Jump to main content

Search Results

« Back to all neighborhoods
  1. Cottontown Suburban Growth beyond the City Limits 2115/2117 & 2123 Bull Street
  2. Cottontown Elmwood Avenue Church of God 1427 Elmwood Avenue
  3. Cottontown Site of Cotton Warehouse 2130 North Main Street
  4. Cottontown Hot Now: Krispy Kreme 2548 North Main Street
  5. Cottontown North Columbia Fire Station No. 7 2622 North Main Street
  6. Cottontown Coca-Cola Bottling Company 2830 North Main Street
  7. Cottontown Greater Carolina Baptist Church 1419 Anthony Avenue
  8. Cottontown Ethnic & Spiritual Diversity Anthony Avenue
  9. Cottontown Geiger Avenue Cemetery 1400 Block of Geiger Avenue
  10. Cottontown State Hospital Employees 2608 Cardinal Street
  11. Cottontown Ranch Style House 1427 Summerville Avenue
  12. Cottontown Detached Garage 1400 Summerville Avenue
  13. Cottontown Former Home of Isidore Gergel 1324 Confederate Avenue
  14. Cottontown Site of Confederate Soldiers Home 1400 Block of Confederate Avenue
  15. Cottontown Multiple-Occupancy Houses 2310/2312 Sumter Street
  16. Cottontown A Shifting Landscape 2200 block of North Main/Sumter Street
  17. Cottontown Community Activism Intersection of Franklin & Marion Streets
  18. Cottontown Mayor Lester Bates’ House 2408 Marion Street
  19. Cottontown Creating a Home 1413 Victoria Street
  20. Cottontown Minimal Traditional House Form 2233/2235 Wallace Street
  21. Cottontown Infill Housing 2304 Wallace Street
  22. Cottontown Taylor School Formerly 1600 Block of Laurel Street
  23. Cottontown Convenience to Amenities 1200 Block of Elmwood Avenue
  24. Cottontown Wardlaw Junior High 1003 Elmwood Avenue
  25. Cottontown Streetcar Line Main Street
  26. Cottontown Modern Age Architecture 2608 North Main Street
  27. Cottontown Growing Up in Cottontown 1308 Geiger Avenue
  28. Cottontown Picturing the Past 1318 Geiger Avenue

1

Cottontown

Suburban Growth beyond the City Limits

These early cottages, architecturally distinct from other houses within the neighborhood, were likely part of the initial development of the Cottontown suburb. Modest in size and details, these structures stand on property originally owned by William Wallace, who registered the first suburban plot consisting of 16 blocks fronting Bull Street in 1902. City directories from the 1910s indicate that these houses were home to working-class white families, some of whom were grocers and others employees of the Southern Railway and the Seaboard Air Line companies. Currently, the properties are used by the Elmwood Church of God for ministry outreach services.

Early graphic references to Cottontown come in the form of maps. Of these resources, C. Drie’s 1872 Birdseye Map of Columbia is one of the most compelling. Drawn during the Reconstruction era, the artist’s rendering offers three-dimensional representations of structures and the land on which they stood.

Of note are the several elongated structures fronting what would become Main Street and a handful of sizeable, two-story residences. Shown, too, are numerous support buildings, or dependencies, and fences. Virtually missing are any trees to the east of Main Street in the present area known as Cottontown, indicating that this area may have been cultivated for growing crops. One of the more curious and fanciful details that Drie chose to include was a number of horses with riders gathered on what would become today’s 2200 block of Main Street.

Detail from Birdseye Map of Columbia, South Carolina, 1872, by C. Drie
Image courtesy Library of Congress

Niernsee and LaMotte’s Map of Columbia, S.C. and Suburbs, published in 1895, indicates that Cottontown was a name assigned to an area spanning both sides of the Winnsboro Road (today’s North Main Street). Ultimately, land to the west of this main thoroughfare would be associated with the suburb of Elmwood, whereas Bellevue, more popularly referred to today as Cottontown, would lay to the east. Columbia’s city limits have moved just north of Elmwood Avenue, formerly referred to as Upper Street. This boundary, depicted by a repeating dash and double dot line, effectively incorporated the majority of the modest development that had been included in the earlier 1872 birdseye map. When compared with Drie’s representation, it is apparent that little development had occurred in over two decades, except for construction of a row of what appears to be 29 small structures located on land owned by T.A. McCreery, the proprietor of a dry goods store at 1642-1646 Richardson (Main) Street. While the nature of these buildings most likely was residential, their existence appears to have been short-lived, most likely due to increased development of the new suburb of Bellevue after 1902.


