Technology and Infrastructure

The Mann-Simons family installed modern day conveniences – infrastructural systems and services that today most people take for granted – soon after they became available to consumers. Buildings on the property were wired for electricity by 1903, plumbed for sewerage during the 1910s and piped for gas. Despite the availability of these services, several of Columbia’s downtown, predominately African American neighborhoods relied on alley-way communal sinks and outhouses as recently as the late 1960s and early 1970s. Infrastructure provides an unusual perspective on technologies and the ways in which individuals are connected to neighborhoods, cities, regions and the nation.

Within the first decade of the 20th century South Carolina’s capital city boasted a modern skyscraper that dominated one-, two- and three-story neighboring buildings. The introduction of new buildings and transportation systems increased the number of instances in which citizens could be divided by race.

Publications such as this Columbia Illustrated magazine from 1881 were designed to lure potential business investors, visitors and new residents to the capital city. Frequently, they boasted about hospitable climate, emerging industry and affordable labor, often depicted as African Americans performing agrarian tasks.

During their multiple excavations, archaeologists uncovered examples technology once used by members of the Mann-Simons family, thus illustrating their interest in and wherewithal to incorporate such devices into their homes and businesses.

For a more thorough exploration of this topic, click here.

Unless otherwise noted, all images are from the Historic Columbia Foundation Collection.