Located on the northeast corner of Richland and Marion streets within the heart of downtown, this property was home, work place, spiritual center and a source of pride for members of the same African American family from 1843 through 1970.
Formerly enslaved Charlestonians, Celia Mann, a midwife, and Ben Delane, a boatman, became the first generation of family members to live on the property and laid a social and material foundation that allowed successive generations to pursue a variety of businesses and social undertakings.
Although only one house stands today, the Mann-Simons Site was a collection of commercial and domestic spaces owned and operated by the same African-American family from at least 1843 until 1970. The property and its multiple buildings changed considerably over time to better accommodate the needs, tastes, and aspirations of this remarkable family. In 1970, through eminent domain, the Columbia Housing Authority acquired the site, leading to a grassroots preservation movement that saved the main house, which opened as a museum in 1978.
Mann-Simons Outdoor Museum
The Mann-Simons Outdoor Museum features five “ghost structures,” frames of buildings that once stood on the site, including a former lunch counter, grocery store, outhouse and residences. Interactive interpretative signage tells the story of these former structures. This outdoor museum is a first for South Carolina and one of a handful of exhibits of its kind nationwide.
Collections within the Mann-Simons House largely reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of the family during the late 1890s through 1920s. A multi-year archeological excavation was completed in February 2012. During the dig more than 60,000 artifacts were uncovered, resulting in unique findings to the property, many of which are on display inside the house.
To learn more about the Mann-Simons Site and the archaeological excavations conducted on the property between 2005 and 2007, take our virtual tour.