Detail from Map of Columbia, SC and Suburbs 1895, by Neirnsee & LaMotte
Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

A significant portion of land that became the suburb of Bellevue was owned by Thomas A. McCreery, a Charleston dry goods merchant, who relocated his operation to Columbia after the Civil War. Located within a two-story masonry commercial structure at 1642-1646 Main Street, T.A. McCreery & Co. also included a dress and fabric shop.

Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Cottontown

Suburban Growth beyond the City Limits

Close

2

Cottontown

Elmwood Avenue Church of God

This 1950s-era image depicts the congregation shortly after it had moved into its Elmwood Avenue sanctuary.

Image courtesy Elmwood Avenue Church of God

Spawning 19 other Columbia-area Church of God congregations, this Elmwood Avenue landmark traces its roots back to the city’s first Pentecostal church, established in 1920 within a Granby Village residence. Arriving in Cottontown in 1951, its membership met in a tent during construction of the current sanctuary built from plans drawn by its pastor, Reverend O. B. Graham, who also served as architect, contractor, and superintendent of the building program. Since the dedication of its mid-century facility in May 1952, the congregation has enhanced its campus by erecting a “multipurpose” building housing a gymnasium, offices, and classrooms in 1989 and connecting the two structures in 2006. With a capacity for 600 congregants, the current facility serves as Columbia’s only downtown Pentecostal church.

Cottontown

Elmwood Avenue Church of God

Close

3

Cottontown

Site of Cotton Warehouse

While commercial development continues to anchor Cottontown to its North Main Street boundary, no cotton-related enterprises from which the community drew its name remain. Less than a century ago, warehouses containing the state’s main cash crop were numerous and similar to buildings found farther south on Richardson (Main) Street and within other districts such as today’s Congaree Vista. The neighborhood’s shift from predominately commercial to residential use, brought on by suburbanization, erased these earlier structures. Through historic maps and photographs of other Columbia cotton warehouses, the early history of Cottontown can be better understood.

Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Bales of cotton, each weighing 500 pounds, were typically handled by African-American laborers.

Image courtesy American Museum of Natural History, Julian Dimock, photographer

Masonry warehouses designed to minimize fire hazards formerly stood within Cottontown, mostly fronting today’s Main Street.

Horse-drawn wagons were the primary means for transporting cotton, though work performed during the expansion of the city’s electric streetcar service in 1892 unearthed remnants of rails from an earlier mule-drawn car system that connected the district to the Congaree River and then on to the coast. Shown here is a cotton warehouse formerly located on the northwest corner of Laurel and Richardson (Main) Streets, three blocks south of Cottontown, ca.-1900.

By the turn of the 20th century, Cottontown’s role as a commercial district had been eclipsed by facilities within other Columbia districts such as this Gervais Street structure formerly located within what today is called the Congaree Vista. The extent to which the area north of Elmwood Avenue had slipped in importance was revealed in an article from The State newspaper on November 16, 1899 regarding a cotton warehouse and general store damaged by fire: “It was one of the last of those warehouses that were used when that portion of the city was the business center. Another relic of Cotton Town has gone. The building was not worth very much being very old.”

Images courtesy South Carolina State Museum

Rick Corbett sets the record straight on the name "Cottontown"

Cottontown

Site of Cotton Warehouse

Close

4

Cottontown

Hot Now: Krispy Kreme

Commercial development along Cottontown’s western boundary has taken on many forms during the suburb’s evolution. For over two decades residents of Cottontown could enjoy hot, fresh donuts from their neighborhood Krispy Kreme shop, one of a handful operating in Columbia at that time. Jim Mayhew, who lived in the neighborhood with his wife, Edna, at 2405 Marion Street, opened the popular gathering place in 1969 and managed the successful business until 1976. Following several changes in ownership, the franchise’s Cottontown location closed in 1992. Later used by the Greater Carolina Funeral Service, today the property awaits redevelopment.

