Breaking News Bar
posted: 2/20/2014 5:45 AM

Woodrow Wilson's Columbia home reopens to public

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Historic Columbia helped renovate the home where President Woodrow Wilson lived when he was a teen. It is now open to the public as a museum.

      Historic Columbia helped renovate the home where President Woodrow Wilson lived when he was a teen. It is now open to the public as a museum.
    Associated Press

  • A dresser from the home where former President Woodrow Wilson was born is on display in his newly renovated boyhood house in Columbia, S.C.

      A dresser from the home where former President Woodrow Wilson was born is on display in his newly renovated boyhood house in Columbia, S.C.
    Associated Press

 
By Meg Kinnard, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After nearly a decade of renovations, the South Carolina home where President Woodrow Wilson lived as a teenager is reopening to the public as a museum not only about the politician but also the Reconstruction Era.

The home where the 28th president of the United States moved at age 13 and spent his teenage years reopened Feb. 15.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

Wilson's father taught at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Columbia and was minister at First Presbyterian Church, where Wilson's father, mother and sister are all buried.

The villa-style home built in 1871 is one of four historic sites for Wilson -- along with his birthplace in Stanton, Va.; a home in Augusta, Ga., where he grew up; and the Washington, D.C., home where he lived after his time as president. The South Carolina home is the state's only presidential site.

Saved from demolition in 1928 after residents protested, the historic home in downtown Columbia closed its doors and grounds to the public in 2005 when plaster fell from the ceiling in some of the downstairs rooms and water damage to the home's foundation became evident.

"Rather than just start pulling out artifacts from those rooms that were affected, we decided to go ahead and close the whole site," said John Sherrer, director of cultural resources at Historic Columbia, which maintains the property.

The $3.6 million project to restore the home, which is owned by Richland County, was funded through tax money and private donations. During the nearly decadelong closure, Historic Columbia spent that time doing a historic analysis, which determined details like the blueprint of the home when the Wilsons lived in it and what had been added and closed up in the decades since.

"The end result was a building that, structurally, looked like it did when the Wilsons called this home," Sherrer said. "If Tommy Wilson (Woodrow's nickname) and his family had showed up here in 2005, they'd be walking around going, 'What's that window doing there?' or 'How can we get from this room to that room?' ... Now what we have is a building that more genuinely reflects what they would have been accustomed to."

The home also now has a new roof, shutters and a wood foundation that needed to be replaced because of water damage. The project also included a revamp of the home's exterior paint scheme, which Sherrer says is now closer to what they would have been when Wilson lived there and is being replicated by preservationists working on other Columbia-area buildings from the same era. Once painted white and gray, now the home's outside is cast in more vibrant but still earthy tones, with tan and brown trim and deep blue-green shutters.

"It's exciting because this is a building that is important in its own right, but it's magnified when people use it as kind of a historic preservation laboratory, and in so doing, they can apply those thoughts to their own properties," he said.

Visitors to the Wilson home will see not only some pieces that are original to the property -- including the family bed on which Wilson was born -- but also reproductions from the era, like a desk that historians say is similar to one Wilson would have used as a teen. There are also reproductions of Reconstruction Era light fixtures throughout the home, and high-tech exhibits that allow visitors to virtually stroll through a map of 1920s Columbia, using their fingers to bring up information on sites around the city.

Exhibits detail Wilson's personal life and the Reconstruction Era, when the family lived in Columbia. During the tumultuous time that followed the Civil War, federal troops lingered throughout the South, and the federal government exerted its power over affairs in the state, which had been the first to secede from the union. Blacks began voting and were elected to political office, and the era also saw the rise of white radical groups that sought to drive them out.

Other exhibits focus on Wilson's presidency, which included passage of the Federal Reserve Act and World War I.

Outside, the grounds include several outbuildings that can be used for special events and magnolia trees planted there by Wilson's mother.

"It's one thing to have a restored building. Everybody loves a restored building," Sherrer said. "It's another thing to have a restored building within an accurate and beautiful setting, and that's what this is intended to be about."

Woodrow Wilson Family Home

Where: 1705 Hampton St., Columbia, S.C., historiccolumbia.org/woodrow-wilson-family-home or (803) 252-7742.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last tour at 3 p.m.) Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. (last tour at 4 p.m.) Sunday

Cost: $8 for adults; $5 for children 5 and older; free for kids younger than 5

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here