Early history[ edit ] At the time of European encounter, the inhabitants of the area that became Columbia were a people called the Congaree. The expedition produced the earliest written historical records of the area, which was part of the regional Cofitachequi chiefdom. The Congarees, a frontier fort on the west bank of the Congaree River , was the head of navigation in the Santee River system.
A ferry was established by the colonial government in to connect the fort with the growing settlements on the higher ground on the east bank. The fall line is the spot where a river becomes unnavigable when sailing upstream and where falling water downstream can power a mill. State Senator John Lewis Gervais of the town of Ninety Six introduced a bill that was approved by the legislature on March 22, , to create a new state capital.
There was considerable argument over the name for the new city. According to published accounts, Senator Gervais said he hoped that "in this town we should find refuge under the wings of COLUMBIA ", for that was the name which he wished it to be called.
One legislator insisted on the name "Washington", but "Columbia" won by a vote of 11—7 in the state senate. The Seibels House , c. The site was chosen as the new state capital in , due to its central location in the state.
The State Legislature first met there in After remaining under the direct government of the legislature for the first two decades of its existence, Columbia was incorporated as a village in and then as a city in Columbia received a large stimulus to development when it was connected in a direct water route to Charleston by the Santee Canal.
It was first chartered in and completed in , making it one of the earliest canals in the United States. With increased railroad traffic, it ceased operation around The blocks were divided into lots of 0. Buyers had to build a house at least 30 feet 9. Columbians still enjoy most of the magnificent network of wide streets. Three main issues occupied most of their time: As one of the first planned cities in the United States, Columbia began to grow rapidly. Its population was nearing 1, shortly after the start of the 19th century.
The original building survives. The city was chosen as the site of the institution in part to unite the citizens of the Upcountry and the Lowcountry and to discourage the youth from migrating to England for their higher education.
At the time, South Carolina sent more young men to England than did any other state. The leaders of South Carolina wished to monitor the progress and development of the school; for many years after the founding of the university, commencement exercises were held in December while the state legislature was in session.
Columbia received its first charter as a town in An intendant and six wardens would govern the town. John Taylor, the first elected intendant, later served in both houses of the General Assembly, both houses of Congress, and eventually as governor.
By , there were homes in the town and a population of more than one thousand. Columbia became chartered as a city in , with an elected mayor and six aldermen. Two years later, Columbia had a police force consisting of a full-time chief and nine patrolmen. The city continued to grow at a rapid pace, and throughout the s and s Columbia was the largest inland city in the Carolinas.
Railroad transportation served as a significant cause of population expansion in Columbia during this time. Rail lines that reached the city in the s primarily transported cotton bales, not passengers.
Cotton was the lifeblood of the Columbia community; in virtually all of the city's commercial and economic activity was related to cotton. Some members of this large enslaved population worked in their masters' households. Masters also frequently hired out slaves to Columbia residents and institutions, including South Carolina College. Hired-out slaves sometimes returned to their owner's home daily; others boarded with their temporary masters.
Although various decrees established curfews and prohibited slaves from meeting and from learning to read and write, such rulings were difficult to enforce. The delegates drafted a resolution in favor of secession , —0. Columbia's location made it an ideal location for other conventions and meetings within the Confederacy. The burning of Columbia during Sherman 's occupation, from Harper's Weekly On February 17, , in the last months of the Civil War, much of Columbia was destroyed by fire while being occupied by Union troops under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman.
Stanley and Thomas W. Radcliffe to surrender the city to Sherman's troops. According to legend, Columbia's First Baptist Church barely missed being torched by Sherman's troops. The soldiers marched up to the church and asked the sexton if he could direct them to the First Baptist Church. The sexton directed the men to the nearby Washington Street Methodist Church; thus, the historic landmark was saved from destruction by Union soldiers, and the sexton preserved his employment at the cost of another.
General Sherman blamed the high winds and retreating Confederate soldiers for firing bales of cotton, which had been stacked in the streets. General Sherman denied ordering the burning, though he did order militarily significant structures, such as the Confederate Printing Plant, destroyed. Firsthand accounts by local residents, Union soldiers, and a newspaper reporter offer a tale of revenge by Union troops for Columbia's and South Carolina's pivotal role in leading Southern states to secede from the Union.
