2157 Oak Street
In April of 1953, the Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) opened Saxon Homes, a low-income housing project. The development was named for Celia Dial Saxon, who was born into slavery in Columbia in 1857. Saxon proved herself a persistent learner, graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1877 during the Reconstruction era. Saxon taught school in Columbia for fifty-five years. She advocated for women and children by helping to organize the State Federation of Colored Women, the Phyllis Wheatley branch of the Y.W.C.A., and the Williams Home for Orphans in Cayce. She died in 1935.
The 400 Saxon apartments ranged from one bedroom to five bedrooms, and included a gas range, indoor plumbing, a space heater, a refrigerator, electric lights, and modern (for the time) bathrooms. The complex consisted of sixty-four buildings, most of which were garden-style apartments. The project was intended to be modern in every respect, featuring up-to-date appliances and accessible recreational facilities. CHA provided a daycare center at Saxon Homes, and Benedict College provided daycare staff. Initially opened for families only, former residents remember Saxon Homes especially for its role in fostering family values and community solidarity.
The apartments were demolished in September of 2000, and the Columbia Housing Authority worked with the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties to create “The Door Project: Connecting the Past to the Future.” The project rescued doors from Saxon Homes and converted them into public art displayed throughout Columbia. A new public housing community called Upper and Lower Celia Saxon was constructed on the site of the old Saxon Homes in May 2001.