The Comet (a.k.a. Soda Cap Connector) is covenient way to peruse Columbia
By Deena C. Bouknight
Have you seen the buses around town painted retro blue with pink accents? This is Columbia’s novel transit system aimed at moving from tired to trendy with regard to public in-city transportation. Whether visiting the capital city for the first time, getting a feel for the area’s main roads and routes, commuting to work or school, or enjoying time at one of the many restaurants, shops, or sites, The Comet – also known as Soda Cap Connector – offers a comfortable and enjoyable ride.
The nickname, Soda Cap Connector, comes from the play on “cola town” as the shortened name for Columbia. And then there is the Soda City market, which has become a hub of activity every Saturday on Main Street. Included in The Comet’s logo design is a star that represents the stars on the South Carolina State House capitol building. Throughout town are large soda cap shaped signs, painted the same retro blue as The Comet buses, that tout the Soda Cap Connector logo; these signs indicate transit stops, and underneath is listed information about where the bus is scheduled to stop next.
Besides clean, comfortable, air-conditioned or heated (depending on weather), and graphically appealing, The Comet offers users real-time bus locators through its app, which can be downloaded on a smartphone or tablet. Users also have access to free WiFi, and there is space for bikes. Plus, catchthecomet.org has easy-to-understand information on how to read the schedule and find the best route.
The Comet stops at such points of interest as the South Carolina State Museum, the University of South Carolina, the Columbia Museum of Art, Five Points, area universities, and more. An entire route takes about 20 minutes, with stops every few minutes. Passengers can pick up colorful maps that include routes and times.
Prices are from $1.50 for a one-time regular fare to $3.00 to ride all day. A 31-day pass is $40.00. Half-priced passes are available to those who qualify; criteria includes disabilities, veterans, seniors over 65, and those on Medicare. (Anyone interested in a half pass must make an appointment at the Lowell C. Spires Jr. Regional Transit Authority at 3613 Lucius Road.) And, children 15 years old and younger ride The Comet for free.
To pay a fare, either have exact change when entering The Comet or purchases passes at the customer service desk of the North Main Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Other options include buying tickets at the Transit Center on the corner of Sumter and Laurel Street or on the Catch the COMET smartphone app.
Touted on The Comet website is this statement: “It’s out with the old and in with the new. And when we say new, we mean everything. Just see for yourself. The totally new COMET. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride.”
Camden features cotton mill era exhibit until August
By Deena C. Bouknight
At one time, cotton truly was king in South Carolina. Thousands of acres of rural farmland were snowy white for about six weeks from late summer into early fall. And, while spinning yarn into cloth was an aspect of life for many from as early as the 17th century in South Carolina, it was the 1800s when cotton crops and textile mills thrived. Even post-Civil War, cotton continued as a major crop, and today, at least a half million bales are harvested annually.
To honor the importance of cotton as a South Carolina staple, The Camden Archives & Museum opened an exhibit on the textile industry on February 5, 2018. “Camden’s Cotton Mill Era: 1838-1960” focuses on how the lives of thousands of mill workers and their families were centered on the mills. This exhibit explores the mills, the people who owned and who labored at them, and the impact they had on Camden.
The exhibit is free to the public and runs through August 11, 2018. For more information or to schedule a group, call 803-425-6050, or visit http://www.camdenschistory.com.
“The Hidden Gala is a fantastic way to experience the museum,” share Julie Brenan and Steven Ford, co-chairs for the 2018 black-tie affair celebrating and supports arts. Whether a frequent visitor to the downtown museum or curious about what is offered, Julie and Steven explain in a joint statement that the Gala affords anyone “a night of excitement, glamour, and mystery. You get to have fun, dance, enjoy incredible food and drinks, experience amazing art, and hunt for sneak peaks into the CMA’s ongoing transformation.”
