Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina
—  State Capital  —
City of Columbia
Skyline of Downtown Columbia


Nickname(s): "The Capital of Southern Hospitality" (official),"Colatown", "The 803", "The City of Dreams"
Motto: Justitia Virtutum Regina (Justice, the Queen of Virtues)
Location in Richland County in the state of South Carolina
Coordinates: 34°00′2″N 81°02′39″W / 34.00056°N 81.04417°W / 34.00056; -81.04417Coordinates: 34°00′2″N 81°02′39″W / 34.00056°N 81.04417°W / 34.00056; -81.04417
Country United States
State South Carolina
Counties Richland County and Lexington County
 - Mayor Steve Benjamin, (D)
 - Total 133.8 sq mi (346.5 km2)
 - Land 131.3 sq mi (340.1 km2)
 - Water 2.5 sq mi (6.4 km2)
Elevation 292 ft (89 m)
Population (2010)
 - Total 129,272 (US: 192nd)
 - Density 928.5/sq mi (358.5/km2)
 - MSA 767,598
 - CSA 805,106
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 29201, 29203, 29204, 29205, 29206, 29209, 29210, 29212, 29223, 29229, 29225
Area code(s) 803
FIPS code 45-16000[1]
GNIS feature ID 1245051[2]

Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. The city is the center of a metropolitan statistical area of 767,598, the largest within the state. The name Columbia was a poetic term for the Americas derived from Christopher Columbus.

Located 13 miles (21 km) northwest of South Carolina's geographic center, Columbia is the primary city of the Midlands region of South Carolina, which comprises several counties in the central portion of the state. The city lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Saluda and the Broad, which merge at Columbia to form the Congaree River. named Columbia as one of America's 25 best places to retire, and US News & World Report ranked the city sixth on its 2009 America's Best Affordable Places to Retire list.



Early history

From the creation of Columbia by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1786, the site of Columbia was important to the overall development of the state. 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 1754 to connect the fort with the growing settlements on the higher ground on the east bank.

Like many other significant early settlements in colonial America, Columbia is on the fall line from the Appalachian Mountains. The fall line is the spot where rivers usually become unnavigable when sailing upstream, and is also the spot farthest downstream where falling water can usefully power a mill.

State Senator John Lewis Gervais of Ninety Six introduced a bill that was approved by the legislature on March 22, 1786, to create a new state capital. There was considerable argument over the name for the new city. -- (talk) 23:06, 19 October 2011 (UTC)According to published accounts, Senator Gervais said he hoped that "in this town we should f-- (talk) 23:06, 19 October 2011 (UTC)ind 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 out by a vote of 11-7 in the state senate.

The Seibels House, c. 1796, is the oldest in Columbia

The site was chosen as the new state capital in 1786, due to its central location in the state. The State Legislature first met there in 1790. After remaining under the direct government of the legislature for the first two decades of its existence, Columbia was incorporated as a village in 1805 and then as a city in 1854. Columbia received a large stimulus to development when it was connected in a direct water route to Charleston, by the Santee Canal. This canal connected the Santee and Cooper Rivers in a 22-mile (35 km) section. It was first chartered in 1786 and completed in 1800, making it one of the earliest canals in the United States. With increased railroad traffic, it ceased operation around 1850.

The commissioners designed a town of 400 blocks in a two-mile (3 km) square along the river. The blocks were divided into lots of 0.5 acres (2,000 m2) and sold to speculators and prospective residents. Buyers had to build a house at least 30 feet (9.1 m) long and 18 feet (5.5 m) wide within three years or face an annual 5% penalty. The perimeter streets and two through streets were 150 feet (46 m) wide. The remaining squares were divided by thoroughfares 100 feet (30 m) wide. The width was determined by the belief that dangerous and pesky mosquitoes could not fly more than 60 feet (18 m) without dying of starvation along the way. Columbians still enjoy most of the magnificent network of wide streets.

The commissioners comprised the local government until 1797 when a Commission of Streets and Markets was created by the General Assembly. Three main issues occupied most of their time: public drunkenness, gambling, and poor sanitation.

As one of the first planned cities in the United States, Columbia began to grow rapidly. Its population was nearing 1,000 shortly after the turn of the century.

Nineteenth century

Ruins, as seen from the State House, 1865

In 1801, South Carolina College (now known as the University of South Carolina) was founded in Columbia. The original building for the College survives to this day, as part of the University of South Carolina. The city was chosen as the site of the institution in part to unite the state's citizens in the Upcountry and the Lowcountry. Additionally, beyond simply uniting the elite youths from the two separate regions, the founding of the College was intended to keep the youths out of England, as South Carolina at the time sent more students to England than any other state. An added incentive to locate the college in Columbia was that, as lots of properties were not selling as fast as intended in Columbia, the original land for the College was set aside. Also, the leaders of South Carolina wished to personally monitor the progress and development of the school. One result of this desire was that, for many years after its founding, commencement exercises were held in December while the state legislature was in session.

Columbia received its first charter as a town in 1805. An intendant and six wardens would govern the town. John Taylor was the first elected intendant. He later served in both houses of the General Assembly, both houses of Congress, and eventually as governor of the state. By 1816, there were 250 homes in the town and a population over 1,000. Columbia became chartered as a city in 1854, with an elected mayor and six aldermen. Two years later, they 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 1850s and 1860s 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 1840s primarily transported cotton bales, not passengers. Cotton was the lifeblood of the Columbia community; in 1850 virtually all of the city's commercial and economic activity was related to cotton.

"In 1830, approximately 1,500 slaves lived and worked in Columbia; this population grew to 3,300 by 1860. 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". [3] During this period, "legislators developed state and local statutes to restrict the movement of urban slaves in hopes of preventing rebellion. Although various decrees established curfews and prohibited slaves from meeting and from learning to read and write, such rulings were difficult to enforce". [4]Indeed, "several prewar accounts note that many Columbia slaves were literate; some slaves even conducted classes to teach others to read and write". As well, "many slaves attended services at local Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches, yet some struggled to obtain membership in these institutions". [5]

Columbia's First Baptist Church hosted the South Carolina Secession Convention on December 17, 1860. The delegates drafted a resolution in favor of secession, 159-0. Columbia's location made it an ideal location for other conventions and meetings within the Confederacy. During the Civil War, bankers, railroad executives, teachers, and theologians often met in the city to discuss certain matters.[vague]

The burning of Columbia during Sherman's occupation, from Harper's Weekly.

