One of only five National Historic Landmarks in Columbia, the Robert Mills House showcases the skill of the architect who designed some of our nation's most prominent buildings, including the Washington Monument.
Robert Mills House and Gardens
Today we know it as the Robert Mills House, named in honor of its designer. But, when work began in 1823, the Classical Revival mansion was known as the Ainsley Hall House, as it was intended to be a fine townhome for Ainsley and Sarah Hall. Instead, circumstances led to the property being used as a campus for three different religious schools, including a Presbyterian theological seminary and Columbia Bible College. Abandoned and threatened with demolition in 1960, the early-19th century architectural masterpiece became a lightning rod for historic preservation advocates who banded together to form Historic Columbia.
Today, the Robert Mills House operates as an historic house museum featuring period rooms and focus galleries highlighting late-18th through mid-19th century decorative arts. Complimenting the mansion are gardens featuring a combination of early-1970s landscape design, hallmarks of 19th-century English-style gardens and the accomplishments of contemporary gardeners.
Did you know?
Historic Columbia maintains a permanent collection of more than 6,500 historic artifacts spanning the 18th, 19th and early-20th centuries, including a growing collection of locally made or used textiles, decorative arts, fine art, tools, and historic images. Learn more
The gardens of the Robert Mills House are unique among historic sites for utilizing a historically appropriate English Formal design, while employing plant species native to the Eastern United States. From open, naturalistic spaces featuring large canopy trees to the clipped hedges of formal parterres, the ground of the Robert Mills House have something for everyone.
Due to its use by educational and religious institutions, the grounds of the Robert Mills House never featured ornamental gardens. After Historic Columbia saved the property in 1960, gardens were installed in the English Formal style that would very likely have been preferred by the site’s first owner, Ainlsey Hall. As these aging spaces begin to require renovation, Historic Columbia has utilized species native to Eastern North America both to increase the ecological value of the site and serve as an inspiration to the gardening public.
Rent This Venue
With lush landscaping and ornate gardens set against one of the city’s few National Historic Landmark properties, the grounds of the Robert Mills House provide a picturesque setting for your next special event. Learn more about our rentals.