Believe it or not, the Columbia Museum of Art opened in Columbia in 1950 and moved into its current modern architecture building in 1998. The museum currently has more than 20,000 square feet of gallery space, as well as a collection that numbers more than 7,000 objects. The building has work spaces, storage for collections, art studios, a 154-seat auditorium, a museum shop, and reception and event spaces.
The Gala is the CMA’s largest annual fundraiser; this year the focus is on its major spring exhibit, titled “Seen & Unseen: Photographs by Imogen Cunningham.” Curated by the CMA’s Chief Curator Will South, the exhibition spotlights the photographer’s deeply poetic work, taken in the early 1900s.
Guests to the Gala will be treated not only to exhibits, but also a menu of food prepared by Southern Way, a specialty cocktail, and a Lexus bubbly bar. Plus, there will be entertainment: jazz by Station Seven Band, dance music by Snow DJ Kevin Snow, and contemporary ballet by USC Dance Company.
Main sponsors of the event, held to raise critical funds necessary to continue the CMA’s ongoing efforts, are: Jim Hudson Lexus, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and Joyce and George Hill.
“We can’t wait to open the doors April 21st and welcome everyone to the best party in town,” say Julie and Steven.
Walk for Life to benefit Palmetto Health Breast Center
By Deena C. Bouknight
A parade of pink will pass through the streets of Columbia this Saturday, October 14. In fact, thousands of walkers and runners are anticipated for the 27th Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K that begins and ends at Spirit Communications Park.
The color pink first came to symbolize breast cancer survivors in the early 1990s when pink ribbons were given out in New York City during a Race for the Cure. Now people automatically think pink whenever there is a mention of a breast cancer associated event. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and even First Lady Melania Trump showed support by having the White House lit up with a pink hue the first Sunday of this month.
Online registration will be open until noon TOMORROW, Oct. 11th. After that time, paper registrations for walkers will be accepted at the Expo on Oct. 13 at Spirit Communications Park. Paper race registrations will be accepted by Strictly Running at the Expo on Oct. 13, 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at Spirit Communications Park. Race registrations will not be accepted on Oct. 14.
Registrants can pick up their t-shirts, bibs, and chips during curbside pick-up Thursday, Oct. 12, 4-6 p.m. at Spirit Communications Park, at the Expo Friday, Oct. 13, 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Spirit Communications Park, or on the day of the event, Saturday, Oct. 14, beginning at 6:15 a.m.
Registration includes a cotton T-shirt for walkers and a performance shirt for runners. However, breast cancer survivors will receive a commemorative pink bandana.
The schedule of events for October 14 looks like this:
Walk for Life late registration 6:30 a.m.
Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon start 7:15 a.m.
10K race start 7:30 a.m.
5K race start 7:40 a.m.
Walk for Life start 7:45 a.m.
5K medal ceremony 9 a.m.
10K medal ceremony 9:30 a.m.
Half marathon medal ceremony 10 a.m.
According to the U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. A man’s risk is about 1 in 1,000. Proceeds from these signature fundraising events, led by Palmetto Health Foundation, benefit Palmetto Health Breast Center in Columbia, S.C. Proceeds will stay in the community to help purchase a seventh 3D mammography unit at Palmetto Health Breast Center. The new 3D unit will be used for screening and diagnostic mammograms and will improve the early detection of breast cancer.
On Thursday, September 28, the Columbia Chamber hosted its 115th Annual Gala to toast the past year’s accomplishments, look ahead to new goals, and celebrate some of the Midlands’ most inspiring individuals. Columbia Metropolitan Magazine was honored to be a sponsor of the event along with Presenting Sponsor BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and other community leaders. More than 800 Midlands business leaders attended the Gala at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Two receptions opened the evening: a VIP reception upstairs included a wine tasting sponsored by Aleph Wine Corporation, and the reception on the Lower Level featured a photobooth by the University of South Carolina Athletic Department. Both were very well attended.
