Transforming Spaces

By: John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources

Palmetto Wildlife Habitat

History is neither stagnant nor fixed. No, the study and interpretation of past events is a creative, dynamic, and transformational process that shapes both how we know previous people, places, and events and how we view our ourselves. 

This process lies at the heart of Historic Columbia, where recent capital projects, programs and celebrations have expanded our abilities to better serve the community. These and future transformational accomplishments and milestones are just part of the art of making history. The other half falls to you—members, patrons, and visitors—who understand the value of investing in quality-of-life making decisions that shape the capital city and Richland County. 

The fruits of such investment were hard to miss at the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens this past winter, spring, and summer. There, rooms cleared of their historic contents filled with new energy as  Tanya Wideman Davis and Thaddeus Davis of Wideman Davis Dance created and performed Migratuse Ataraxia an exploration of the embodiment of the black experience at a former antebellum estate. One floor below, in the building’s basement, generous funding from the Boyd Foundation transformed spaces formerly closed to the public into modern bathrooms and a suite for special events and programs. That support spilled out onto the grounds with the installation of a sunken patio with a footprint mimicking that of an addition that doubled the mansion’s size by 1850. Shortly thereafter, two new classrooms, outfitted through support from the Graham Foundation, teemed with school-aged summer camp historians.  

But there is more—across Blanding Street the grounds of the Robert Mills House are now an official Wildlife Habitat thanks to the ongoing cultivation of their extensive flora! While fauna of all types have known this for a while, join Historic Columbia, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, and Mayor Steve Benjamin, to make it official on October 11, at 10:00 a.m. during a presentation and press conference at the property where we’ll be celebrating the City of Columbia being named a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.   

Creation of a wildlife habitat at the Robert Mills House and Gardens didn’t just happen overnight; however, this season you can transform your home for the holidays overnight while benefiting Historic Columbia through the annual greenery sale. Order now through October 29 to ensure the spaces you treasure in your home will look their best. During pick-up, don’t forget to visit the renovated Museum Shop. Thanks to the vision of Pond Interiors, Historic Columbia’s retail destination for discriminating shoppers will boast a new look by our annual meeting on October 24th.  

In the unlikely event that all these changes leave you wanting more, don’t despair. The coming months promise even further growth as Historic Columbia transforms other important places—physical and virtual. Proceeds from this year’s annual fund will underwrite the first of a multi-phase rehabilitation of the Seibels House; partnership with the Columbia Town Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of South Carolina will yield a much-anticipated exhibit on Mary Boykin Chesnut; and the Modjeska Simkins Site will feature new exhibits fueled by federal grants from the National Park Service supporting Civil Rights interpretation.