1811 Gervais Street
Built in 1872 for Caroline Alston, a prominent African American businesswoman, and her husband, John E. Alston, this one-story Greek Revival cottage once included an addition on the front that served as her retail grocery store until 1906.
Prior to emancipation, Alston’s family was enslaved by Colonel William Wallace just north of Columbia on a plantation that was later purchased by the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum. Her brothers included Edward B. Thompson, a prominent carpenter at the asylum, and Reconstruction-era legislator, city council member, and judge Samuel Benjamin Thompson, whose daughter was Clarissa Minnie Thompson, South Carolina’s first female, African American novelist. Upon Caroline’s death in 1909, she left her entire estate to another niece, Carrie Thompson Davis, who soon moved to Ohio during the Great Migration, which took place from 1916 to 1970.
Built by 1872, this one-story Greek Revival cottage belonged to Carolina Alston, an early African American businesswoman. Alston used the building as both her home and shop from about 1875 through 1895. One of only 25 black-owned businesses in Columbia in the 1890s, Alston’s store sold dry goods to the black community. In 1906, she sold the building to L.M. Keitt, another black business owner, who operated a grocery store. In 1946, the structure became home to McDuffie’s Antiques.