The gala program and seated dinner were held in the Exhibit Hall, a large, hangar-like exhibition space transformed into a rather elegant dining room. Stars lit the walls and ceiling! Wine coolers made of ice adorned the tables! Fun music and a festive feeling filled the room.
Once everyone settled down and settled in, dinner and the program began. Up first: the presentation of the colors and the singing of the national anthem, which alone made it a worthwhile evening. Beautiful! Carl Blackstone, Columbia Chamber President and CEO, then thanked the evening’s many and generous sponsors and introduced the group of 2017 honorees. The honors included: Ambassador of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Public Servant of the Year, Military Advocate of the Year, and Diplomat of the Year.
The 2017 Ambassador of the Year is Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina Women’s Basketball Head Coach. Dawn Staley is not only an accomplished coach, leading her Gamecocks team to the 2017 NCAA National Championship title, but also a selfless Midlands citizen committed to giving back. Dawn accepted the honor via video recording, thanking the Columbia Chamber and speaking of her mother’s example of generosity in helping others. University President Harris Pastides and Athletic Director Ray Tanner represented her and the University of South Carolina while Staley was in California for a commitment as head coach of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team.
John Griggs of NBSC was honored as the 2017 Young Professional of the Year. The 2017 Public Servant of the Year is Bobby Hitt, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce. Kevin Shwedo, of the SC DMV, was named the 2017 Military Advocate of the Year. And the 2017 Diplomat of the Year is Phyllis Wood of Palmetto SolarPros. Tribute videos highlighted each recipient’s positive impact. The honorees are smart, dedicated, and deserving; how fortunate to have them working in our community!
The Columbia Chamber’s Immediate Past Chairman, John Singerling, introduced the new Chairman, David Lockwood. John Singerling, David Lockwood, and Carl Blackstone all spoke to the strength of the Chamber and its impact over the last several years. They also introduced the Chamber’s futurist initiative, “Forward, Together,” as their exercise to ensure the Chamber continues to build a stronger Midlands community for businesses and residents through 2040.
The Columbia Chamber’s 115th Annual Gala was a fun and inspiring evening all around. Congratulations to the 2017 honorees!
P.S. In case anyone is interested, here are fashion and food details. Attire was black-tie optional. A surprising number chose the option of tuxedos and floor-length gowns, which definitely added to the celebratory atmosphere. Dinner included a green salad with peaches and prosciutto and a lemon vinaigrette; dinner rolls with five compound butters; surf and turf of sliced teres major steak (aka, bistro filet) with a crab cake, asparagus and roasted potatoes; and, tables of petit fours and coffee for dessert. Sound good? Plan to attend next year’s event!
A full article on the upcoming August 21st total eclipse is featured in the July/August 2017 issue of Columbia Metropolitan Magazine. Visit ColumbiaMetro.com.
The eclipse is the talk of the town. Hotel occupancy has been reserved for months at 100 percent for the evening of August 20th, and 91 percent the evening following the eclipse. Hundreds of thousands of are expected from all over the world due to Columbia’s unique position in the path of this rare astronomical phenomenon. Some in Columbia are even offering up rooms through AirBNB and VRBO sites. The eclipse will last nearly 3 hours in all — starting a little after 1 p.m. and ending shortly after 4 p.m. The period of totality will last about two and a half minutes just after 2:40 p.m.
The website set up to handle questions and provide information – managed by city leaders – is totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com, and it started receiving at least 2,500 hits daily nearly a month ago. “At 2:41 p.m. on Monday, August 21, 2017, viewers who have gathered in the Greater Columbia, S.C., area will experience the longest period of 100% total eclipse for a metro area on the entire East Coast of the United States — ranging from 2 minutes and 30 seconds to 2 minutes and 36 seconds of total darkness,” it shares. On the site, visitors can view a map of the eclipse route, learn history and details of eclipses, know events, sales, and activities planned for Eclipse Weekend, and find special eclipse glasses, which must be worn to protect eyes.
