Worth the Weight: Surveying Columbia’s 19th-Century Cast & Wrought Iron Heritage

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By: John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources

Wednesday, August 31st 2022

John Sherrer Fieldwork

What’s Going On 

As a steward of historic sites and an advocate and resource for preservation, Historic Columbia consistently yields research findings about Columbia and Richland County’s past. Most recently, fieldwork resulted in the discovery of a commonality between cast iron stairs, which historically embellished the front porch of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, and that of fencing at a handful of burial plots at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, First Presbyterian Church, and Elmwood Cemetery.  

This exciting realization came about during the initial stage of what is forecast to be a protracted survey of 19th-century cast and wrought iron at historic downtown sites. Loss of this once more prevalent architectural element through vandalism, acts of nature, and the demolition of historic buildings over the past 25 years prompted this unprecedented study, which we hope will heighten public awareness about the value of local history and preservation of our built culture. 

What’s Next 

We will research historic photographs, manuscripts (as practicable), city directories, and historic newspaper advertisements and articles that may tie a particular foundry or blacksmith to the families whose plots feature this distinctive cast iron design. Maybe one of these sources will connect the building material with local stores, manufactories, and/or persons associated with the sale and/or production of the ironwork within our current scope of inquiry.  As further findings are made, HC will reflect them in our ever-evolving history narrative and artisan index, and, in doing so, will serve as a corrective step in addressing a dearth of coverage in the documentation of Columbia’s physical evolution as South Carolina’s second state capital city.