On February 17, 1865, during the Civil War, much of Columbia was destroyed by fire while being occupied by Union troops under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. 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 groundskeeper if he could direct them to the church where the declaration of secession was signed. The loyal groundskeeper directed the men to the nearby Washington Street United Methodist church; thus, the historic landmark was saved from destruction by Union soldiers.

Controversy surrounding the burning of the city started soon after the war ended. 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. Still other accounts portray it as mostly the fault of the Confederacy. 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 ex-slaves. The city also made somewhat of a rebound following the devastating fire of 1865; 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.

Twentieth century

The first few years of the 20th century saw Columbia emerge as a regional textile manufacturing center. In 1907, Columbia had six mills in operation: Richland, Granby, Olympia, Capital City, Columbia, and Palmetto. Combined, they employed over 3,400 workers with an annual payroll of $819,000, giving the Midlands an economic boost of over $4.8 million. Columbia had no paved streets until 1908, when 17 blocks of Main Street were surfaced. There were, however, 115 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 1925.

The years 1911 and 1912 were something of a construction boom for Columbia, with $2.5 million worth of construction occurring in the city. These projects included the Union Bank Building at Main and Gervais, the Palmetto National Bank, a shopping arcade, and large hotels at Main and Laurel (the Jefferson) and at Main and Wheat (the Gresham). In 1917, the city was selected as the site of Camp Jackson, a U.S. military installation which was officially classified as a "Field Artillery Replacement Depot." The first recruits arrived at the camp on September 1, 1917.

In 1930, Columbia was the hub of a trading area with approximately 500,000 potential customers. It had 803 retail establishments, 280 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 119, with one third of them dealing in food.

In 1934, the federal courthouse at the corner of Main and Laurel streets was purchased by the city for use as City Hall. Built of granite from nearby Winnsboro, Columbia City Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by Alfred Built Millet, President Ulysses S. Grant's Federal architect, the building was completed in 1876. Millet, best known for his design of the Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., had originally designed the building with a clock tower. 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.

Reactivated Camp Jackson became Fort Jackson in 1940, giving the military installation the permanence desired by city leaders at the time. The fort was annexed into the city in the fall of 1968, with approval from the Pentagon. In the early 1940s, shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor which began America's involvement in World War II, Lt. 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.[6] They trained in B-25 Mitchell bombers, the same model as the plane that now rests at Columbia's Owens Field in the Curtiss-Wright hangar. [7]The area's population continued to grow during the 1950s, having experienced a 40 percent increase from 186,844 to 260,828, with 97,433 people residing within the city limits of Columbia.

The 1940s saw the beginning of efforts to reverse Jim Crow laws and racial discrimination in Columbia. In 1945, 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, 1962, 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 1963; 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 progression helped earn the city the 1964 All-America City Award for the second time (the first being in 1951) and a 1965 article in Newsweek magazine lauded Columbia as a city that had "liberated itself from the plague of doctrinal apartheid."

Historic preservation has played a significant part in shaping Columbia into the city that it is today. The historic Robert Mills House was restored in 1967, which inspired the renovation and restoration of other historic structures such as the Hampton-Preston House and homes associated with President Woodrow Wilson, Maxcy Gregg, Mary Boykin Chesnut, and noted free black Celia Mann. In the early 1970s, 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 1988.

Mayor Kirkman Finlay, Jr., was the driving force behind the refurbishment of Seaboard Park, now known as Finlay Park, in the historic Congaree Vista district, as well as the compilation of the $60 million Palmetto Center package, which gave Columbia an office tower, parking garage, and the Columbia Marriott, which opened in 1983. The year 1980 saw the Columbia metropolitan population reach 410,088 and in 1990 this figure had hit approximately 470,000.

Recent history

A view up the Main Street corridor from the SC Statehouse steps

The 1990s and early 2000s 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 Carolina Center) opened in 2002, and brought several big-named concerts and shows to Columbia. The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center opened in 2004, and a new convention center hotel opened in September 2007. A public-private City Center Partnership has been formed to implement the downtown revitalization and boost downtown growth. Heritage buildings are being renovated and converted into combined retail and residential space. There is also work on renovating the old Nickelodeon Theatre by adding screens and enlarging the seating capacity, which will allow the theater to show more educational films. Heritage work is also being done on the old W.T. Grant store, which has a unique facade and brickwork. There are plans to convert the old Tapp's department store into an art studio.

Geography and climate

Columbia is located at 34°0′2″N 81°2′39″W / 34.00056°N 81.04417°W / 34.00056; -81.04417. One of Columbia's most interesting geographical features is its fall line, which is a boundary between an upland region and a coastal plain across which rivers from the upland region drop to the plain as falls or rapids. Columbia grew up at the fall line of the Congaree River, which is formed by the convergence of the Broad River and the Saluda River. The Congaree was the farthest inland point of river navigation. The energy of falling water also powered Columbia's early mills. The city has capitalized on this location which includes three rivers by christening itself "The Columbia Riverbanks Region". Columbia is located roughly halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Blue Ridge Mountains and sits at an elevation of around 292 ft (89 m).

Soils in Columbia are well drained in most cases, with grayish brown loamy sand topsoil. The subsoil may be yellowish red sandy clay loam (Orangeburg series), yellowish brown sandy clay loam (Norfolk series), or strong brown sandy clay (Marlboro series). All belong to the Ultisol soil order.[8][9][10][11]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 127.7 square miles (331 km2), of which 125.2 square miles (324 km2) is land and 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) is water (1.96%). Approximately 2/3 of Columbia's land area, 81.2 square miles (210 km2), is contained within the Fort Jackson Military Installation, much of which consists of uninhabited training grounds. The actual inhabited area for the city is slightly more than 50 square miles (130 km2).

Columbia has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with mild winters, warm springs and autumns, and very hot and humid summers. The area averages 56 nights below freezing, but extended cold is rare. The city's current promotional slogan describes Columbia as "Famously Hot".[12] Precipitation, at 48.3 inches (1,230 mm) annually, peaks in the summer months, and is the least during spring and fall.[12] Snowfall averages 2.1 inches (5.3 cm), but most years receive no snowfall, as the median seasonal amount is 0.[12] The city, like other cities of the southeast, is prone to inversions, which trap ozone and other pollutants over the area.

Climate data for Columbia, South Carolina (Columbia Airport)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 55.1
Average low °F (°C) 34.0
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.66
Snowfall inches (cm) 0.6
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11 9.1 10 7.7 8.6 10.3 11.5 10.3 8.1 6.4 7.5 9.6 110.1
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 0.4 0.4 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1.1
Sunshine hours 173.6 183.6 238.7 270.0 291.4 279.0 285.2 263.5 240.0 235.6 195.0 173.6 2,829.2
Source: NOAA,[12] HKO[13]

Metropolitan area

The metropolitan statistical area of Columbia has a population estimate of 767,598, according to the 2010 Census.