One location to purchase glasses is the State Museum at only a few dollars a pair. Glasses will also be given out at various events during the eclipse. The City of Columbia expects to distribute at least 100,000 pairs.
One common question is: Where should I be during the eclipse? It is important to decide prior to August 21 where to view the eclipse. Either stay home and plan to watch from the yard, or get to another site early to avoid crowds and secure a viewing spot. Officials are forecasting severe interstate congestion and cautioning travelers to plan for patience.
Here are just some eclipse-planning considerations, provided by Total Eclipse Columbia SC:
Festivals & Entertainment
“Soda City Eclipse Viewing Party” and Eclipse Eve Drive-In Movie Night at Historic Columbia Speedway in Cayce, S.C., just across the Congaree River from Columbia, S.C.
Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball games all weekend and “Total Eclipse of the Park” game and viewing event during eclipse with iMAGINE STEM Festival
Solar 17 at Lake Murray viewing festival with tents, free water and free eclipse glasses at Lake Murray dam & lakefront park sites, 25 minutes from downtown Columbia, S.C.
The Lexington County Blowfish baseball team is dedicating their entire 2017 season to the eclipse and will open the Lexington County Baseball Stadium for a free viewing event
ECLIPSEFEST 2017 at Music Farm Columbia w/rock ‘n roll tribute bands
Viewing event with family-friendly band in the spacious gardens of the Robert Mills House
Solar Fest West at the West Columbia riverfront amphitheater with live entertainment
Science & Education
The S.C. State Museum (home of the Boeing Observatory) will host ticketed events and educational programming all weekend, with a NASA exhibition and eclipse day viewing event with a personal appearance by S.C. NASA astronaut Charles Duke (one of 12 men to walk on the moon).
Astronomy workshops, exhibitions & lectures at University of South Carolina department of Physics and Astronomy and at USC’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections’ Robert B. Ariail collection of historical astronomy
Eclipse Geocaching Cointrail event at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
Solar Learning Challenge party for families on Aug. 19 at Richland Library
Riverbanks Zoo will be open for regular ticketed admission all weekend and on eclipse day
Saluda Shoals Park’s family-friendly Eclipse Extravaganza with games & hands-on activities
Historic Columbia walking tours of Main St. & the Vista, happy hour water balloon fight
Summer Learning Challenge hosted by Richland Library
Eddie’s Eyes on the Sky Sleepover with EdVenture, educational indoor camping
Paddling on the lower Saluda River at Saluda Shoals Park’s Total Eclipse on the River event
“Shadows and Science in the Wilderness” programs & ranger-led hikes to prime viewing locations at Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from downtown Columbia, S.C.
Guided outdoor historical walking tours along the paved, riverside forest trails at the 12,000 Year History Park in Cayce, S.C., 10 minutes from downtown Columbia, S.C.
Total eclipse viewing event at Sesquicentennial State Park in Northeast Columbia, S.C.
Tent camping and eclipse viewing at Siesta Cove Marina & RV Park on Lake Murray
Eclipse tailgate party, plus parking and RV parking, at the S.C. State Fairgrounds
Picnic and eclipse viewing in the wide-open fields of Camp Discovery
Food & Drink
Lowcountry Boil & Paella Party with live music at City Roots urban sustainable farm
VIP Eclipse Viewing Party with open bar & luxe buffet at Motor Supply Co. Bistro in the Vista
“The Grape Eclipse” 4-day wine, food and jazz party at Mercer Winery in Lexington, S.C.
