Updated on September 5, 2019
Day 6 of Carolinas Vacation, Columbia
The last day of our trip to the Carolinas. We would be visiting South Carolina State House before heading back to New Jersey today.
We had an action-packed day yesterday, it was almost 9pm by the time we reached our hotel in the outskirts of Columbia, followed by some food-hunting in the nearby Walmart. So today we got off to a late start, checked out of hotel and reached downtown Columbia at 11am.
The city of Charleston should and have been the rightful cultural center of South Carolina, but as the state grew inland, people wanted a capital that’s close to the state’s geological center to save time on travel, and they made Columbia the state capital.
That meant the city of Columbia was just not as charming and historic and exquisite as Charleston, whose downtown was lined with designer villas dating back to the Colonial times and churches that watched the birth and turmoil of a nation. Instead, as we drove up to downtown Columbia, we were seeing wide thoroughfares riddled with potholes and lined with run down houses, typical of a struggling city. It almost got me to the point, that somehow the magnificent South Carolina State House might seem out of place with the state of some buildings just a few blocks away.
And when I searched online for tourist attractions, basically the only thing I got was State House. (No, I don’t like zoos.) Oh, and there’s this World’s Largest Fire Hydrant a few blocks from State House, which must be the result of some downtown revitalization project, which we visited along the way so that our morning didn’t have to be entirely about the State House. The scarcity of attractions was to a point, that the Tunnel Mural below could rank top 10 on TripAdvisor.
It’s said that this church was modeled after York Minster, just a smaller one, and these windows on the facade certainly captured its essence.
Unfortunately, the church was closed to the public by the time we visited, probably to run some sort of day-care program as we saw children were playing on its grounds?
As for the state house itself, its construction began in 1855, and slowed to a half in Civil War when General Sherman’s Army entered Columbia. After the Civil War, the State of South Carolina was short on money, and the building had been under a temporary roof until its finish in 1907. A gorgeous building today with a tumultuous history.
Visitor entrance to the State House was an inconspicuous side door on the ground floor. The State House offered free guided tours every hour on the half hour in the summer. However, it seemed that not many people were interested in the tour, as the entire 11:30am tour consisted of a nice friendly lady guide and us two.
The tour began with a short video (youtube link) which served as a broad introduction. With so many confederate statues in its vicinity, the video made deliberate mention of the newest statue on its ground, praising African Americans in South Carolina. Hardly enough against its neighbors of slavery defenders.
Then the lady showed us both chambers of State House. A most unexpected takeaway of the day, that state legislator of South Carolina was a half-time job convening only for the first half of the year for regular sessions. A Google search later and even more to my surprise, a majority of US States have their legislators as half-timers. The lack of working hours was probably why passing laws in US through bureaucracy and stalemates had been so hard.
Another surprising fact, while state senators here sit according to their party affiliation, house representatives sit according to district geology. Don’t know whether this would encourage representatives to seek input from the other party.
And those seats were quite up to date, with amenities like USB charging ports.
Our tour concluded at the lobby, which was filled with arts and full of splendor.
After another brief tour of the State House grounds it was about 1pm, as we set off for Raleigh to visit a friend of ours on our way back to New Jersey.
By 2:30pm I was feeling sort of hungry, and there happened to be some bread and snacks left in the car from yesterday’s Walmart visit. I demanded we shall have lunch somewhere picturesque, so we pulled into Cheraw State Park.
And there’s not much to talk about on our way to Raleigh, end of day.
Many of South Carolina State House’s description provided by www.knowitall.org