Image courtesy The State newspaper

Supporting the needs of the new suburb of Bellevue, later to be popularly renamed Cottontown, was a series of grocery stores, restaurants, and service providers established along North Main Street. During the development’s first years, only a handful of enterprises operated, including a blacksmith, a wagon maker, and an African-American grocery. Three decades later, in 1930, growth had been minimal with North Main featuring only 13 businesses. Within another decade, 34 businesses were open along the thoroughfare, illustrating the needs of the now matured suburb. This trend continued so that by the 1950s two grocery stores, A&P and Edens Foods, and restaurants, such as Doug Broome’s and the Varsity, were cornerstones of the community. Later arrivals like Krispy-Kreme Donuts were long-time Columbia attractions that opted to establish stores within the Cottontown area.

Advertised in the 1945 Columbia City Directory, Krispy-Kreme Donuts relocated from 1422 Taylor Street to Main Street in Cottontown in 1969.

Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

John Abdalla describes Main Street’s bustling post-war businesses

Cottontown

Hot Now: Krispy Kreme

Close

5

Cottontown

North Columbia Fire Station No. 7

North Station No. 7’s presence within Cottontown meant short response times for residential and commercial fires, such as this one at 2329 North Main Street in September 1951.

Image courtesy City of Columbia Fire Department, Walter B. Busby, Photographer

Designed by noted South Carolina architect Heyward S. Singley, this community landmark has been an integral part of Cottontown since 1948. Singley’s aesthetically and technologically modern facility was a product of blending Art Moderne and International Style elements outside with a completely fire resistant, well organized structure inside. Completed for approximately $62,000, the station featured a 12-bed dormitory, supply room, alarm room, recreation room, bathing, sanitation, and kitchen facilities that could accommodate three fire companies. In 2005 following a sensitive rehabilitation, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its contribution to Columbia’s architectural heritage and its association with Singley.

Cottontown

North Columbia Fire Station No. 7

Close

6

Cottontown

Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Image courtesy The State newspaper

Forty years’ worth of the world’s most popular beverage was processed and delivered to stores and restaurants from one of Cottontown’s more conspicuous landmarks. Situated on a 5-acre tract within the northern-most section of the neighborhood, the plant, which operated from 1952 until 1992, buffered Cottontown from further commercial intrusion and ensured residential vitality. For plant Assistant Manager Patrick Henry Corley, Jr., whose relatives lived just blocks away, the trademarked "Delicious and Refreshing" beverage was said to have offered vitality to his 102-year life! Today, the former bottling facility has been repurposed, like many of the area’s commercial structures.

Cottontown

Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Close

7

Cottontown

Greater Carolina Baptist Church

Nestled among exclusively residential neighbors, this sanctuary appears to have been built in 1942, based on Columbia City Directories. In that year and for 1943, it was home to the Christian Science Church. Over the following two decades, Advent Christian Church operated from here under the leadership of several different pastors. During the 1970s through the mid 1980s, the Salvation Army had a presence within the community from this site. Since 1986, the African-American congregation of Greater Carolina Baptist Church has worshiped here, often opening its facility for meetings held by various neighborhood groups.

Cottontown

Greater Carolina Baptist Church

Close

8

Cottontown

Ethnic & Spiritual Diversity

Playing and enjoying Aribac music was a favorite pastime for (left to right) Norman Barkoot on a derbekee, George Sabbagha on the oud, Robert Barkoot on the violin, Chick Sabbagha on a tambourine, and Solomon Tibshrany on the flute.

