The History of Columbia, South Carolina

In a city like Columbia, South Carolina, there are plenty of places to explore and history to brush up on. Discover some of the city's history and some fun facts about Columbia to help you get started!

Published on
November 15, 2023
Read time
The History of Columbia, South Carolina


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit obortis arcu enim urna adipiscing praesent velit viverra. Sit semper lorem eu cursus vel hendrerit elementum orbi curabitur etiam nibh justo, lorem aliquet donec sed sit mi dignissim at ante massa mattis egestas.

  1. Neque sodales ut etiam sit amet nisl purus non tellus orci ac auctor.
  2. Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potenti.
  3. Mauris commodo quis imperdiet massa tincidunt nunc pulvinar.
  4. Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potenti.


Vitae congue eu consequat ac felis lacerat vestibulum lectus mauris ultrices ursus sit amet dictum sit amet justo donec enim diam. Porttitor lacus luctus accumsan tortor posuere raesent tristique magna sit amet purus gravida quis blandit turpis.

Odio facilisis mauris sit amet massa vitae tortor.


At risus viverra adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat nisl pretium fusce id velit ut tortor sagittis orci a scelerisque purus semper eget at lectus urna duis convallis porta nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget. Neque laoreet suspendisse interdum consectetur libero id faucibus nisl donec pretium vulputate sapien nec sagittis aliquam nunc lobortis mattis aliquam faucibus purus in.

  • Neque sodales ut etiam sit amet nisl purus non tellus orci ac auctor.
  • Eleifend felis tristique luctus et quam massa posuere viverra elit facilisis condimentum.
  • Magna nec augue velit leo curabitur sodales in feugiat pellentesque eget senectus.
  • Adipiscing elit ut aliquam purus sit amet viverra suspendisse potenti .

Dignissim adipiscing velit nam velit donec feugiat quis sociis. Fusce in vitae nibh lectus. Faucibus dictum ut in nec, convallis urna metus, gravida urna cum placerat non amet nam odio lacus mattis. Ultrices facilisis volutpat mi molestie at tempor etiam. Velit malesuada cursus a porttitor accumsan, sit scelerisque interdum tellus amet diam elementum, nunc consectetur diam aliquet ipsum ut lobortis cursus nisl lectus suspendisse ac facilisis feugiat leo pretium id rutrum urna auctor sit nunc turpis.

“Vestibulum pulvinar congue fermentum non purus morbi purus vel egestas vitae elementum viverra suspendisse placerat congue amet blandit ultrices dignissim nunc etiam proin nibh sed.”

Eget lorem dolor sed viverra ipsum nunc aliquet bibendumelis donec et odio pellentesque diam volutpat commodo sed egestas liquam sem fringilla ut morbi tincidunt augue interdum velit euismod. Eu tincidunt tortor aliquam nulla facilisi enean sed adipiscing diam donec adipiscing ut lectus arcu bibendum at varius vel pharetra nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget.

Moving can be a stressful time in life, especially if you’re unfamiliar with your new home. Though, moving to a new city or state can be easier if you have a little knowledge of the area beforehand. Learning about the history of a new city is a great way to become acquainted with your surroundings, which will only make the transition easier. 

If you’re moving to Columbia, South Carolina, you’re in luck! Columbia has plenty of places to explore and history to brush up on. Like much of the U.S., Columbia has a complicated history, but it’s important to acknowledge and learn about all of the good and the bad. Here are some of the city's history and some fun facts about Columbia to help you get started!

History of Columbia

Columbia is the state capital of South Carolina and is located in Richland County. Centered at the heart of the state, Columbia is only 13 miles away from the exact geographic center of the state and is “situated on the fall line of the Congaree River,” (Madison Homebuilders, n.d.) As the largest city in South Carolina, the city is known for its high temperatures and affordability and is also known by its nickname, “The Capital of Southern Hospitality,” (Egan, n.d. a; Madison Homebuilders, n.d.). 

Columbia’s history begins long before its founding in the mid-1800s. In 1786, the General Assembly decided to remove Charleston as the state capital and replace it with Columbia, a new city they would build (City of Columbia, n.d.; J.D. Lewis, n.d.). This decision was made in an attempt to compromise and “placate antagonism mainly between the small farmers of the Up Country and the Low Country (i.e., coastal) plantation owners,” (Britannica, n.d.). Columbia is believed to be the second planned city in the country, and Savannah, Georgia the first planned city (City of Columbia, n.d.). 

The area of Columbia played a significant role in the development of South Carolina even before 1786, as the land and river systems helped with the growth of settlements in the area (City of Columbia, n.d.). Columbia was later incorporated in 1805 as a town, and by 1816, over 1,000 residents resided in the area with 250 homes within the town (City of Columbia, n.d.). 

