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Historic Columbia Receives 2014 SC Historic Preservation Honor Award

Governor Nikki Haley presented Historic Columbia, Richland County and John Milner Associates with the 2014 Historic Preservation Honor Award during the 2014 Historic Preservation Awards ceremony at the South Carolina Statehouse on Wednesday, June 11.

The S.C. Historic Preservation Awards, sponsored by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, the S.C. Department of Archives & History and the Office of the Governor, recognize exceptional accomplishments in the preservation, rehabilitation and interpretation of South Carolina’s architectural and cultural heritage.

“We are proud to be recognized with this statewide award for the restoration of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home,” said Historic Columbia Executive Director Robin Waites. “Working closely with Richland County, John Milner Associates, local contractors and highly skilled craftsmen, Historic Columbia has gone to great lengths to preserve South Carolina’s only presidential home to Department of Interior standards. By carefully proceeding with this multi-year effort, the site has been preserved and will be protected for generations to come.”

Historic Columbia, Richland County and John Milner Associates received the Honor Award for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, South Carolina’s only presidential site. The Wilson family lived in the house at 1705 Hampton Street from 1871 to 1874, during the future president’s teenage years. The Woodrow Wilson Family Home opened as a presidential museum in 1933, and Historic Columbia became the property’s steward in 1968.

In 2005, Historic Columbia closed the Woodrow Wilson Family Home due to structural issues, including a failing roof, crumbling plaster and foundation problems due to water damage. Four years of in-depth research and $3.6 million in funding from grants, private donations and the building’s owner, Richland County, resulted in an unprecedented comprehensive physical rehabilitation, which began in 2009 with the building’s exterior.

“The scope of this undertaking was unprecedented, both in terms of the physical rehabilitation and the interpretive opportunities that work afforded,” said John Sherrer, Historic Columbia’s director of cultural resources. “We now have a 21st-century museum able to meet the needs of contemporary patrons operating within a Reconstruction-era former residence.”

The architectural firm of John Milner Associates was brought in to perform an in-depth analysis of the entire property and structure, which culminated in an historic property report that featured a roadmap to rehabilitating the site according to Department of the Interior’s standards. The roof was replaced, historic gutters were repaired, and 92 percent of the foundation was replaced. Scientific analysis of the layers of paint on the house uncovered its original exterior and interior color scheme, and the current paint job is as close to that original scheme as possible.

Inside, renovations done by earlier property owners were taken out, restoring the house to its original flow. The original floors and banisters were refinished, original tiles on each of the eight fireplaces were fixed, and period-appropriate light fixtures were purchased and installed. HC also built an outbuilding based on the property’s former carriage house at the back of the grounds, featuring restrooms, storage areas and a catering kitchen.

The Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction in Columbia & Richland County re-opened to the public on February 15, 2014 and is open for tours Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am to 3 pm, and Sunday 1 pm to 4 pm. Tours begin on the hour, and admission can be purchased at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills, 1616 Blanding Street. Tours are $8 for adults, $5 for youth and free for Historic Columbia members. For more information, visit historiccolumbia.org.

Photo: L to R: Michael Bedenbaugh, Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation executive director; Robin Waites, Historic Columbia executive director; Governor Nikki Haley; John Sherrer, Historic Columbia director of cultural resources; Fielding Freed, Historic Columbia director of historic house museums; Stephen McCrae, president of the Palmetto Trust Board of Directors.

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