Two Gals and a Fork Food Tours
Taco Monday eclipse viewing specials at Publico Kitchen & Tap in Five Points
Cooking class and rooftop eclipse viewing with Let’s Cook Studio
Barrel-aged beer release at Old Mill Brewpub in Lexington
Enoree River Winery’s crowd and RV friendly viewing event with live music
A large-scale public art/laser light installation at the Congaree River, “Southern Lights”
“Star Wars Musiclipse” space-themed concert by S.C. Philharmonic
The Jasper Project’s “Syzygy” eclipse-themed plays and poetry events w/two Poet Laureates
Nickelodeon Theatre screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey
The popular Arts & Draughts party at the Columbia Museum of Art
Palmetto Y Luna arts event at Tapp’s Arts Center
Film, music, art & dance events across the region
“Art in the Dark” family-friendly celebration from Bravo Blythewood
Learn how to photograph the eclipse with the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce
The solar eclipse will be here before we know it! To countdown, visit this handy site: eclipsecountdown.com.
Columbia’s local library receives prestigious national medal and renovates the Cooper Branch
By Helen Clay
Summertime offers new opportunities for reading as kids complete summer reading requirements and adults craft literature lists of their own, hoping to relax with new novels during family vacations or downtime. While submersing yourself in a new story is entertaining, the process of choosing which book will become your companion for the next few weeks is equally exciting. Will you revisit historical events, experience thrillers, or re-read your favorite classic?
Travel with books this summer.
Select your literary list from Richland Library!
In Columbia, we are lucky to have a vast book collection at our fingertips through Richland Library. Richland library boasts of an extensive collection that fulfills every reader’s needs — novels, historical fiction, children’s literature, biographies, primary resources, and more! Last year, the Richland Libraries received more than two million visits, a number that does not include the numerous programs Richland Library brings to Cola Town in different venues. Richland Library’s dedication to the local community and its impressive book selection garnered the library a prestigious honor as the winner of the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. This award is the nation’s highest award given to museums and libraries for service and dedication to their community. We have all reaped benefits as residents of the Midlands from Richland Library’s civic service, and Columbia Metropolitan Magazine joins the community in congratulating them on this elite honor!
As Richland Library continues its work throughout our community, the organization celebrates yet another milestone in 2017… the GRAND REOPENING of the Richland Library Cooper Branch! After a nearly $3 million renovation, the Copper Branch is flinging open its doors to the public once again. The project included a reconfiguration and renovation of the existing 10,000 square foot structure and a new addition of 1,000 square feet. The branch now includes an expanded children’s area, the addition of two “Makerspaces” (an area that provides hardware supplies, software, and electronics for people to gather to create and learn), a quiet reading room, and a covered book drop.
Richland Library Cooper Branch invites you and your family to come celebrate the grand reopening from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19. Come experience the charm of this local library and make new summer memories with your children. My fondest childhood excursions involved a trip to the Richland Library Cooper Branch with my shiny new library card in hand, eager with the anticipation of stuffing my bag full of wonderful literary treasures… It was almost better than Christmas.
Go to Cooper Branch for summer reading choices!
Encourage your kid to read this summer!
Don’t miss your chance to view the newly renovated Richland Library Cooper Branch tomorrow morning! What will be next on your summer reading list?
With a 78-square-mile lake nearby and the coast within a few hours’ drive, there are thousands of boating enthusiasts within the Midlands. A day of boating is tons of fun! Simply allot some time for a little pre-planning.
Avoid throwing a bunch of stuff in bags and coolers the morning of. Make a list, depending on number of people, activities, length of time, etc. To make the boat trip even more enjoyable and memorable, pack some interesting items that are not typically used and consumed at home. Some suggestions are these:
– GoPro! Film candid videos, as well as activities such as skiing, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing
– Bluetooth speakers and a festive summertime playlist for dancing or impromptu karaoke
– Several floaties… especially if boating on a lake. (There are easy-to-store items called Lazy Bunz, water mats that hold lots of people, and even an inflatable slide for the side of a boat)
– Bag of books
– Food that is easy to eat with fingers or minimal disposable utensils and packs easily in a cooler. Here are some suggestions:
Individual layered salads (fruit or veggie) in plastic cups with lids
A sealable snack tray of cheeses, deli meats, fruit, and cut veggies
Chips and salsa; wrap sandwiches; barbecue on rolls
Baked or fried chicken; and, a tub of cole slaw.