Image courtesy John Abdalla

The establishment of Bellevue, more commonly referred to today as Cottontown, as a suburb at the turn of the 20th century offered new housing opportunities to both established Columbians and newcomers to the capital city. Among those who came to call the neighborhood home were citizens of Greek, Lebanese, Italian, Sicilian, and Russian descent. Often, residents were connected to other parts of the city through their places of worship. Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews remained active members of such institutions as St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s Lutheran, Trinity Episcopal, and the House of Peace (later Beth Shalom) and Tree of Life synagogues.
Gina Barchiesi reflects on Cottontown’s ethnic diversity

Cottontown

Ethnic & Spiritual Diversity

Close

9

Cottontown

Geiger Avenue Cemetery

Detail from Map of Columbia, SC and Vicinity, 1928, by Tomlinson Engineering Company
Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Generations of Columbians have called Cottontown home, some temporarily, others for their entire lives. For some, the neighborhood has offered an eternal resting place. Located within a state-owned plot of land, formerly associated with the Confederate Soldiers Home, stands a cemetery containing two distinct sections. Within an enclosed brick-and-iron fence rest three dozen marked graves associated with the former Confederate veterans’ facility. Six of the veterans’ and their families’ stones feature names and dates; the remainder are marked only by numbers. This interment is surrounded by a larger area where the state hospital buried indigent or unclaimed deceased white mental patients. A sign erected in 1987 by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health acknowledges the significance of this neighborhood cemetery.

Cottontown

Geiger Avenue Cemetery

Close

10

Cottontown

State Hospital Employees

While some employees of the S.C. State Hospital lived on campus, such as pathologist E. Leroy Horger, Sr., shown here in 1915, others opted to reside in nearby neighborhoods such as Cottontown.
Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Thanks to its proximity to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s Bull Street campus, Cottontown historically has been a convenient and popular neighborhood for State Hospital employees. Members of the community often recall that relationship, particularly before the enlargement of Bull Street and the creation of the SC 277 connector. While employees were spread out among Cottontown’s various streets, this residence offers an interesting perspective into the two communities. From over three decades, no fewer than four hospital employees lived at this address at different times, including Lawson H. Bowling, the institution’s clinical director, who lived here from 1956 through 1963.

Drawn in 1916, this birdseye rendering of the South Carolina State Hospital conveys the enormity of the mental health facility. Lying immediately east of Cottontown, across Bull Street, the hospital employed scores of workers, some of whom lived within the property’s confines and others who chose to live in houses within Cottontown and other nearby communities.
Image courtesy South Carolina Department of Mental Health

Cottontown

State Hospital Employees

Close

11

Cottontown

Ranch Style House

Most of Cottontown is characterized by bungalows, cottages, and American Four Squares built from the 1910s through the early 1940s. However, as the neighborhood did not develop uniformly, certain parcels were not improved until after World War II. Among post-war housing options, Ranch Style residences, such as this ca.-1955 structure, proved popular for folks interested in embracing the latest fashion. Elongated and wide with low rooflines, such houses featured open floor plans, rear patios instead of front porches, and picture windows. Designed for efficient and casual living, such houses became synonymous with suburbs of the late 1940s through 1970s.

Cottontown

Ranch Style House

Close

12

Cottontown

Detached Garage

Originally more numerous, detached garages were an integral aspect of most early Cottontown residences, as shown on this 1956 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. Depending on the owner’s taste and needs, the complexity of these support buildings could vary greatly. While some were little more than simple wood-frame garages, others were elaborate, occasionally featuring apartments that offered families more room to grow. In many instances, garage apartments were rented, providing additional family income, a trend particularly apparent following World War II.

Sensitively rehabilitated, the detached garage of this Summerville Avenue property contributes visually to the neighborhood’s streetscape while also serving as a tangible link to an earlier time when such structures were more plentiful.

Taken in 1951, this image of Brunelle Sweet, Nell Williams, and Linda Williams (as a baby) at 1413 Victoria Street shows the neighboring property’s large, two-story garage apartment.

