Urban Renewal

During the 1950s through 1970s urban renewal efforts throughout the United States challenged the rights of property owners. Rarely seen as significant cultural resources, minority neighborhoods bore the brunt of redevelopment projects officially championed as improvements for downtowns.

In 1970, The State newspaper ran this photograph (below) that illustrates the area of the Ward One district destroyed for construction of the University of South Carolina’s Carolina Coliseum. Further redevelopment of this area during the next 35 years erased other key elements within the neighborhood including the Celia Saxon School, various industrial buildings and warehouses and a railroad trestle.

Image courtesy of The State newspaper

Former Ward One residents have collaborated with University of South Carolina faculty and students to create the Ward One Project, an effort to preserve the memories of this community through accesible online media. The project has produced a film, Ward One: Reconstructing Memory, and is in the process of developing a mobile application, both capturing the enduring stories of former residents of the lost Columbia neighborhood. 

Considered by some at the time to be the product of institutional racism – a term coined by Black Power activists during the late 1960s to identify racist social and governmental policies and systems – these city-wide renewal efforts ultimately would impact this and other downtown neighborhoods, including Arsenal Hill, Ward One, Waverly and Wheeler Hill.

Building demolitions in the early 1960s were widely heralded during the city’s “Keep Columbia Beautiful – Fight Blight” program, that often paved the way for redevelopment.

Image courtesy of Joseph Winter Collection, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia

In 1970, the planned construction of the Columbia Housing Authority’s apartment complex destroyed all but one of the buildings on the west side of this block. Thanks to the efforts of community activists, the Mann-Simons family's main house was spared from destruction. This building's preservation marked an unprecedented change from urban renewal projects. 

Jubilee Festival of Heritage at the Mann-Simons site, ca.-1980.

Image courtesy of Cece A. Byers