Columbia is also combined with the Newberry micropolitan area to form the Columbia–Newberry Combined Statistical Area, which has 805,106 people according to the 2010 Census and is the second-largest and fastest-growing CSA in South Carolina.

Columbia's metropolitan counties include:

Columbia's suburbs and environs include:


Law and government

The city of Columbia has a council-manager form of government. The mayor and city council are elected every four years, with no term limits. Elections are held in the spring of even numbered years. Unlike other mayors in council-manager systems, the Columbia mayor has the power to veto ordinances passed by the council; vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of the council. The council appoints a city manager to serve as chief administrative officer. Steve Gantt is the current city manager. The current mayor is Steve Benjamin (D).

The city council consists of six members (four from districts and two at-large). The city council is responsible for making policies and enacting laws, rules, and regulations in order to provide for future community and economic growth, in addition to providing the necessary support for the orderly and efficient operation of city services.


  • Tameika Isaac Devine
  • Daniel J. Rickenmann


  • 1: Sam Davis
  • 2: Brian DeQuincey Newman
  • 3: Belinda Gergel
  • 4: Leona Plaugh

See related article Past mayors of Columbia, South Carolina

The city's police force is the Columbia Police Department. The chief of police answers to the city manager. Presently, the chief of police is Randy Scott.[14]

The South Carolina Department of Corrections, headquartered in Columbia,[15] operates several correctional facilities in Columbia. They include the Broad River Correctional Institution,[16] the Goodman Correctional Institution,[17] the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution,[18] the Stevenson Correctional Institution,[19] and the Campbell Pre-Release Center.[20] Graham houses the state's female death row.[21] The State of South Carolina execution chamber is located at Broad River. From 1990 to 1997, Broad River housed the state's male death row.[22]

Military Installations

Fort Jackson is the U.S. Army's largest training post.

  • McEntire Joint National Guard Station

Under command of the South Carolina Air National Guard.


Colleges and universities

Columbia is home to the main campus of the University of South Carolina, which was chartered in 1801 as South Carolina College and in 1906 as the University of South Carolina. The university has 350 degree programs and enrolls more than 27,500 students throughout 15 degree-granting colleges and schools. It is an urban university, located in downtown Columbia.

The Horseshoe at USC

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has designated the university a research institution of "very high research activity".[23] The school also has a world-renowned international business program, ranking number 1 in the nation for its undergraduate international business program and number 2 for its graduate international business program in the 2006 U.S. News & World Report college and graduate school guides. The University of South Carolina's University 101 program is also frequently cited by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top programs of its kind in the nation. The university is also home to the nation’s first National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells.

As part of a new initiative geared towards making the University of South Carolina a world-class research and technology school, the university is building Innovista, a unique "innovation district" located between the campus' core and the banks of the Congaree River. Innovista's goal is to be a standard-setting environment that draws its vibrancy from integrating public and private sector research and researchers with retail, restaurant, residential, and recreational facilities contained within a contemporary urban landscape.

Columbia is also home to:

  • Allen University - Allen University was founded in 1870 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award baccalaureate degrees.[24]
  • Benedict College - Founded in 1870, Benedict is an independent coeducational college. Benedict is one of the fastest growing of the 39 United Negro College Fund schools. In addition to an increase in enrollment, Benedict has also seen an increase in average SAT scores, Honors College enrollee rates, capital giving dollars, and the number of research grants awarded. Recently, Benedict has been subject to a series of recent controversies, including basing up to 60 percent of grades solely on effort,[25] which have nearly resulted in its losing its accreditation. However, in recent months the college has improved its financial standing and is seeking to boost its enrollment.
  • Columbia College - Founded in 1854, Columbia College is a private, four-year, liberal arts college for women with a coeducational Evening College and Graduate School. The College has been ranked since 1994 by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top ten regional liberal arts colleges in the South.
  • Columbia International University - Columbia International University is a biblically based, private Christian institution committed to "preparing men and women to know Christ and to make Him known."
  • Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary - This institution, founded in 1830, is a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. One of the oldest Lutheran seminaries in North America, Southern is a fully accredited graduate school of theology preparing women and men for the ordained and lay ministries of the church. The wooded 17-acre (69,000 m2) campus is situated atop Seminary Ridge in Columbia, the highest point in the Midlands area, near the geographic center of the city.
  • Midlands Technical College - Midlands Tech is part of the South Carolina Technical College System. It is a two-year, comprehensive, public, community college, offering a wide variety of programs in career education, four-year college-transfer options, and continuing education. Small classes, individualized instruction, and student support services are provided. Most of the college's teaching faculty holds master's or doctoral degrees.
  • Fortis College[26] - Fortis College is part of the Educational Affiliates Inc, and offers many different career-based degrees.
  • Remington College - Remington College opened in March 2009 and started its first class of diploma-seeking students on May 26, 2009.[27]
  • South Carolina School of Leadership - Established in 2006, South Carolina School of Leadership (SCSL) is a post-secondary "gap year" school with an intense focus on Christian discipleship and leadership development.[28] SCSL uses curriculum from Valley Forge Christian College.

Columbia is also the site of several extension campuses, including those for Erskine Theological Seminary, South University, and the University of Phoenix.

Private schools

Public schools

Health Systems

The Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine (CSA) Health System. The non-profit organization is licensed for 304 beds and comprises four entities: Providence Hospital, Providence Heart Institute, Providence Hospital Northeast, and Providence Orthopaedic & NeuroSpine Institute. Providence Hospital, located in downtown Columbia, was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine in 1938. The facility offers cardiac care through Providence Heart Institute, which is considered a quality cardiac center in South Carolina. Providence Hospital Northeast is a 46-bed community hospital established in 1999 that offers a range of medical services in surgery, emergency care, women's and children's services, and rehabilitation. Providence Northeast is home to Providence Orthopaedic & NeuroSpine Institute, which provides medical and surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of the bones, joints, and spine.

Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital

Palmetto Health is a South Carolina nonprofit public benefit corporation consisting of Palmetto Health Richland and Palmetto Health Baptist hospitals in Columbia. Palmetto Health provides health care for nearly 70 percent of the residents of Richland County and almost 55 percent of the health care for both Richland and Lexington counties. Palmetto Health Baptist recently underwent a $40 million multi-phase modernization which included 37,000 square feet (3,400 m2) of new construction and 81,000 square feet (7,500 m2) of renovations. The extensive health system also operates Palmetto Health Children's Hospital and Palmetto Health Heart Hospital, the state's first freestanding hospital dedicated solely to heart care, which opened in January 2006. The Palmetto Health South Carolina Cancer Center offers patient services at the Palmetto Health Baptist and Palmetto Health Richland campuses; both are recognized by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer as a Network Cancer Program.

Lexington Medical Center is a network of hospitals—urgent care centers that are all located throughout Lexington County, South Carolina. There are currently six urgent care centers located in Lexington, Irmo, Batesburg-Leesville, Swansea, and Gilbert. The main hospital is in West Columbia. LMC opened in 1971 but quickly grew into a large center that has been growing every year since its opening. Currently, the main center offers an array of services from emergency treatments to the upcoming heart center.

The Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center is a 216-bed facility, encompassing acute medical, surgical, psychiatric, and long-term care. The hospital provides primary, secondary, and some tertiary care. An affiliation is held with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, located on the hospital grounds. A sharing agreement is in place with Moncrief Army Community Hospital at Fort Jackson and the 20th Medical Group at Shaw AFB in Sumter.


Mass transit

The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (CMRTA), is the agency responsible for operating mass transit in the greater Columbia area including Cayce, West Columbia, Forest Acres, Arcadia Lakes, Springdale, and the St. Andrews area. CMRTA operates express shuttles, as well as bus service serving Columbia and its immediate suburbs. The authority was established in October 2002 after SCANA released ownership of public transportation back to the City of Columbia. Since 2003, CMRTA provides transportation for more than 2 million passengers, has expanded route services, and introduced 43 new ADA accessible buses offering a safer, more comfortable means of transportation. CMRTA has also added 10 natural gas powered buses to the fleet.

The Central Midlands Council of Governments is in the process of investigating the potential for rail transit in the region. Routes into downtown Columbia originating from Camden, Newberry, and Batesburg-Leesville are in consideration, as is a potential line between Columbia and Charlotte connecting the two mainlines of the future Southeastern High Speed Rail Corridor.[29]

Roads and Highways

Columbia's central location between the population centers of South Carolina has made it a transportation focal point with three interstate highways and one interstate spur.


  • I-26 (SC).svg I-26 Interstate 26 travels from northwest to southeast and connects Columbia to the other two major population centers of South Carolina: the Greenville-Spartanburg area in the northwestern part of the state and North Charleston - Charleston area in the southeastern part of the state. It also serves the nearby towns and suburbs of Chapin, Irmo, Harbison, Gaston, and Swansea.
  • I-20 (SC).svg I-20 Interstate 20 travels from west to east and connects Columbia to Atlanta and Augusta in the west and Florence in the east. It serves the nearby towns and suburbs of Pelion, Lexington, West Columbia, Sandhill, Pontiac, and Elgin. Interstate 20 is also used by travelers heading to Myrtle Beach, although the interstate's eastern terminus is in Florence.
  • I-77 (SC).svg I-77 Interstate 77 begins at a junction with Interstate 26 south of Columbia and travels north to Rock Hill and Charlotte. This interstate also provides direct access to Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army's largest training base and one of Columbia's largest employers. It serves the nearby towns and suburbs of Forest Acres, Gadsden, and Blythewood.
  • I-126 (SC).svg I-126 Interstate 126 begins downtown at Elmwood Avenue and travels west towards Interstate 26 and Interstate 20. It provides access to Riverbanks Zoo.

US Routes

South Carolina State Highways

  • South Carolina 12.svg SC 12
  • South Carolina 16.svg SC 16
  • South Carolina 48.svg SC 48
  • South Carolina 215.svg SC 215
  • South Carolina 262.svg SC 262
  • South Carolina 277.svg SC 277
  • South Carolina 555.svg SC 555
  • South Carolina 760.svg SC 760
  • South Carolina 768.svg SC 768


The city and its surroundings are served by Columbia Metropolitan Airport (IATA:CAE; ICAO:KCAE). The airport itself is serviced by American Eagle, Continental Express, Delta, United Express, and US Airways Express airlines. In addition, the city is also served by the much smaller Owens Field located in the Rosewood neighborhood. It serves as the county airport for Richland County and offers general aviation.

Intercity rail

The city is served daily by Amtrak station, with the Silver Star trains connecting Columbia with New York City, Washington, DC, Savannah, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. The Amtrak station is located at 850 Pulaski St.

Intercity bus

Greyhound Lines operates a station on Gervais Street, in the eastern part of downtown, providing Columbia with intercity bus transportation.

Downtown revitalization

Lady Street in the historic Congaree Vista district downtown

The city of Columbia has recently accomplished a number of redevelopment projects and has several more planned.[30] The historic Congaree Vista, a 1,200-acre (5 km2) district running from the central business district toward the Congaree river, features a number of historic buildings that have been rehabilitated. Of note is the adaptive reuse of the Confederate Printing Plant on Gervais and Huger, used to print Confederate bills during the American Civil War. The city cooperated with Publix grocery stores to preserve the look. This won Columbia an award from the International Downtown Association.[31] The Vista district is also where a new convention center Hilton and a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse recently debuted. Other notable developments under construction and recently completed include high-end condos and townhomes, hotels, mixed-use structures, and the establishment of a retail corridor along Lady Street.

A downtown lightpost banner heralds Columbia's "New Main Street" as part of an effort to reinfuse life and vitality into Main Street.

The older buildings lining the Vista's main drag, Gervais, now house art galleries, restaurants, unique shops, and professional office space. Near the end of Gervais is the South Carolina State Museum and the EdVenture Children's Museum. Private student housing and some residential projects are going up nearby; the CanalSide development[32] at the site of the old Central Correctional Institution, is the most high profile. At full build-out, the development will have 750 residential units and provides access to Columbia's waterfront. Lady Street between Huger and Assembly streets in the Vista and the Five Points neighborhood have undergone beautification projects, which mainly consisted of replacing curbs and gutters, and adding brick-paved sidewalks and angled parking.

Special revitalization efforts are being aimed at Main Street, which began seeing an exodus of department and specialty stores in the 1990s. The goal is to re-establish Main Street as a vibrant commercial and residential corridor, and the stretch of Main Street home to most businesses—from Gervais to Blanding streets—have been streetscaped in recent years. Notable developments recently completed along Main Street include an 18-story, $60 million tower at the high-profile corner of Main and Gervais streets and the renovation of the 1441 Main Street office building as the new Midlands headquarters for Wells Fargo Bank (formerly Wachovia Bank). Current developments include a new sanctuary for the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the relocation of the Nickelodeon theater, and the location of Mast General store in the historic Efird's building.

