A Museum of Reconstruction in Columbia and Richland County
The nation's only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and South Carolina's only remaining presidential site, this distinctive circa-1871 Italian villa-style residence was home to a 14-year-old boy named "Tommy" Woodrow Wilson. The site is operated as a museum by Historic Columbia and explores the racial, social and political landscape of Columbia and Richland County from 1865 through 1877.
Since 1933 this property has operated as an historic house museum celebrating the life of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States. Young Tommy Wilson's parents built this home in 1871 with the intent of remaining in Columbia. However, in 1874, Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson received a new posting and he and his family moved to Wilmington, N.C. Closed in 2005 due to structural issues, Columbia’s Woodrow Wilson Family Home has undergone a multiphase, comprehensive rehabilitation and reopened to the public on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. Following scientific paint analysis, it is a house whose colors Wilson would have known well. In the wake of restorative carpentry, its rooms now flow as they did when new in 1871.
The Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction, enjoys the dual distinction of being the country’s only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and South Carolina’s only remaining presidential site. Through exhibit galleries, hands-on interactive displays, and audio and video components, this award-winning museum explores the racial, social and political landscape of Columbia and Richland County from 1865 through 1877, an era in which formerly enslaved African Americans negotiated the opportunities and obstacles faced as new citizens of the United States.
Reportedly designed under the influence of Jessie Wilson, the future president's mother, the landscape was divided into the formal front yard and working back yards, which included vegetable and flower beds as well as a kitchen house, privy and carriage house. While little documentation of the property exists from the time of the Wilson family's occupation, records indicate that roses, tea olives, crepe myrtle, japonica, and other shrubs were planted in the front yard, implying its use as a decorative garden area.
Today, large magnolias dominate the front of the property. There is a grass lawn in front of the house, and period plantings around the main walkway to the front door. Plants currently located in the front yard include crepe myrtle, cherry laurel, hackberry, Japanese magnolias, tea olive, magnolia and dogwood. A cherry laurel hedge dominates the Henderson Street edge of the property, and a hackberry tree is located on the side of the Henderson Street drive. Large cherry laurel and a pecan tree grow on the northeast corner of the property.