1508 Main Street
For much of the 20th century downtowns throughout the United States featured “Five and Dimes,” stores in which goods could be purchased at very reasonable prices. Kress, one of Columbia’s leading five and dimes, opened this store, the 233rd in its national chain, in June 1935. Architect Edward F. Sibert, who designed stores for the company throughout the nation, rendered plans for the $183,000 structure, which was considered completely fireproof.
Featuring orange, green and blue glazed terra cotta tile cast in lotus petals and papyrus reeds, Columbia’s Kress building embraced the Depression era’s international fascination with Egyptian themes, in this case, expressed in an Art Deco style interpretation. At its completion, the building was considered “the finest unit in Kress’ chain.” A generation later, during the Civil Rights movement, this site gained historic importance as black and white college students protested against segregation by holding sit-ins at the store’s whites-only lunch counter. Their efforts proved successful, and Columbia’s downtown stores integrated peacefully and opened their lunch counters to black customers in 1962. In 1999, the building was rehabilitated for revitalized commercial use downstairs and apartment use upstairs under the auspices of Capitol Places.