The Meridian building, a 17-story, $62 million office tower, was completed in 2004 and First Citizens Bank completed a $40 million, 170,000-square-foot (16,000 m2), nine-story headquarters tower at the corner of Main and Lady streets in 2006. The historic Palmetto Building, at the corner of Main and Washington streets, underwent renovations and re-opened its doors in July 2008 as a boutique, Sheraton Hotel, and directly across from it, the historic Republic National Bank Building on Washington Street was turned into meeting and banquet space for the Sheraton. On September 25, 2007, a new fountain and sculpture, located in Boyd Plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art[33] at the corner of Main and Hampton streets downtown, was dedicated. The 25-foot (7.6 m) tall piece, entitled "Apollo's Cascade", was designed by famed sculptor Rodney Carroll and was commissioned using a leadership gift from the Colliers Keenan Real Estate Firm.


Columbia enjoys a diversified economy, with the major employers in the area being South Carolina state government, the Palmetto Health hospital system, Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC, Palmetto GBA, and the University of South Carolina. The corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 energy company, SCANA, are located in the Columbia suburb of Cayce. Other major employers in the Columbia area include Fort Jackson, the U.S. Army's largest and most active initial entry training installation,[34] Richland School District One, Humana/TriCare, and the United Parcel Service, which operates its Southeastern Regional Hub at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Major manufacturers such as Square D, CMC Steel, Spirax Sarco, Michelin, International Paper, Pirelli Cables, Honeywell, Westinghouse Electric, Harsco Track Tech, Trane, Intertape Polymer Group, Union Switch & Signal, Solectron, and Bose Corporation Technology have facilities in the Columbia area. There are over 70 foreign affiliated companies and fourteen Fortune 500 companies in the region. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the Columbia metropolitan statistical area as of 2008 was $30.08 billion, the highest among MSAs in the state.[35]

First Citizens Bank headquarters at the corner of Main and Lady streets

Several companies have their global, continental, or national headquarters in Columbia, including Colonial Supplemental Insurance, the second-largest supplemental insurance company in the nation; the Ritedose Corporation, which provides a wide range of services to the pharmaceutical industry; AgFirst Farm Credit Bank, the largest bank headquartered in the state with over $30 billion in assets (the non-commercial bank is part of the Farm Credit System, the largest agricultural lending organization in the United States which was established by Congress in 1916); First Citizens bank, the largest state-based commercial bank; Nexsen Pruet, LLC, a multi-specialty business law firm in the Carolinas; Spectrum Medical, an international medical software company; Wilbur Smith Associates, a full-service transportation and infrastructure consulting firm; and Nelson Mullins, a major national law firm.

Many reputable publications and institutes recognize the strength and potential of the city's economy. In Forbes 2009 "Best Places for Business and Careers" list, Columbia ranked 34th overall among the 200 large metropolitan areas ranked.[36] A 2010 study of the best places for small businesses by ranked Columbia 12th of the nation's 100 largest metro areas.[37] BusinessWeek ranked Columbia 14th on its 2010 "Forty Strongest U.S. Metro Economies" list.[38] Columbia also ranked 14th in BusinessWeek magazine's 2009 list of the 40 strongest metro economies in the nation. Bizjournals ranked Columbia 25th of 105 medium-sized labor markets for young adult job seekers[39] and 15th of 77 metropolitan areas in its "Jewels of the Sunbelt" ranking, which ranks cities according to "blend of comfortable lifestyle and warm weather".[40] POLICOM, a company that specializes in studying the dynamics of local economies, placed the Columbia metropolitan region in the top 25th percentile among the 366 U.S. Census Bureau-designated metropolitan statistical areas nationwide (and first among metropolitan areas in the state) in its 2009 economic strength rankings.

People and culture


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1830 3,310
1840 4,340 31.1%
1850 6,060 39.6%
1860 8,052 32.9%
1870 9,298 15.5%
1880 10,036 7.9%
1890 15,353 53.0%
1900 21,108 37.5%
1910 26,319 24.7%
1920 37,524 42.6%
1930 51,581 37.5%
1940 62,396 21.0%
1950 86,914 39.3%
1960 97,433 12.1%
1970 112,542 15.5%
1980 101,208 −10.1%
1990 98,052 −3.1%
2000 116,278 18.6%
2010 129,272 11.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010,[1] there were 129,272 people, 52,471 total households, and 22,638 families residing in the city. The population density was 928.6 people per square mile (358.5/km²). There were 46,142 housing units at an average density of 368.5 per square mile (142.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 51.07% White, 42.20% Black, 2.20% Asian, 0.25% Native American, 0.30% Pacific Islander, 1.50% from other races, and 2.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.30% of the population.

There were 45,666 households out of which 22.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.7% were married couples living together, 17.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 50.4% were nonfamilies. 38.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 22.9% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 96.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,141, and the median income for a family was $39,589. Males had a median income of $30,925 versus $24,679 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,853. About 17.0% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.7% of those under the age of 18 and 16.9% ages 65 or older.


Like most of the Southern United States which is included in the Bible Belt, Columbia's population is largely dominated by members of Protestant denominations, the largest being the Southern Baptists, followed by Methodists. The rest of the population is distributed among other Protestant denominations as well as the Roman Catholic Church. There is a significant Episcopalian population in Columbia, including Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Trinity Episcopal, as the see city of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. The Greek Orthodox Church holds a large Greek Festival annually in September. There is a temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). There are three synagogues in Columbia, Beth Shalom (Conservative), Tree of Life Congregation (Reform), and the Chabad Learning Shul(Orthodox), which are located within a few hundred yards of each other. There are also five mosques in the city. There is also one Hindu Temple in Columbia.

Famous natives and residents

Among the famous people and groups connected to Columbia are:


Elmwood Park neighborhood


Major regional shopping centers in the Columbia area include Columbiana Centre and the Village at Sandhill, along with a handful of other smaller shopping centers in the region.

The Five Points neighborhood, home to many locally owned businesses, is known as Columbia's eclectic village shopping area. The Devine Street corridor offers a variety of specialty shopping, including art and antiques, eclectic home furnishings, and men's, women's, and children's clothing. The historic Congaree Vista district downtown provides shoppers with a collection of shops filled with antiques, oriental rugs, jewelry, original artwork, hand-made furniture, and collectibles.


