Our roots run deep here in Columbia SC. From the destruction brought upon the city during the Civil War to the fight for equality through the powerful Civil Rights Movement, the Capital City has a story to tell. In the heart of the Historic House & Garden District, Historic Columbia honors our city’s rich history and continues to tell its story. The preserved house museums, with more than 6,500 housed artifacts, are available for self-declared historians to view and admire daily.
The Robert Mills House, once known as the Ainsley Hall House, was named after its architect, who designed some of our nation’s most famous buildings (Ever heard of the Washington Monument?). Originally built to be a home for Ainsley and Sarah Hall, the building instead became a place for young scholars as a part of a campus for three religious schools. It wasn’t until 1960 after the property was abandoned and threatened by demolition that the group we know today as Historic Columbia came together to save this historic landmark. Now, the Robert Mills House is one of only five National Historic Landmarks in Columbia, and its museum features period rooms and galleries highlighting 18th-19th century decorative arts, and houses Historic Columbia's gift shop.
The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Garden is one of Columbia's oldest remaining structures, and its walls tell the stories of its plantation owners and the workers who were enslaved there. The mansion was built in 1818 and was sold to one of the South’s richest planters, Wade Hampton I, in 1823, to whom it received its namesake. The property hosted many owners over the years until 1970 when it became open to the public after extensive rehabilitation. The site now holds new exhibits, hands-on interactive activities, and expanded public gardens.
The Mann-Simons Site is a living testament of the deeply engrained history of the African American experience in Columbia throughout time. The house was once part of a collection of commercial and domestic spaces established by Celia Mann and Ben Delane. The couple challenged social norms by creating a community for free people of color during a time when most were still enslaved, and their family-owned and operated the collection of properties until 1970. It was then that the site was saved from demolition and became a house museum in 1978. The museum now highlights this family’s journey through enslavement to urban renewal.
At the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, you’ll find The Museum of Reconstruction. Once home to a young Woodrow Wilson, it’s now the nation’s only museum dedicated to interpreting the Reconstruction era, post-Civil War. Built in 1871, visitors step back in time as they explore the lives of the people who experienced this transformative period. The museum highlights the societal changes and the emergence of African American leaders in the community during this era through panel exhibits, interactive technologies, and tours
As you’re touring Historic Columbia, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Literally. You’ll find breath-taking gardens at Robert Mills, Hampton-Preston, Seibels House, and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, all landscaped in the style of their time. Local Tip: One of the best ways to enjoy Columbia’s temperate weather is to pack your lunch and have a picnic in the gardens.