Today, tourists can follow the path General Sherman's army took to enter the city and see structures or remnants of structures that survived the fire. During Reconstruction , Columbia became the focus of considerable attention. Reporters, journalists, travelers, and tourists flocked to South Carolina's capital city to witness a Southern state legislature whose members included former slaves. The city also made somewhat of a rebound following the devastating fire of ; a mild construction boom took place within the first few years of Reconstruction, and repair of railroad tracks in outlying areas created jobs for area citizens.
Sloan and the aldermen of the city of Columbia. Its role was to book and manage concerts and events in the opera house for the city. In , Columbia had six mills in operation: Columbia had no paved streets until , when 17 blocks of Main Street were surfaced. There were, however, publicly maintained street crossings at intersections to keep pedestrians from having to wade through a sea of mud between wooden sidewalks.
As an experiment, Washington Street was once paved with wooden blocks. This proved to be the source of much local amusement when they buckled and floated away during heavy rains. The blocks were replaced with asphalt paving in In , the city was selected as the site of Camp Jackson , a U.
The first recruits arrived at the camp on September 1, In , Columbia was the hub of a trading area with approximately , potential customers.
It had retail establishments, of them being food stores. There were also 58 clothing and apparel outlets, 57 restaurants and lunch rooms, 55 filling stations, 38 pharmacies, 20 furniture stores, 19 auto dealers, 11 shoe stores, nine cigar stands, five department stores and one book store.
Wholesale distributors located within the city numbered , with one-third of them dealing in food. In , the federal courthouse at the corner of Main and Laurel streets was purchased by the city for use as City Hall. Grant 's federal architect, the building was completed in Large cost overruns probably caused it to be left out. Copies of Mullet's original drawings can be seen on the walls of City Hall alongside historic photos of Columbia's beginnings.
Federal offices were moved to the J. Reactivated Camp Jackson became Fort Jackson in , giving the military installation the permanence desired by city leaders at the time. The fort was annexed into the city in the fall of , with approval from the Pentagon. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and his group of now-famous pilots began training for the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo at what is now Columbia Metropolitan Airport. The s saw the beginning of efforts to reverse Jim Crow laws and racial discrimination in Columbia.
In , a federal judge ruled that the city's black teachers were entitled to equal pay to that of their white counterparts. However, in years following, the state attempted to strip many blacks of their teaching credentials. Other issues in which the blacks of the city sought equality concerned voting rights and segregation particularly regarding public schools. On August 21, , eight downtown chain stores served blacks at their lunch counters for the first time. The University of South Carolina admitted its first black students in ; around the same time, many vestiges of segregation began to disappear from the city, blacks attained membership on various municipal boards and commissions, and a non-discriminatory hiring policy was adopted by the city.
These and other such signs of racial progress helped earn the city the All-America City Award for the second time the first being in , and a article in Newsweek magazine lauded Columbia as a city that had "liberated itself from the plague of doctrinal apartheid.
In the early s, the University of South Carolina initiated the refurbishment of its "Horseshoe". Several area museums also benefited from the increased historical interest of that time, among them the Fort Jackson Museum, the McKissick Museum on the campus of the University of South Carolina, and most notably the South Carolina State Museum , which opened in Mayor Kirkman Finlay, Jr. The year saw the Columbia metropolitan population reach ,, and in this figure had hit approximately , The s and s saw a rise in skyscrapers throughout Columbia.
In , The Tower at Gervais was constructed. In , Hub at Columbia was constructed. In , Bank of America Plaza was constructed. Recent history[ edit ] View from Statehouse showing Main Street and Confederate statue The s and early s saw revitalization in the downtown area.
The Congaree Vista district along Gervais Street, once known as a warehouse district , became a thriving district of art galleries, shops, and restaurants. The Colonial Life Arena formerly known as the Colonial Center opened in , and brought several big-named concerts and shows to Columbia. EdVenture , the largest children's museum in the Southeast, opened in The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center opened in , and a new convention center hotel opened in September A public-private City Center Partnership has been formed to implement the downtown revitalization and boost downtown growth.
Benjamin started his first term in July , and is the first black mayor in the city's history.