Image courtesy Mandy Woods

Cottontown

Detached Garage

Close

13

Cottontown

Former Home of Isidore Gergel

Past presidents of Beth Shalom in the early 1960s: (left to right) M.B. Kahn, Isidore Gergel, Meyer Katz, Irwin Kahn, Leonard Bogen, Jake Freed, and Ben Stern.
Image courtesy Beth Shalom Synagogue

Throughout its existence Cottontown has featured a diverse cross-section of residents, some of whom have been cultural, business, and spiritual leaders. Isidore Gergel, a Russian immigrant and owner of the Washington Street Theatre, lived in Cottontown from 1928 until 1970. Gergel was hailed as a hero in 1915 for rescuing the House of Peace Synagogue Torah scrolls from fire. Twenty years later, as chairman of the Board of Directors for the synagogue, he oversaw the sale of the congregation’s replacement building on Park Street, which later, as an African-American nightclub, became renown as the birthplace of the Big Apple

Isidore Gergel played an integral role in the growth of the House of Peace Synagogue. When the congregation outgrew its second building, its place of worship on Park Street was sold. Soon thereafter, the distinct wood-frame building became the Big Apple Dance Club, an African-American establishment that became the birthplace of the Big Apple dance that became a national craze in 1937. Today, the historic site is owned and maintained by Historic Columbia Foundation as a rental facility and venue for special programming, including dancing. Meanwhile, the House of Peace is now Beth Shalom Synagogue in Forest Acres.

Historic Columbia Foundation collection

Cottontown

Former Home of Isidore Gergel

Close

14

Cottontown

Site of Confederate Soldiers Home

Image courtesy South Carolina State Museum

Shortly after Cottontown was established as a suburb the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a stately facility to care for aging Civil War veterans. While various chapters of the UDC helped support the institution, the State of South Carolina was its main source of financial support. After 1925, veterans’ widows over 70 years of age were allowed to enter the ca.-1908 facility. That same year the home, which previously had buried deceased residents in Elmwood Cemetery, founded a veterans’ cemetery on its property. The home closed in 1957 and was subsequently demolished after falling into disrepair.

John Abdalla recalls the ladies who occupied the Confederate Soldiers Home

Cottontown

Site of Confederate Soldiers Home

Close

15

Cottontown

Multiple-Occupancy Houses

Image courtesy Laura Guobaitis

Early developers operating within Cottontown sought to meet the needs of a broad range of potential residents. Some streets within the suburb boast large, two-story houses, though greater numbers feature more modest, single-family cottages and bungalows intended for middle-income households. While homes large and small were modified into multiple-occupant buildings, some residences were intentionally designed as duplexes and triplexes, often reflecting architectural styles observed in their single-family counterparts. The presence of both types of multi-occupancy dwellings has made Cottontown a popular neighborhood for renters.

Gina Barchiesi shares how students and other renters added to Cottontown’s community flavor

Cottontown

Multiple-Occupancy Houses

Close

16

Cottontown

A Shifting Landscape

Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

Certain areas of Cottontown have changed so greatly that no physical evidence of their early character remain. Historic maps often offer dramatic representations of such transformation. For instance, in 1919 the block bounded by 2200 North Main Street to the west, Scott (formerly Frost) Street to the south, and Sumter Street to the east featured a densely packed array of 40 residences. Among them stood a significant number of shotgun-style houses and a range of 24 tenements to a street named, ironically, "Titanic Alley".

Cottontown

A Shifting Landscape

Close

17

Cottontown

Community Activism

Image courtesy Richland County GIS

For over a generation Cottontown residents have actively fought to preserve their neighborhood’s character. Evidence of their success abounds. Testament to early efforts aimed at preventing commercial encroachment and stemming increased traffic between North Main and Bull streets stand in the form of decoratively landscaped traffic-calming devices. Later efforts resulted in the publication of a handbook of historic preservation guidelines for property rehabilitation and historic markers. Perhaps Cottontown residents’ greatest achievement has been maintaining their architecturally important community – a fete whose results merited their neighborhood’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Patti Marinelli details the challenges she and other Cottontown residents overcame to maintain the integrity of their neighborhood

Cottontown

Community Activism

Close

18

Cottontown

Mayor Lester Bates’ House

Image courtesy South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

An astute insurance businessman and resident of Cottontown from 1943 until his death in 1988, Lester Lee Bates, Sr. served Columbia as an elected official during years of considerable growth. His first office was that of city councilman from 1944 to 1952. Six years later, in 1958, Bates was elected mayor, a position he retained until 1970. Highlights of Bates’ time in office included Fort Jackson’s incorporation into the city limits; the peaceful integration of Columbia’s lunch counters during the Civil Rights movement; and the state capital twice receiving All-America City designation.

