1403 Richland Street1403 Richland Street
For nearly 130 years, this site remained in the hands of one African American family. Ben Delane and Celia Mann were both born enslaved in Charleston, SC. Delane purchased his freedom and later his wife Celia’s, by working as a boatman transporting goods from Charleston to Columbia in the early 19th century. He deeded this property to her in 1843. As a free person of color, Mann led a successful career in Columbia as a midwife until her death in 1867.
Her daughter, Agnes Jackson Simons, had this house built between 1872 and 1883. Simons became the matriarch of an entrepreneurial family that operated multiple businesses at this site for nearly a century. The ghost structures seen on the property depict the lunch counter run by her son, John Lucius Simons, a store operated by her son and daughter-in-law, Charles and Amanda Simons, an outhouse, and a second residence.
Their property also once extended north along Marion Street and featured three two-story residences that provided rental income. These structures were demolished as part of the city’s urban renewal program in the 1960s. In 1970, led by a group of African American activists, the community mounted a campaign to save the home from destruction. The building was transformed into a house museum and The Center for Black History, Art and Folklore. Today it is an interactive museum owned by the City of Columbia and stewarded by Historic Columbia.
Did You Know?
The Mann-Simons Site is managed by Historic Columbia and is available for tours every Tuesday through Sunday!