One of only five National Historic Landmarks within Columbia, the Robert Mills House exemplifies the skill of the first architect born and trained within the United States who designed some of the nation's most prominent buildings, including the Washington Monument. Today, the structure stands as a testament of its designer's architectural ability and the preservation efforts of generations of Columbians.
In 1823, Columbia merchant Ainsley Hall and his wife Sarah hired Robert Mills to plan this stylish Classical Revival townhouse, one of few private residences he ever designed. Ainsley Hall died before the house was finished, and Sarah sold the mansion to the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia, which established a seminary there in 1831 and opened the educational chapter of the property’s history. In 1960, Columbia Bible College left the property under threat of demolition, inspiring the major grassroots movement that led to the founding of Historic Columbia. The house was saved from demolition in 1961, and received an extensive restoration, opening in 1967 as an historic house museum.
Due to its use by educational and religious institutions, grounds of the Robert Mills House never featured ornamental gardens. After Historic Columbia saved the property in 1960, gardens were created. Today, the gardens are a combination of an early 1970s landscape design, hallmarks of 19th century English-style gardens and the accomplishments of contemporary gardeners. Open to the public and available for special event rentals, the grounds of the Robert Mills House are an inviting green space set within an urban environment.
Exhibits & Collections
The museum collection displayed within the Robert Mills House contains decorative arts of the early 19th century, including American Federal, English Regency, and French Empire pieces. The basement features service rooms with objects used for food storage, preparation, and consumption. A temporary gallery in the basement plays host to several exhibits throughout the year, including the current exhibit, From Landrum to Leeds: Common Ceramics in 19th-Century Columbia.