The Mann-Simons Site & Family History

 C. Drie’s 1872 Birdseye Map of Columbia (below), South Carolina depicted the capital city just years after the Civil War. Included in this highly detailed visual document is Celia Mann’s and Ben Delane’s residence, which preceded the building that stands at 1403 Richland Street today.

While only one building stands today, the Mann-Simons Site historically functioned as a collection of domestic and commercial spaces owned and used by the same African American family from at least 1843 until 1970. This property and the many buildings that once were here changed considerably over time to meet the evolving needs, tastes and aspirations of multiple generations of family members.

The Mann-Simons family’s property in 1967 (below). Note the close spatial relationship of the main house to neighboring structures.

The backyard of 1403 Richland Street in 1967 (below) was largely utilitarian and screened by buildings to its west, east, and south. It the upper right-hand corner of the picture looms the gable of the mid-19th century three-story house that still stands to the east of the property today.

Urban renewal removed buildings that once stood where today the parking lot to the east of 1403 Richland Street is located today (below).

Using a Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map for its foundation, this three-dimensional representation of the Mann- Simons family’s property (below) depicts a far more complex arrangement of buildings (and subsequent land use) than what is present today.

Cycles of family composition, size and activities shaped this property for over four generations. In turn, this property influenced those family cycles. Within a few years after assuming new household status, each generation altered its buildings and plots – structures were built and razed, garden spaces expanded and contracted, activities moved between inside and outside – and each of these changes to the property related to changes within the family.

Interpretation of the Mann-Simons Site uses different types of evidence—primarily historical documents and archaeological findings—fragments from which we attempt to construct a whole. While the past is something that already has happened, histories are the stories people create about the past with whatever evidence they have from the perspective of their personal backgrounds. The fragmented nature of documentary evidence and the constructive process of history become more apparent when viewing the evolution of the Mann-Simons Site and its family is presented in a timeline format.

Contemporary visitors to the Mann-Simons Site can appreciate the property’s former character through ghost structures erected on the exact locations of long-demolished buildings put to residential and business use.

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

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