Plus, containers of pre-made salads, such as chicken, egg, tuna, or shrimp, are easy to keep in a cooler and can be eaten on bread, with lettuce, or with crackers. Many restaurants in town sell these salads in varying sized containers. For dessert, bring a range of cookies that will not easily melt or crumble, which will make it easier to keep your boat deck clean!
Have plenty of individual water bottles, but also diverse and interesting drinks. Make easy to consume drinks that are disposable (pack a giant trash bag the night before). Cut up lemons, limes, and orange slices and store them in a sealable bag so that they can be added to any beverage for a refreshing twist.
A quality cooler, even though pricey, is worth its weight in gold on a boat. No one wants to drink warm beverages or eat food that is sopping from melted ice.
Don’t forget… sunscreen! Avoid frying on the boat all day by making sure a bag with plenty of sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses is on hand.
Boating is loads of fun, but can also be hazardous – especially during summer months when waterways are congested and temperatures soar. Not to worry. The goal is fun! Just be prepared with a properly stocked ditch bag.
A ditch bag is a compact floating bag designed to hold critical items boaters may need in case of an emergency. Instead of just sticking items here, there, and everywhere on a boat, a ditch bag keeps necessities together to grab and go. Plus, a ditch bag is reassuring to boat owners and passengers alike; emergencies are prepared for, even if they never come.
There are several ditch bag do’s to consider:
Start with a real ditch bag – not any ol’ freebee logo bag will suffice. It needs to float, and have plenty of pockets and storage compartment to keep items organized. It should also seal well. A fully-loaded bag should not sink or take on any water. It should also be a bright color and feature reflective tape. Reflective tape can be purchased separately and attached if necessary. Plus, an adequate ditch bag will have a tether and a clip so that it will not float away.
Invest in a quality radio beacon, which alerts the Coast Guard of the boat’s GPS position, especially if planning outings in the ocean.
Long-lasting lights, such as clip-on strobes and/or flashlights
Flares and/or chemical glow sticks
A hand-held GPS device
A whistle or other noise-making devices
Drinking water pouches that store flat
Emergency food rations, most important if boating in the ocean
Depending on the level of recreational boating and location, there are other items boating specialists recommend for a ditch bag. And, what is in the ditch bag does not discount what else should be on the boat for safety purposes, such as plenty of life jackets and a bucket or some sort of bailing device or pump. If a boating novice, it is a smart idea to consult with a local marina and other boating veterans to learn additional ditch-bag and general safety suggestions.
It is better to be safe than sorry and invest in a well-planned ditch bag that will hopefully never be used. A primo day of boating enjoyment awaits with just a little forethought and organization. Anchors aweigh!
We may think of staying at a bed and breakfast only when out of town – at some historic destination in another state or perhaps while in the Carolina mountains. Yet, some in Columbia are beginning to seek solace at nearby bed and breakfast inns for one-night or weekend retreats. Although there are several in and around the capitol city, three distinct inns are spotlighted here: Chesnut Cottage, Old McCaskill’s Farm, and Whispering Willows.
Pastoral Old McCaskill’s Farm
The farm-to-table philosophy is alive and well at this bed and breakfast just a few miles from the heart of Camden. Contractor for renovations and historical properties, Lee McCaskill and his farmer wife Kathy rebuilt their home in 2008 after a catastrophic fire. Yet, it was rebuilt to look like a four-over-four plantation style home that has existed on the property for 100-plus years. Various woods, architectural details, accessories, and functional items are actually old finds that have been refurbished. Few elements are shiny new and modern. A few years ago, the couple decided they wanted to share their home and opened the four rooms upstairs to the public.
Experience farm living without getting your hands dirty at Old McCaskill’s Farm.
The antique-laden country kitchen offers breakfast to customers.
