The State Capitol
The State House, at Main and Gervais streets (tel. 803/734-2430; www.columbiasouthcarolina.com/statehouse.html), begun in 1855, was only half-finished when General Sherman bombarded Columbia in 1865. Today the west and south walls are marked with bronze stars where the shells struck. In the fire that wiped out so much of the city, the State House escaped destruction, but the architect's plans were burned. As a result, the dome is not the one that was originally envisioned. Despite that fact, the building, with its Corinthian granite columns, is one of the most beautiful state capitols in the U.S. The landscaped grounds hold memorial tablets and monuments; inside are portraits and statues of South Carolina's greats. A more recently dedicated African-American monument also stands on the grounds. The Confederate flag has come down from the dome, where its flying generated nationwide protest. (It's still displayed on the grounds, however, and its presence remains a temper-raising issue in South Carolina.) The State House is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm, and the first Sunday in each month 1 to 5pm.
Why George Has a Broken Walking Stick -- When visiting the State House, note the statue of George Washington on the front steps with its broken walking stick. It was broken by Union soldiers when they invaded Columbia during the Civil War. The people of South Carolina, who have nothing if not long memories, decided to leave it the way the soldiers left it. The statue has been touched so many times since then that the stump of the cane is worn smooth.
Four Historic Homes
At the Historic Columbia Foundation, 1616 Blanding St. (tel. 803/252-7742; www.historiccolumbia.org), you can purchase tickets and get a tour map of the capital's most historic homes. Tickets for each property cost $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, $3 for children 6 to 17, and free for children 5 and under. A combination ticket to all four properties is $15 for adults; $12 for seniors 65 and older, military, and college students; $8 for children 7 to 17; and free for children 6 and under. Hourly tours are conducted Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and on Sunday 1 to 5pm, with tours starting every hour on the hour. On Tuesday to Saturday, the last tour is at 3pm; on Sunday, the last tour is at 4pm.
Woodrow Wilson's Boyhood Home, 1705 Hampton St., was built by the president's father in 1872. Much Wilson memorabilia remains, including the family's heirloom furnishings. The red-velvet music room and the plush parlor evoke the Victorian age. The 28th president lived here until 1875, leaving at age 14 when his family decided to move out of state. When this guide was published the house was closed for restoration; check www.historiccolumbia.org to see if the house has reopened.
Hampton-Preston Mansion, 1615 Blanding St., was purchased by Wade Hampton and occupied by his family until 1865, when Union general J. A. Logan took it over. Much memorabilia of the antebellum period remains, including furnishings and decorative arts. The house dates from 1818. The Hamptons were once called "the Kennedys of the Old South," having grown rich from cotton instead of liquor.
Manns-Simons Cottage, 1403 Richmond St., is a small house from the early 1850s. It is the former abode of Celia Mann, an African-American slave who bought her freedom and walked from Charleston to Columbia. She'd earned money by working on the side as a midwife and started a church for blacks in her basement at the end of the Civil War. Today her former home houses a museum of African-American culture and an art gallery.
Robert Mills Historic House & Park is at 1616 Blanding St. Mills served seven presidents as the first federal architect, designing such landmarks as the Washington Monument, the U.S. Treasury Building, and the Old Patent Office in Washington, D.C. This is one of the few residences that he actually designed. It's rich in art and furnishings of the Regency and neoclassical periods.
Edisto Memorial Garden
To reach Edisto Memorial Gardens, drive 45 miles southeast of Columbia on I-26 and take U.S. 601 South to Orangeburg. The 165-acre park, on U.S. 301, is located along the banks of the Edisto River, the world's longest blackwater river. The garden is one of three test gardens in the United States and is known especially for its experimentation in roses. Some 5,000 varieties bloom from mid-April until October. Other vegetation and trees include camellias, dogwood, cherry trees, and thousands of azaleas that bloom from mid-March to mid-April. South Carolina's Festival of Roses, one of the 20 top festivals in the Southeast, is held here annually during the last weekend in April. The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk and admission is free.
The Santee Cooper Lakes
From Orangeburg, it's a short drive on U.S. 301 to I-95 North to Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, known collectively as the Santee Cooper Lakes, which cover more than 171,000 acres. Anglers, note: Three world-record and eight state-record catches have been recorded here. These waters have been stocked with striped, largemouth, hybrid, and white bass; catfish; and other panfish. The lakes are ringed with fish camps, marinas, campgrounds, and modern motels.
You don't have to be an angler to enjoy this scenic region, however; you'll find numerous golf courses, tennis courts, and wildlife sanctuaries. The best place for camping is Santee State Park, which offers 150 sites at two lakefront campgrounds on Lake Marion. Amenities include swimming, tennis, a boat ramp, fishing boats, a tackle shop, and nature programs (including a nature trail).
The Santee-Cooper Counties Promotion Commission, PO Drawer 40, Santee, SC 29142 (tel. 800/227-8510 or 803/854-2131 within South Carolina; www.santeecoopercountry.org), can furnish full details on recreational facilities and accommodations. For more on lakefront vacation cabins on Lake Marion, contact the Superintendent, Santee State Park, 251 State Park Rd., Box 79, Santee, SC 29142 (tel. 803/854-2408). In all cases, be sure to inquire about fishing and golf package deals. To reach the state park from Columbia, take I-26 East to U.S. 301 North to I-95 North; take exit 98 to Santee and head 3 miles northwest.
Columbia residents also go to Santee Cooper Country for 270 holes of golf. For a complete golf kit, contact Santee Cooper Country, PO Box 40, Santee, SC 29142 (tel. 800/227-8510 or 803/854-2131 within South Carolina).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.