In addition to spending time with family, while in Columbia we saw some of the sites including some public art, the State House, some historic homes, the gardens at the Governor’s Mansion and of course the temple.
South Carolina State House
We journeyed downtown to the State House twice, once to walk around outside, we were there after hours, and another time to go inside. This building is the second state house in the state’s history. It was under-construction during the Civil War as they were moving the capital to Columbia in the center of the state. The grounds are beautiful and the building too. One of my favorite features is the copper dome. Many government buildings around the country have a similar design as far as the center dome and rotunda are concerned but this is the coolest looking dome from the outside I’ve seen.
All around the building are monuments and memorials to veterans of different wars, to African Americans and to important individuals. One of the most interesting memorials is part of the building itself. During the Civil War, Union troops closed in on Columbia and from the river fired their cannons at the new building. Six balls hit the exterior damaging decorative details and leaving divots. Today these hits are memorialized by six stars on the façade next to each of the places that were hit.
The inside is also beautiful. It seems to be a very simple building with four main areas. In the basement are the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. The main floor has a large meeting room for each house of legislature, the state’s Senate and House of Representatives, and a large library/reading room. These three spaces come off of a large open lobby area that is beautifully decorated with the rotunda at the center. Around the second level of the lobby is a balcony that runs around with access to spectator galleries for the two house chambers. In the lobby is a beautiful stained-glass window, South Carolina’s statement of succession from the Union and many beautiful paintings of people and stories of the state.
Interesting fact, the State House used to fly the Confederate flag under the U.S. flag on top of the building. However, some people demanded it be taken down, so the state took it down and flies it in front of the building right behind the Confederate memorial. The state house is free to visit and tour during regular business hours on weekdays.
Governor’s Mansion Gardens
One of the historic properties we visited was the Governor’s Mansion. Tuesdays through Thursdays they offer tours but we weren’t there then so we just walked around the public grounds, which are exceptional. On the grounds there are two antebellum-era houses and lavish southern gardens. The gardens have the largest, i.e. oldest, crape myrtle and magnolia trees I’ve ever seen. The paths, flower beds and everything are very well taken care of. We enjoyed our stroll. The grounds are open each day during normal business hours and tours are given of the mansion on select days.
Throughout downtown Columbia many public art installations can be found and enjoyed. In one particular parking lot are two beautiful murals and an unusual sculpture of a giant fire hydrant that’s busted. The sculpture and one of the murals are by Blue Sky, an artist who has done a lot of work in Columbia.
In one of the suburbs of Columbia is another Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a smaller temple with a very similar design to the Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis and Raleigh temples.
Also while in Columbia, we visited Finlay Park. This park has a large waterfall network that winds down the hill. There are also playgrounds and plenty of space to run around. During some parts of the year, concerts and plays are held in the park.
There are many other historic buildings in Columbia. In addition to what I’ve shared, we visited from the outside Woodrow Wilson’s childhood home, the Trinity Episcopal Church with an amazing ancient cemetery, the Robert Mills House (he designed the Washington Monument in D.C.) and the Hampton-Preston Mansion that was used as the Union headquarters in Columbia during the Civil War.
Our visit was full of adventure with family and some rich history. If you have a chance to visit or drive through Columbia, find some time to stop by some of these sites and have your own adventures.