School children were already taking regular tours of the farm, and their daughter, Ashley Robinson, has been serving a Friday farm-to-table, first-come-first-serve lunch with about 80 percent of selected menu items grown or raised directly on the farm.
Items on the menu are grown or raised directly on the farm.
Those who stay at Old McCaskill are assured an authentic working farm experience – but without actually getting hands dirty. Kathy will often pop up from picking vegetables in the wide garden, while Ashley is busy canning foods. Guests can rock on the second floor expansive covered porch and admire a pastoral scene dotted with sheep and sometimes lambs. There is a wine bar and mini fridge in the wide hall/sitting area that four spacious bedrooms upstairs share. Each area is a treasure trove of antiques and artifacts.
Guests can also visit the animals, or shop in the on-site store, which includes blankets woven from a portion of the wool from the McCaskill’s sheep as well as farm and/or local meats, eggs, preserves, jellies, and cheeses. Hand-made soaps are also available for purchase.
Warming in the dutch oven for guests each morning are such specialties as homemade pecan and cinnamon French toast casserole and farm raised, brown-sugar sea-salt cured, nitrate-free bacon; or, another favorite is the special quiches made from the eggs collected on the farm.
Each room is $125 nightly. Rooms are named The Horse Paddock, The Honeymoon Suite, The Colonial, and The Swamp Fox, in honor of local Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion.
Located just off Interstate 20, Old McCaskill’s Farm is only a few miles from historic a Camden, which boasts many unique shops, restaurants, antique/consignment stores, and a first-rate independent bookseller that attracts best-selling and local authors. Plus, Camden is equestrian country with a full calendar of equestrian events and activities open to the public. Driving in the opposite direction, yet still within a few minutes of the Farm, is the upscale Mill Pond Steakhouse dining experience.
Despite its location on Hampton Street, just a few blocks from Main Street in downtown Columbia, Chesnut Cottage was not burned by General William Tecumsah Sherman’s men in February 1865. Mary Boykin Chesnut, who resided in the home at that time but “escaped” just prior to the Union army’s presence in the then-Confederate state, documented her eye-witness account of the Civil War years in her extensive and vividly descriptive diary. A Diary From Dixie was first published in 1905 and has since undergone several editions. The house, which was spared the burning that destroyed homes just one block away, is steeped in history. Mary’s husband was United States Senator James Chesnut Jr., while her father, Stephen Decatur Miller, was former governor of South Carolina. James became an aid to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who gave his last speech to Columbia from the porch of their cottage in October 1864.
The cottage was built in circa 1850 and was Mary’s home off and on just toward the end of the war. Even though much of the south struggled during Reconstruction, Mary’s home was a residence until the 1960s when it was converted into offices for a physician. Diane and Gale Garrett purchased the cottage and turned it into a bed and breakfast in 1991. Diane passed in 1996, but Gale still owns the property; he remarried and assists his wife, Sherwood, on a regular basis.
More than 150 years later, the Chesnut Cottage is on the National Registry of Historic Places and still welcomes politicians as well as everyday citizens and history buffs alike. In fact, Gale says guests expect antebellum and Civil War history as part of their experience. Century-plus-old bottles and jugs found in the dirt around the property are on display as is a 19th century drawing/map of downtown Columbia. About half the guests are staycation locals, but the cottage has also drawn some from as far away as Australia, China, Europe, and South America. Plus, there are plenty of local and out-of-town regulars. Spring and fall see the most activity.
As a bed and breakfast, the cottage provides five rooms decorated in antebellum period antiques. Three are named for the historic figures that once graced the cottage’s interiors: Mary Boykin Chesnut Room, General James Chesnut Room, and President Jefferson Davis Room. The other two rooms are named the Carriage House Bridal Suite and the Carriage House Suite. Even though the home is replete with Civil War artifacts and a library, there are plenty of modern amenities to enable guests to rest comfortably. Some include luxurious linens and robes, private baths with whirlpool tubs, and ample breakfasts either in the room or in the home’s dining room in the company of other guests. There is also high speed internet access and televisions in each room. Prices for rooms range from $159 to $179.
