Once in a lifetime

Columbia’s House Museums Offer Christmas Tours

 by Kim Roberts 

 Three of downtown Columbia, South Carolina’s historic house museums are decked out for the holiday season.  Visitors may take guided Christmas tours of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, the Robert Mills House, and Mann-Simons Cottage.  Each historic property has been beautifully decorated for Christmas celebrations in the 19th or early 20th centuries.

The Hampton-Preston Mansion, built in 1818 and listed on the National Registered of Historic Places, is one of Columbia’s oldest remaining houses.  It was the home of two wealthy Columbia families during the first half of the 19th century.  During the Civil War the home served as a Union Army Headquarters.  It was later used by several educational institutions including Chicora College and Columbia Bible College.  The home has been restored and is furnished with period pieces, some belonging to the original families.  Four acres of gardens have also been restored.  The Hampton –Preston Mansion is located at 1615 Blanding Street.

The Robert Mills House is an elegantly restored 1823 residence at 1616 Blanding Street.  It was one of the only private homes designed by Mills, the first native born professional architect.  He was widely known for designing public buildings, including the Washington Monument.  The building was converted to a Presbyterian seminary in the 1830s.  President Woodrow Wilson’s father, a Presbyterian minister, taught at the school.  The facility was later used by Columbia Bible College.  The Robert Mills House is furnished with early 19th century English, French, and American decorative arts.  The home is a National Historic Landmark.

The Mann-Simons Cottage, located at 1403 Richland Street, is a unique historical property.  The land was owned by former slaves and once contained several cottages and commercial buildings.  The 1850s era cottage is the only remaining building on the property.  Descendants of the original family owned the property until 1970 and operated a number of small businesses, including a grocery store.  The Mann-Simons Cottage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today the three properties are owned by the Historic Columbia Foundation.  The homes may be visited year round, but are specially decorated for Christmas tours through January 2, 2012.  Hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-4pm and Sundays from 1-5pm.  The homes are closed on Mondays, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.  The last tour begins one hour before closing time.  Tour tickets may be purchased at the Robert Mills Museum Shop.  Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3 for ages 6-17.  Take a holiday tour this season and experience Christmas from a bygone era. 

Kim Roberts is the Director of Sales for Hilton Garden Inn Columbia/Northeast. A top choice among other hotels in Columbia SC, this newly opened property is located just off I-77 at exit 11 near the Northeast business district and is conveniently situated just 15 miles from downtown Columbia.       

For more information visit: http://www.ColumbiaSouthCarolinaHotel.com