Cottontown

Mayor Lester Bates’ House

Close

19

Cottontown

Creating a Home

Nell Orr plays with her baby doll in the front yard of 1413 Victoria Street during the mid 1930s.
Image courtesy Mandy Woods

In some instances, generations of the same family have retained ownership of their Cottontown properties. On September 15, 1924, Sloan Orr entered into contract with the Bagnal Cunningham Lumber Company to build a fashionable bungalow within Bellevue. The cost of his family’s new home – $7,250.00 – was a considerable sum at that time. Surviving documentation stipulates the exact interior appointments called for in the buyer/builder agreement. Four generations later Orr’s investment remains appreciated and cared for by members of his family.

Linda Williams, perched atop her 1413 Victoria Street home’s low brick wall, shows off her ballerina outfit in 1955. Behind her is the three-car garage of her neighbor’s house.

Nell Orr relaxes on the lawn of 1413 Victoria Street during the early 1930s. In the background, looking toward Bull Street, are neatly manicured lawns and street trees planted just a few years earlier.

Images courtesy Mandy Woods

Cottontown

Creating a Home

Close

20

Cottontown

Minimal Traditional House Form

Bridging the design gap between 1920s-1930s-era bungalows and cottages and Ranch Style houses of the mid 1950s were residences such as this “minimal traditional” dwelling. “Min-trads” often retained details common to their pre-war counterparts while including lower rooflines, boxed eaves, and less-dynamic facades. As popular infill houses within both existing suburbs and new, post-war neighborhoods, min-trads became integrated into the fabric of Cottontown when built on previously undeveloped land. This example, believed to have been built about 1950, speaks to the style that enjoyed a national following during the late 1940s through early 1950s.

Cottontown

Minimal Traditional House Form

Close

21

Cottontown

Infill Housing

Image courtesy Laura Guobaitis

Cottontown, like other early suburbs, features a handful of more recent additions to its housing stock. Construction of new buildings within architecturally significant neighborhoods is most successful when it results in residences of similar scale and materials. Also, building-to-lot-size ratios and setback from the road are important issues to consider during in-fill construction.

Cottontown

Infill Housing

Close

22

Cottontown

Taylor School

Historic Columbia Foundation collection

Erected in 1905 on property formerly occupied by the Columbia Male Academy, established in 1827, Taylor School served children from the Cottontown neighborhood. Depicted in early 20th-century postcards, the landmark education facility remained in operation until 1966, when it was razed for construction of the Richland District 1 administration office.

Cottontown

Taylor School

Close

23

Cottontown

Convenience to Amenities

Seen here in the 1940s, Haltiwanger’s was a landmark store along Main Street during the downtown’s commercial heyday.
Image courtesy Richland County Public Library

Convenience to downtown amenities fueled the growth of development on and north of Elmwood Avenue, including the early suburb of Bellevue, now known as Cottontown. For residents, proximity to work and various services merged with the excitement of new residential opportunities. An example of this trend lies in the experience of members of Columbia’s well-known Haltiwanger family who established themselves on Elmwood Avenue immediately south of Bellevue at the turn of the 20th century. With the family’s apparel store located within the 1400 block of Main Street, their homes within the 1200 block of Elmwood Avenue afforded short walking and driving distance. And, from their location just across the street from Bellevue, the family witnessed the neighborhood’s growth over five decades. By 1950, however, the Haltiwanger family had left Cottontown for Columbia’s suburb of Heathwood.

Cottontown

Convenience to Amenities

Close

24

Cottontown

Wardlaw Junior High

Image courtesy The State newspaper

Children living in Cottontown have received their education from a number of different nearby schools during the course of the suburb’s existence. After September 1927, students attended Wardlaw Junior High School. Located two blocks west of Cottontown on land formerly belonging to W.A. Clark’s plantation, this facility was one of two junior high schools built to prepare students who would later attend Columbia High School. When completed, the James B. Urquhart-designed, Late Gothic Collegiate-style structure became the first freestanding junior high school in the state. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, this impressive building was repurposed as an apartment complex for senior citizens in 1999 as a project of the United Housing Associates and Piedmont Foundation of South Carolina.