Columbia's daily newspaper is The State and its alternative newspapers include The Free Times, The Columbia Star, Columbia City Paper, and the SC Black News. Columbia Metropolitan Magazine is a bi-monthly publication about news and events in the metropolitan area. Greater Columbia Business Monthly highlights economic development, business, education, and the arts. Q-Notes, a bi-weekly newspaper serving the LGBT community and published in Charlotte, is distributed to locations in Columbia and via home delivery. Columbia is home to the headquarters and production facilities of South Carolina Educational Television and ETV Radio, the state's public television and public radio networks. Columbia is the 3rd largest TV market in South Carolina as ranked by number of households in the viewing area. The local radio stations are:

Cultural and literary arts

Columbia Museum of Art
  • Town Theatre is the country's oldest community theatre in continuous use. Located a block from the University of South Carolina campus, its playhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1917, the theatre has produced plays and musicals of wide general appeal.
  • Trustus Theatre is Columbia's professional theatre company. Founded more than 20 years ago, Trustus brought a new dimension to theatre in South Carolina's capital city. Patrons have the opportunity to watch new shows directly from the stages of New York as well as classic shows rarely seen in Columbia.
  • The Nickelodeon Theatre is a small 77-seat store front theater located on the corner of Main and Pendleton Streets, adjacent to the campus of the University of South Carolina. In operation since 1979, "the Nick", run by the Columbia Film Society, is home to two film screenings each evening and an additional matinee three days a week. The Nick is the only non-profit art house film theater in South Carolina and is the home for 25,000 filmgoers each year.
  • Columbia Marionette Theatre has the distinction of being the only free standing theatre in the nation devoted entirely to marionette arts.
  • The South Carolina Shakespeare Company performs the plays of Shakespeare and other classical works throughout the state.
  • Workshop Theatre of South Carolina opened in 1967 as a place where area directors could practice their craft. The theatre produces musicals and Broadway fare and also brings new theatrical material to Columbia.
  • The Imperfect Theater Company is Columbia's newest, having made its debut in the capital city in July 2006 with the play, "Some Americans Abroad." The group's goal is to perform intimate theater productions of "imperfect but thought-provoking play-scripts."
  • The South Carolina State Museum is a comprehensive museum with exhibits in science, technology, history, and the arts. It is the state's largest museum and one of the largest museums in the Southeast.
  • The Columbia Museum of Art features changing exhibits throughout the year. Located at the corner of Hampton and Main Streets, the museum offers art, lectures, films, and guided tours.
  • EdVenture is one of the South's largest children's museums and the second largest in South Carolina. It is located next to the South Carolina State Museum on Gervais Street. The museum allows children to explore and learn while having fun.
  • McKissick Museum is located on the University of South Carolina campus. The museum features changing exhibitions of art, science, regional history, and folk art.
  • The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum showcases an artifact collection from the Colonial period to the space age. The museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts from the South Carolina confederate period.
  • The Richland County Public Library, named the 2001 National Library of the Year, serves area citizens through its main library and nine branches. The 242,000-square-foot (22,500 m2) main library has a large book collection, provides reference services, utilizes the latest technology, houses a children's collection, and displays artwork.
  • The South Carolina State Library provides library services to all citizens of South Carolina through the interlibrary loan service utilized by the public libraries located in each county.
  • The Columbia City Ballet is Columbia's ballet company, offering more than 80 major performances annually. Artistic director William Starrett, formerly of the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, runs the company. The Columbia City Ballet's goal is "to offer South Carolina and Southeastern audiences the highest quality ballet and to provide dancers with only the best professional dance training."[41]
  • The South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra is Columbia's resident orchestra. The Philharmonic produces a full season of orchestral performances each year. Renowned musicians come to Columbia to perform as guest artists with the orchestra.[42] In April 2008 Morihiko Nakahara was named the new Music Director of the Philharmonic.
  • The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company was formed in 1990 by artistic director Dale Lam and had the great honor of being named one of the "Top 50 Dance Companies in the USA" by Dance Spirit magazine. Columbia City Jazz specializes in modern, lyrical, and percussive jazz dance styles and has performed locally, regionally, and nationally in exhibitions, competitions, community functions, and international tours in Singapore, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and Austria.[43]
  • The Columbia Choral Society has been performing throughout the community since 1930. Under the direction of Dr. William Carswell, the group strives to stimulate and broaden interest in musical activities and to actively engage in the rehearsal and rendition of choral music.

Parks and outdoor recreational opportunities

Finlay Park

The region's most popular park, Finlay Park has hosted just about everything from festivals and political rallies to road races and Easter Sunrise services.

This 18-acre (73,000 m2) park has had two lives; first dedicated in 1859 as Sidney Park, named in honor of Algernon Sidney Johnson, a Columbia City Councilman, the park experienced an illustrious but short tenure. The park fell into disrepair after the Civil War and served as a site for commercial ventures until the late 20th century. In 1990, the park was reopened. It serves as the site for such events as Kids Day, The Summer Concert Series, plus many more activities. In 1992, the park was renamed Finlay Park, in honor of Kirkman Finlay, a past mayor of Columbia who had a vision to reenergize the historic Congaree Vista district, between Main Street and the river, and recreate the site that was formerly known as Sidney Park.

Memorial Park

Memorial Park is a 4-acre (16,000 m2) tract of land in the Congaree Vista between Main Street and the river. The property is bordered by Hampton, Gadsden, Washington, and Wayne Streets and is one block south of Finlay Park. This park was created to serve as a memorial to those who served their country and presently has monuments honoring the USS Columbia warship and those that served with her during World War II, the China-Burma-India Theater Veterans of WWII, casualties of the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 who were from South Carolina, Holocaust survivors who live in South Carolina as well as concentration camp liberators from South Carolina, and the State Vietnam War Veterans. The park was dedicated in November 1986 along with the unveiling of the South Carolina Vietnam Monument. In June 2000, the Korean War Memorial was dedicated at Memorial Park.

Granby Park opened in November 1998 as a gateway to the rivers of Columbia, adding another access to the many river activities available to residents. Granby is part of the Three Rivers Greenway, a system of green spaces along the banks of the rivers in Columbia, adding another piece to the long-range plan and eventually connecting to the existing Riverfront Park. Granby is a 24-acre (97,000 m2) linear park with canoe access points, fishing spots, bridges, and 1/2 mile of nature trail along the banks of the Congaree River.