Though, it wasn’t until 1854 that Columbia was officially founded as a city. Once Columbia was created and later established, the city was able to thrive in education, commerce, politics, and transportation “within the first generation of its existence,” due to its geographical location (J.D. Lewis, n.d.). Much of the city’s economic success and its abundance of wealth stemmed from the cotton industry controlled by plantation owners (J.D. Lewis, n.d.).

As technology expanded, so did Columbia. In the 1820s, a canal-system was constructed, and a rail service was available by 1842. By the mid-1900s, Columbia had grown into a modern city with a population of 6,000 people (J.D. Lewis, n.d.). Once the American Civil War broke out, Columbia was located in the middle of it all and faced a lot of bloodshed and destruction, but continued to grow and rebuild as the state capital in the years to come with a diverse “economy based on government, industry, and agriculture,” (J.D. Lewis, n.d.; Britannica, n.d.). Crops important to the area included cotton, peaches, and tobacco (Britannica, n.d.).

By the turn of the 20th century, Columbia was an important location during World War I. Camp Jackson was established by the federal government “as a basic training facility for the United States Army,” (J.D. Lewis, n.d.). During World War II, Camp Jackson advanced to Fort Jackson, which remains as “our nation's largest Army basic training facility,” (J.D. Lewis, n.d.). Today, Columbia continues to experience steady growth, with a population of 136,632 in Columbia city, and 829,470 people within the Columbia metro area recorded in the 2020 population census (Britannica, n.d.).

Fun facts about Columbia, South Carolina

When learning about history, sometimes it can be easier to recall fun facts than it is to remember the historical timeline of a city. Feel like a pro by learning a few fun facts about Columbia!

  1. The U.S. has dozens of cities, counties, and towns across the country named after Christoper Columbus, though Columbia, South Carolina, was the first city in the U.S. to revere Columbus as a city namesake (Egan, n.d. b).

  1. Columbia’s city streets were built rather widely, with street perimeters measuring between 100 and 150 feet. The city commissioners chose these wide streets in hopes it would help with the mosquitos, as they believed mosquitos couldn't fly distances greater than 60 feet without dying (Madison Homebuilders, n.d.; City of Columbia, n.d.). Although the history of the city’s large roads is comical in hindsight, Columbia’s residents today enjoy the wider streets that were uncommon when constructed.

  1. Much of Columbia’s historical architecture from the 18th and early 19th century no longer stands, as around two-thirds of the city’s buildings were burned during the Civil War in 1865 (Egan, n.d. b).

  1. By the 1900s rolled around, Columbia still had no paved streets. It wasn’t until 1908 that “17 blocks of Main Street were surfaced,” (Stringer et al., 2022; City of Columbia, n.d.). The city held out on paving roads with asphalt though by experimenting with wooden blocks, which ultimately did not fare well with the weather as they dealt with muddy streets and wooden blocks that floated away during heavy rain. Nearly a decade later in 1925, the city finally caved and replaced the wooden blocks with asphalt paving on Washington Street (Stringer et al., 2022; City of Columbia, n.d.).

  1. The city’s namesake derives from Christoper Columbus, who was credited for the discovery of North America in 1492 (J.D. Lewis, n.d.). Although we know this to be untrue today, Columbus was revered for centuries as the first to discover the continent and was revered at the time of Columbia’s founding.

  1. In 1864 the world's first textile mill operated entirely on electricity opened in Columbia, South Carolina. Today, the South Carolina State Museum is located inside the old mill building (Egan, n.d. b).

  1. Continuing with the world's first milestones that occurred in Columbia, South Carolina is “the world’s first recorded hot air balloon flight, which took place in 1784,” (Hooper, 2023). 

  1. Located near Columbia in Congaree National Park are “the tallest trees east of the Mississippi,” (Egan, n.d. b). These trees are known as champion trees, which are trees that have been acknowledged as the largest of their species, and more than two dozen are located in Congaree (Egan, n.d. b).

  1. Also located in Congaree National Park near Columbia are synchronous fireflies, which can only be found in fewer than a dozen places in the world. These fireflies light up at the same time and can be seen in late May to early June (Egan, n.d. b).

Full of southern charm and a rich history to uncover, Columbia is a great place to call home. Ready to make your move to Columbia, South Carolina? Contact Bridge Homes and browse our listings to start your move today!

Looking for more information on where to move or need some tips for moving? Visit our blog for more!


10 Things You Might Not Know About Columbia, SC 

13 Fun Facts About Columbia, SC: How Well Do You Know Your City? 

A Brief History of Columbia 

A History of Columbia, South Carolina 


Columbia, South Carolina: Quick Facts, History & Things To Do 

History and Heritage in South Carolina’s Capital 

Photo by Sebastian Angarita: