minority. Approximately, 28 percent of the state’s population is African American. The state’s racial diversity is grounded in the history of the founding of the colony.
Closely linked to the island of Barbados, South Carolina was the only colony where blacks outnumbered whites at the turn of the eighteenth century. The arrival of African slaves and free people of color from Barbados and a limited number of white women in the colony all contributed to a society that was accepting of racial diversity and interracial relationships. Unlike other southern states including North Carolina and Virginia, South Carolina never adopted a one-drop rule and did not have an anti-miscegenation clause in its constitution until 1865.
Indeed, South Carolina society had changed by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Racial slavery was embedded in its society and whites viewed slavery as their key to prosperity. What did not change about the state, however, was that as such, South Carolina offers a unique opportunity to study race, law and society during the antebellum period.
To learn about the common-law definition of race and how it related to social and political thought on race in antebellum South Carolina, attend Historic Columbia’s Lunch and Learn series from noon – 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21. This session will be led by guest presenter, Rochelle Outlaw, J.D., Ph.D. Candidate at the University of South Carolina and will be held at the Mann-Simons Site located at 1403 Richland Street. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit historiccolumbia.org/BlackHistory, email email@example.com or call 803-252-1770 x 23.
This year’s Black History Month recognition comes at an exciting time for Historic Columbia. Only a few months ago, Historic Columbia reopened the Mann-Simons Site with newly installed exhibits, interactive touchscreens, recorded audio and numerous visuals – enhancing the overall experience for each guest. I recently had the opportunity to take a tour and was blown away by the comprehensive updates Historic Columbia had incorporated into the renovation. Each and every display came to life, allowing me to better understand the people, places and stories directly associated with the house I had entered and was exploring.
Two such women the tour discusses are Celia Mann, and her eldest daughter, Agnes Jackson. Both – and so many more – laid substantial and necessary groundwork for African American women, and African American’s in general. In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to highlight their stories by sharing my tour experience. My hope is that this story will encourage you to visit the site and help further broaden Historic Columbia’s message regarding the importance of history, preservation and progress.
On the way to the Mann-Simons Site, I made a concerted effort to turn off my normally hectic inner dialogue, so I could fully engage in the experience I was stepping into. Because the site was undergoing a renovation, slated to reopen with new interactive and social components in a few months, I had the privilege of having a personal tour with a few representatives from Historic Columbia. Historic Columbia manages, maintains and preserves five historic landmark sites in downtown Columbia. Starting the tour outside, I was immediately introduced to the woman for whom the site got its namesake. I did not realize at the time, but later grasped, I would forever remember – Celia Mann.
One of the first things discussed was the fact that Celia was once enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina. After managing to purchase her freedom, she, as well as her husband, Ben Delane, left Charleston and ended up settling in Columbia. Around the property were various ghost structures – steel frames outlining and representing buildings her future family members would own and occupy. Hearing this information gave me chills. The will and resourcefulness to not only survive enslavement, but face odds to make a life for herself, her family and posterity better, as a newly freed African American woman in the divided and very broken South, was somewhat unimaginable.
We made our way around the side and then to back of the house, finally stepping inside the site. With the wood beams creaking and cracking under our feet, we started our way through the interior. Period pieces and replica furniture told of times past; simple, yet obviously difficult and constantly trying.
In the front room, I was told of Celia’s profession as a midwife, a position traditionally held in high regard throughout the community. She, for years, cared for the needs of both white and African American families, in addition to caring for her own children and family. I did not say much as we kept moving through the home, but I could not help putting myself in Celia Mann’s shoes. Her strength – mental, physical and spiritual – was endless.
As we walked in the last room on the tour, the conversation shifted to the latter part of Celia’s life and her offspring. I stood there, taking in the information, when one note caught my eye. It made mention of Celia’s passing stating, “The Daily Phoenix publishes note saying: “Death of a Respected Colored Woman—Celia Mann, an old and respected colored nurse, who was present at the birth of many of our citizens, departed this life yesterday.” A flood of mixed emotions came over me when realizing this formerly enslaved woman had finally received the respect she so deserved. A caged song bird for so many years, finds the will to escape, and soar – not because of that recognition or their acceptance, but because she sought better for herself and her family and achieved what so many came up short in trying to do. It was a true testament to her unwavering perseverance.
While Celia had four daughters, the majority of information presented focused on her youngest, Agnes Jackson. Embodying many of the same traits and qualities as her inspirational mother, Agnes, aided Celia and her family on the site we were standing, in downtown Columbia at the corner of Richland Street. A few years prior to Celia’s death in 1867, Agnes moved in to assist with family matters.
Following in the similar business-minded footsteps of her mother, Agnes provided for her family by becoming a skilled baker and a laundress. Standing tall as another example of a fearless, headstrong and determined African American women, Agnes served in all respects of the word as the ‘head of the household,’ raising, shaping and being an example to her six children – one of which, John Lucius Simons, went on in later years to open a thriving lunch counter on the grounds.
Driving home I couldn’t help but think back on these truly phenomenal women. I knew it was grossly unfair for me to compare my life, my current situation and my circumstances to theirs, however my mind wandered there. Could I have done what they did? Endured what they endured? Pushed as hard as they pushed if the roles were reversed? While I’ll never know the answers to those questions, I could say with complete certainty that I was incredibly thankful to know more about what they overcame for me and my family, my future and for those generations to come. Having had that greater exposure to this particular history, I, by principal, could never forget it. It was imperative I remember it and carry it with me each day. After all, I was one for whom these women fought for.