In the Five Points district of downtown Columbia is the park dedicated to the legacy and memory of the most celebrated civil rights leader in America, Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Formerly known as Valley Park, it was historically known to be largely restricted to Whites. Renaming the park after Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 1980s was seen as a progressive and unifying event on behalf of the city, civic groups, and local citizens. The park features a beautiful water sculpture and a community center. An integral element of the park is the Stone of Hope monument, unveiled in January 1996. Upon the monument is inscribed a portion of King's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: "History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued that self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solutions of the problems of the world."

One of Columbia's greatest assets is Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Riverbanks Zoo is a sanctuary for more than 2,000 animals housed in natural habitat exhibits along the Saluda River. Just across the river, the 70-acre (280,000 m2) botanical garden is devoted to gardens, woodlands, plant collections, and historic ruins. Riverbanks has been named one of America's best zoos[44] and the #1 travel attraction in the Southeast.[45] It attracted over one million visitors in 2009.[46]

Situated along the meandering Congaree River in central South Carolina, Congaree National Park is home to champion trees, primeval forest landscapes, and diverse plant and animal life. This 22,200-acre (90 km2) park protects the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States. The park is an international biosphere reserve. Known for its giant hardwoods and towering pines, the park’s floodplain forest includes one of the highest canopies in the world and some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States. Congaree National Park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a place to walk and relax in a tranquil wilderness setting.

Sesquicentennial State Park is a 1,419-acre (6 km2) park, featuring a beautiful 30-acre (120,000 m2) lake surrounded by trails and picnic areas. The park's proximity to downtown Columbia and three major interstate highways attracts both local residents and travelers. Sesquicentennial is often the site of family reunions and group campouts. Interpretive nature programs are a major attraction to the park. The park also contains a two-story log house, dating back to the mid 18th century, which was relocated to the park in 1969. This house is believed to be the oldest building still standing in Richland County. The park was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Evidence of their craftsmanship is still present today.

In November 1996, the River Alliance proposed that a 12-mile (19 km) linear park system be created to link people to their rivers. This was named the Three Rivers Greenway, and the $18 million estimated cost was agreed to by member governments (the cities of Cayce, Columbia, and West Columbia) with the proviso that the Alliance recommend an acceptable funding strategy.

While the funding process was underway, an existing city of Columbia site located on the Congaree River offered an opportunity to be a pilot project for the Three Rivers Greenway. The Alliance was asked to design and permit for construction by a general contractor this component. This approximately one-half mile segment of the system was opened in November 1998. It is complete with 8-foot (2.4 m) wide concrete pathways, vandal-proof lighting, trash receptacles, water fountains, picnic benches, overlooks, bank fishing access, canoe/kayak access, a public restroom and parking. These set the standards for the common elements in the rest of the system. Eventually, pathways will run from Granby to the Riverbanks Zoo. Boaters, sportspeople, and fisherpeople will have access to the area, and additional recreational uses are being planned along the miles of riverfront.

Esplanade at Columbia Canal

Running beside the historic Columbia Canal, Riverfront Park hosts a two and a half mile trail. Spanning the canal is an old railway bridge that now is a pedestrian walkway. The park is popular for walking, running, bicycling, and fishing. Picnic tables and benches dot the walking trail. Markers are located along the trail so that visitors can measure distance. The park is part of the Palmetto Trail, a hiking and biking trail that stretches the entire length of the state, from Greenville to Charleston.

Other parks in the Columbia area include, among others:

Festivals and annual events

  • The South Carolina State Fair is held annually in Columbia in the month of October. Rides, food, and games attract local and widespread attendants. Exhibits featuring art, crafts, flowers, and livestock cover the fairgrounds.
  • The St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Five Points is a Columbia favorite. Held each March, this event features live bands, arts and crafts, and food.
  • Riverfest Celebration is an annual festival held in early spring. The celebration includes a 5K River Run, musical entertainment, arts and crafts, and food vendors.
  • Earth Day at Finlay Park is held each spring. This event brings together environmental booths and vendors as well as traditional festival favorites.
  • South Carolina Gay & Lesbian Pride is held in September. "SC Pride" is held to celebrate the state's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered community and educate the general public regarding the GLBT community and the need for basic civil rights. SC Pride is a weeklong event that includes a film festival, pride pageant, and banquet leading up to the Pride Parade and Festival.
  • Artista Vista has grown from a minor studio showcase in the early 1990s into a draw for artists and collectors alike. While local artists make up the lion's share of the exhibits, Artista Vista has presented works from as far afield as Japan, Romania, and Poland.
  • Viva La Vista is a food festival in the heart of the Congaree Vista in downtown Columbia. Covering nearly four city blocks, the festival spans Lincoln Street from Lady to Senate and parts of Gervais Street. The event celebrates the fall with live music, beverages, and a taste of the Vista’s most popular restaurants.
  • The Greek Festival is held annually in September at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Downtown Columbia. Traditional Greek dances, ceremonies, music, theatre, food, and beverages are all part of this four-day festival.
  • The Irmo Okra Strut is a two-day festival held during the last weekend in September. The festival features a street dance, 10 K road race, golf tournament, arts and crafts, rides, food, and South Carolina’s largest festival parade.
  • FamilyFest, formerly known as GospelFest, is a one-day open air concert held in Finlay Park in late spring (usually late May or early June). Attracting tens of thousands of attendees, the concert is sponsored by local Gospel music radio station WFMV and features local and nationally known Gospel artists.
  • Eau Claire Renaissance Faire has become the signature event for the North Columbia neighborhood of Eau Claire since its establishment in 1998. Events during the festival include the Renaissance Parade and an outdoor concert.
  • Main Street Jazz brings several renowned jazz performers to Columbia each spring.
  • Vista Lights is held each year in mid-November. Open house walking tours and receptions, entertainment by local musicians, and carriage rides through Columbia’s antique district are all highlights of this festival.
  • Jubilee: Festival of Heritage is a one-day event held at the historic Mann-Sims Cottage to recognize African-American heritage. The festival includes arts and crafts, storytelling, and music and dance performances.
  • Urban Tour, founded in 2007, is a one-day free event held on Main Street designed to help the corridor sustain activity after business hours. The self-guided walking tour includes live entertainment such as street performers and musicians, local artists, a glimpse into downtown living, and stories behind some of Main Street's historic buildings.
  • The Southeastern Piano Festival features aspiring young pianists from throughout the country and around the world who perform in recitals and compete in an international competition.
  • The Finlay Park Summer Concert Series is a series of free concerts during the summer in Finlay Park that features performances by artists across a variety of musical genres.