The Chesnuts did not have any children, but children and pets are allowed at the Chesnut Cottage Bed and Breakfast “if well behaved”.
Within walking distance of the cottage, guests have access to dozens of restaurants, cooking classes at Let’s Cook Culinary Studio, distinct shops such as The Mast Farm General Store and NEST, and even the Columbia Art Museum. Plus, on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. is the increasingly popular Soda City Market on Main Street.
Says Gale, “Very few people take time to be tourists in their own town … take time to see the Capitol and area plantations.” For exercise and weather permitting, there is the popular Riverwalk and the Riverbanks Zoo.
The peace that pervades this property, just two miles off Hwy 77 at the Ridgeway exit – 29 miles outside Columbia – is evident in the natural pastures and pine groves that line the half-mile driveway to the inn. Situated on a knoll overlooking a hardwood forest where there is a winding trail along a slow-moving stream, is a relatively new home planned specifically as a place of refuge. According to Grace Prichard, who is innkeeper with her husband Bob, the comment most often given about the home is that it is “castle-like”.
The Prichards have been contemplating a sort of respite center for the entirety of their 40-year marriage. Soon after marriage, although they were living on the cliché shoestring, they received a missionary couple whom they welcomed in and proceeded to serve a completely made-from-scratch peach pie. Grace says the experience of enjoying food and fellowship in their tight, but cozy home, instilled in them a desire for ministry through hospitality. In many ways, over the years of him working as a microbiologist and her as a teacher at a Ben Lippen School, as well as raising and parenting four children, Grace and Bob ran an unofficial bed and breakfast.
Then they stayed at a real bed and breakfast in 2003 in the mountains for an anniversary weekend. The ambiance and soothing music provided a serene respite for the couple. They knew they wanted to provide the same for guests in their own bed and breakfast one day. They found 23 acres of land in Fairfield County, just a few miles from Ridgeway’s idyllic and historic main street – with the “famous” Laura’s Tea Room and a hardware store that takes visitors back 100 years as they enter. They spent many months clearing land and building what would serve as home for them, gathering place for their children and families, and rejuvenating getaway for anyone in need of rest and solitude.
Called Whispering Willows – and it is, indeed, a place of quiet and calm – there are five rooms: The Remnant, The Blessing, The Sparrow, The Refuge, and The Radiant. Or, guests can rent the whole house. A substantial made-from-scratch breakfast is served at a guest-selected time in the room, or guests can sit in the sunlit dining room or on the wide decks, weather permitting.
Grace explains why she chose Whispering Willows: “I had always loved weeping willow trees, as they seemed to be reaching out and down for all, carefully desiring to embrace those weary ones sitting under their branches. I was also mindful of the fact that God often uses a gentle whisper to touch hearts…Thus, the name Whispering Willows was born.”
For those truly desiring out-of-town serenity without having to travel far, Whispering Willows is a place of reflection and renewal, points out Grace. She explains that it is more ministry than business. The couple has to charge to maintain the property, but prices are kept low, from $75-$120, to allow most anyone to enjoy and recharge. Plus, there are no distractions, such as Wi-Fi or televisions. There is also no smoking or alcohol permitted; however, guests talk, read, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, sleep, write, and walk the trails that meander along a stream, through woods, and along pastures.
For dinner, there are a few local spots, including Old Town Hall Restaurant and Pub and Windmill. Shops attract customers from as far away as Charlotte due to the fact that downtown Ridgeway was the site of a historic depot and is on the route of the old Charlotte highway before Interstate 77 was constructed.
To learn more about other bed and breakfast inns in the Columbia metropolitan and surrounding areas, visit www.tripadvisor.com as well as other hospitality sites. Each is distinct regarding number of rooms, pricing, services, and ambiance. Some also offer full-house and/or grounds’ rental for special events.