The impressive architecture of Wardlaw Junior High is apparent from these detail images of its front façade.
Image courtesy The State newspaper

Wardlaw Junior High students calmly exit their school during this 1960s-era fire drill.
Image courtesy City of Columbia Fire Department, Walter B. Busby, Photographer

Cottontown

Wardlaw Junior High

Close

25

Cottontown

Streetcar Line

A streetcar glides down Main Street in downtown Columbia, ca. 1910.
Historic Columbia Foundation collection

Public transportation in the form of streetcars played a major role in Columbia’s early suburbanization. In 1896, extensive work pushed the original electric rail service beyond its initial boundaries, extending the Main Street streetcar line miles north of Upper Street (Elmwood Avenue) into Hyatt Park and Eau Claire, furthering the development of both of these areas. Along the route lay the former cotton district reestablished as the new suburb of Bellevue. Connected to downtown and other outlying districts, residents of the development benefited from ease of travel and the trappings of life in new houses.

Interestingly, the name Bellevue is also associated with points much farther north of today’s Cottontown neighborhood. “Bellevue Place,” was a name apparently assigned to the area around or specifically the location of today’s Ensor-Kennan House in Eau Claire, based on surviving historic photographs. Additionally, a June 26, 1896 article in The State newspaper referenced “Bellevue springs” in its coverage of the area’s natural beauty and modern transportation system.

One of the Columbia’s streetcars makes its way to Eau Claire, north of today’s Cottontown.
Image courtesy South Carolina State Museum

Jesse Smith and “Miss Danish” pose for an indentified photographer on April 3, 1898 at “Bellevue, SC.” Among a number of other historic images depicting scenes within the Eau Claire and Colonial Drive areas, this photograph indicates that the name of Bellevue was applied to several different locations.

Historic Columbia Foundation collection

Cottontown

Streetcar Line

Close

26

Cottontown

Modern Age Architecture

With Cottontown’s 1948 modern fire station as a neighboring property, this ca.-1950 commercial structure speaks to the neighborhood’s continued growth through the post-World War II era. With primary design elements consisting of wide, glass-block windows and decorative concrete horizontal banding, this mid-20th-century structure embodies the tenets of the Streamline Moderne style. Intended to evoke simplicity and celebrate construction materials of the machine age, this architectural movement was embraced in Columbia to a modest degree. Several different businesses have operated from this address since its completion, including a vending and amusement machine supplier, a film and school supplies store, and an appliance service provider.

Cottontown

Modern Age Architecture

Close

27

Cottontown

Growing Up in Cottontown

Image courtesy Pamela Wilson Fusco

Thanks to the advent of affordable cameras and film processing coinciding with the growth of early suburbs, greater numbers of residents were able to document not just family milestones but also the activities associated with everyday life. Still, unique events, such as this snowfall in 1959, were favorite opportunities to capture moments for posterity.

Often, family pictures reveal details about the relationship of buildings to one another, landscapes, and the era in which they were taken, as reflected in cars, clothes, and hairstyles. These images taken of Wilson family members living on Geiger Avenue during the 1950s show what life was like for many Cottontown residents five decades after the neighborhood had been established.

Patricia Hutchison Wilson (holding Robert Corley Wilson, Jr.), Pamela Anne Wilson, Mike Varn and Claude Harold Varn pose in the front lawn of the Wilsons’ Geiger Avenue home in about 1953.

Robert Corley Wilson, Jr. enjoys a playful moment in the front yard of the family’s Geiger Avenue home, ca. 1956.
Images courtesy Pamela Wilson Fusco

Cottontown

Growing Up in Cottontown

Close

28

Cottontown

Picturing the Past

Bishopville native Russell Maxey relocated to Columbia and called Cottontown home during his career as an engineer and educator. An avid photographer, he also became a noted local author and historian, capturing the changing face of Columbia through hundreds of photographs. In 1980, Maxey published Historic Columbia: Yesterday and Today in Pictures, an account of the capital city that remains a major reference for professional historians and history buffs. Maxey died in 1994 and is buried not far from his former home, in Columbia’s Elmwood Cemetery.

Cottontown

Picturing the Past

Close