A significant piece of Columbia and South Carolina’s history is for sale.
The McCord House, located at the corner of Pendleton and Bull Street, was built in 1849. It is one of the few downtown Columbia homes to survive the fire that consumed much of the city in 1865 when Union troops under Gen. William T. Sherman marched in during the Civil War.
One of the main reasons it remains is that it served as the headquarters for Sherman’s second-in-command, Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, who is credited with stemming the rioting, pillaging and general mayhem that attended Sherman’s arrival on Feb. 17, 1865.
“It’s special on several levels,” said John Sherrer, director of cultural resources for Historic Columbia. “With the passing of time, houses like the McCord House have become increasingly rare, due to the war in the 19th century and urban renewal in the 20th century.”
The house is part of a complex that has been divvied up into eight apartments, popular because the house is across the street from the University of South Carolina. The complex includes the 5,638-square-foot McCord House, a 3,534-square-foot adjacent house, a two-car garage with an apartment above it and a parking lot with more than a dozen paid spaces.
The complex covers a quarter of a city block and is on the market for $995,000.
The owners of the home, Jay Carlisle Oxner Jr., a Columbia attorney, and his sister, Jane Oxner Waring of Charleston, lived in the home after their parents, Jay Carlisle and Eveline Oxner, bought it 1937. The Oxners lived in one wing of the house, and rented out the rest.
Waring, who was two years old when the family moved in, said she and her brother are selling the house because of their advancing ages.
“I would love to see it restored,” said Waring, who noted the magnolia trees on the property were there when she was a little girl. “I hope someone buys it who appreciates its beauty and its history.”
Steeped in history
This Greek Revival residence with its distinctive second story front porch and Doric columns was built by David James and Louisa Cheves McCord. David McCord was a planter, lawyer and editor, according to the S.C. Department of History and Archives.
A leading political activist, McCord was editor of the Telescope, a leading newspaper of the nullification movement, which believed individual states could “nullify” federal laws with which they disagreed. During his varied career, McCord served as Intendant of Columbia – a term that predates “mayor” – state legislator and president of the Bank of South Carolina.
Louisa McCord was a noted author of political and economic essays, poetry and drama. David McCord died in 1855, and Louisa continued to live in the home.
During the Civil War, she served as nursing director of the Confederate Hospital located adjacent to her home in the South Carolina College, now USC. Her home became the central depot for Columbia residents to donate food for the hospital. Patients who could walk were fed there.
In 1865, when Sherman’s troops entered Columbia, the McCord House became Howard’s headquarters. Although looted and twice set on fire, the house was saved by Howard’s presence.
Howard, known as “O.O.” Howard, was a Medal of Honor recipient for bravery at the Battle of Fair Oaks, in which he lost his right arm. But as a corps commander, he suffered devastating defeats at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville.
Howard was transferred west to join Sherman’s army, and became one of the red-headed general’s most reliable corps commanders. He was known as the “Christian General” because of his piety, and was tasked by Sherman to calm the riots and looting by Union troops and others after much of Columbia burned to the ground.
“He, among others, were partially responsible for saving what was left,” Sherrer said.
A lot of interest
Waring is a former reporter for The Columbia Record, The State and The Charleston News & Courier and Evening Post. She once won an Associated Press award for interviewing former Alabama Gov. George Wallace during the integration of that state’s schools.
She remembers that when the Carolina-Clemson game was held on Big Thursday, a bell on campus would ring all night before the game. She and her brother would stay up late listening to it.
“As little children, we thought it was the most exciting thing in the world,” she said.
Because of its proximity to campus and its history, the house was first offered to USC officials. They passed on it.
“It’s a beautiful, historic house, but it would be expensive to renovate for state employees,” said Russ Meekins, executive director of the USC Development Foundation. “We would have to install things like sprinklers. And it is in the historic University Hill neighborhood, and we try not to do anything in that area.”
The house is listed with the real estate firm Dial, Dunlap and Edwards. Broker Fred Williams said there has been a lot of interest.
“I’ve had a lot of folks look at it from both in town and out of town,” said Williams, who listed the complex about a year ago.
Waring said the family wants to sell the whole complex, rather than individual pieces.
At the moment, there is no historic marker that tells of the house’s significance. But Sherrer said there probably should be.
“Maybe that’s something Historic Columbia can work on with the new owners,” he said.
- Built 1849
- Union Gen. O.O. Howard’s headquarters
- Part of a 3-structure, 8-apartment complex
- Selling price $995,000