Club Sport Founded League Venue
Columbia Inferno Ice hockey 2001 ECHL To be determined*
Columbia Blowfish Baseball 2005 Coastal Plain League Capital City Stadium
Columbia Olde Grey Rugby Union 1967 USA Rugby Patton Stadium

* Note concerning the Columbia Inferno: the team voluntarily suspended operations for the 2008-2009, 2009–2010, and 2010-2011 seasons while it continues to try to build a privately financed arena. The team previously played at the Carolina Coliseum.[47]

In addition to sports programs at the University of South Carolina, Columbia has also hosted the women's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 1996 and 2000[48] and the 2007 Junior Wildwater World Championships, which featured many European canoe and kayak racers.[49] The Colonial Life Arena has also hosted NBA exhibition games.[50]


Colonial Life Arena

Colonial Life Arena, which opened in 2002, is Columbia's premiere arena and entertainment facility. Seating 18,000 for college basketball, it is the largest arena in the state of South Carolina and the tenth largest on-campus basketball facility in the nation, serving as the home of the men's and women's USC Gamecocks basketball teams. Located on the University of South Carolina campus, this facility features 41 suites, four entertainment suites, and the Frank McGuire Club, a full-service hospitality room with a capacity of 300. The facility has padded seating, a technologically advanced sound system, and a four-sided video scoreboard.[51]

Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, which opened in September 2004 as South Carolina's only downtown convention center,[52] is a 142,500-square-foot (13,240 m2), modern, state-of-the-art facility designed to host a variety of meetings and conventions. Located in the historic Congaree Vista district, this facility is close to restaurants, antique and specialty shops, art galleries, and various popular nightlife venues. The main exhibit hall contains almost 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) of space; the Columbia Ballroom over 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2); and the five meeting rooms ranging in size from 1500 to 4,000 square feet (400 m2) add another 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) of space. The facility is located next to the Colonial Life Arena.

Williams-Brice Stadium is the home of the USC Gamecocks' football team and is one of the largest college football stadiums in the nation.[53] It seats 80,250 people and is located just south of downtown Columbia. The stadium was built in 1934 with the help of federal Works Progress Administration funds, and initially seated 17,600. The original name was Carolina Stadium, but on September 9, 1972, it was renamed to honor the Williams and Brice families. Mrs. Martha Williams-Brice had left much of her estate to the university for stadium renovations and expansions. Her late husband, Thomas H. Brice, played football for the university from 1922 to 1924.

The Koger Center for the Arts provides Columbia with theatre, music, and dance performances that range from local acts to global acts.[54] The facility seats 2,256 persons. The center is named for philanthropists Ira and Nancy Koger, who made a substantial donation from personal and corporate funds for construction of the $15 million center. The first performance at the Koger Center was given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and took place on Saturday, January 14, 1989. The facility is known for hosting diverse events, from the State of the State Address to the South Carolina Body Building Championship and the South Carolina Science Fair.

The Carolina Coliseum facing Assembly St.

The Carolina Coliseum, which opened in 1968, used to be a 12,400-seat facility which initially served as the home of the USC Gamecocks' basketball teams. The arena could be easily adapted to serve other entertainment purposes, including concerts, car shows, circuses, ice shows, and other popular events. The versatility and quality of the Coliseum at one time allowed the University to use the facility for performing arts events such as the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony, Feld Ballet, and other performances by important artists. An acoustical shell and a state-of-the-art lighting system assisted the Coliseum in presenting such activities. The Coliseum was the home of the Columbia Inferno, an ECHL team. However, since the construction of the Colonial Life Arena in 2002, the Coliseum is no longer used for basketball and has been converted into classroom space and now serves as the home to the School of Journalism as well as the School for Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management.

The Township Auditorium seats 3,200 persons and is located in downtown Columbia. The Georgian Revival building was designed by the Columbia architectural firm of Lafaye and Lafaye and constructed in 1930. The Township has hosted thousands of events from concerts to conventions to wrestling matches. The auditorium was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 2005, and has recently undergone a $12 million extensive interior and exterior renovation.[55]

The $13 million Charlie W. Johnson Stadium is the home of Benedict College football and soccer. The structure was completed and dedicated in 2006 and seats 11,000 with a maximum capacity of 16,000.

Carolina Stadium opened in February 2009. Seating 8,400 permanently for college baseball and an additional 1,000 for standing room only, it is the largest baseball stadium in the state of South Carolina and serves as the home of the USC Gamecocks' baseball team. Located near the Granby Park in downtown Columbia, this facility features four entertainment suites, a picnic terrace down the left field line, and a dining deck that will hold approximately 120 fans. The state-of-the-art facility also features a technologically advanced sound system and a 47 feet (14 m) high x 44 feet (13 m) wide scoreboard.[56] The video portion is 16 feet (4.9 m) high x 28 feet (8.5 m) wide.


Columbia was recently one of 30 communities named "America's Most Livable Communities". The award was given by the Washington-based non-profit Partners for Livable Communities and honors communities that are developing themselves in the creative economy. Columbia has also been named a top midsized market for relocating families in the nation.[57]

Sister cities

Currently, the city of Columbia has four sister cities:

See also

Columbia, SC sports teams:


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  39. ^ "bizjournals: Rank of medium metros for young adult job seekers". [dead link]
  40. ^ "bizjournals: Which city is the jewel of the Sunbelt? -". [dead link]
  41. ^ Columbia City Ballet // Company. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  42. ^ History | South Carolina Philharmonic. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  43. ^ The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  44. ^ Archives - America's Best Zoos. Metro Spirit. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  45. ^ Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2002, County of Lexington, South Carolina
  46. ^ Holleman, Joey. (2010-01-16) Zoo attracts more than a million visitors in '09 - Local / Metro. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  47. ^ [2]. Retrieved on 2010-10-12.
  48. ^ Macinnis, Roberta. (2010-03-02) Marathoners making a run for 2012 Games to start here | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  49. ^ Kayaking competition begins in Columbia - Building Our City: Quality of Life. (2007-10-08). Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  50. ^ BOBCATS: recap_pacers_061024. (2006-10-24). Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  51. ^ Welcome to The Colonial Life Arena: About : General Information. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  52. ^ Columbia Convention Center
  53. ^ List of American football stadiums by capacity
  54. ^ History of the Koger Center. (1989-01-14). Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  55. ^ Taylor, Otis R.. (2010-06-06) The Township auditorium's $12 million facelift - Life & Style. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  56. ^ Carolina Gamecocks Baseball
  57. ^ Worldwide ERC® and Primacy Relocation, 2007

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