2600 Barhamville Road
W.A. Perry Middle School
W.A. Perry Junior High School opened in 1956 for African American seventh and eighth graders. Designed by prominent city architects Lafaye, Faire, and Lafaye, the school’s distinctly mid-century modern design earned a full page spread in The State. At the time of its opening, it was heralded as one of Columbia’s three “campus style” schools, characterized by a layout of isolated units intended to maximize the use of space. The original units consisted of an administrative center, a classroom building, and a library. The interior was also carefully conceived, designed to require minimum maintenance and to emphasize natural lighting through skylights and breeze windows. The school building incorporated modern 1950s equipment. Refrigerators, electric stoves, and washing machines occupied the home economics room, and classroom chairs and desks were shaped specifically for comfort and healthy posture.
The school was named for William A. Perry, the first African American principal in the city of Columbia to earn a master’s degree. Perry originally hailed from North Carolina and earned degrees from Yale and Harvard, and then began a teaching career at a high school in Brunswick, Georgia, before coming to Columbia where he served as principal of Waverly School. In conjunction with his position at Waverly, Perry acted as director of student teaching and observation at Allen University. Perry was active in his parish at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Columbia, serving as vestryman, organist, Bible class teacher and choir director, until his death in 1938.
Site of South Carolina Female Collegiate Institute
Also known as the Barhamville Collegiate Institute for Women or Barhamville Academy, this prestigious women’s school was founded in 1828 by Dr. Elias Marks, a wealthy physician and Charleston native. Born into a Jewish family, Dr. Marks was influenced by his childhood nurse, an African American Methodist woman, and converted to Christianity at a young age. He founded his school for women as a Methodist institution and named it for his recently deceased wife, Jane Barham.
By the 1850s, over one hundred students were enrolled, many from outside of South Carolina. The young women generally came out of the antebellum planter class and prominent families. Some notable students included Anna Calhoun, daughter of John C. Calhoun; Ann Pamela Cunningham, founder of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association; and Martha Bulloch, mother of Theodore Roosevelt. Courses for the young women included mathematics, chemistry, history, drawing, modern languages, music and dance. The campus also included a chapel for weekly services to help round out a curriculum that fostered intellectual, moral and physical well-being. This holistic approach was intended to establish students as well-rounded individuals who could carry out the duties of Southern gentlewomen during the antebellum period.(1)
The school operated until 1865, and in 1866, the property went up for sale. Three years later, in February of 1869, the campus burned down. No extant structure of it remains. Today, an historical marker at the intersection of Two Notch Road and Ogden Street identifies part of the plot of land where the South Carolina Female Collegiate Institute once stood.
(1) Isabella M.E. Blandin. History of Higher Education of Women in the South Prior to 1860 (New York and Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1909).