Columbia’s Main Street is getting new life, with renovations, new businesses and a weekly street market luring folks to what is now a trendy spot.
But it’s not the first time Main Street has been the place to be.
Main Street teems with history as well as enticements such as restaurants, a boutique movie theater, quaint shops, a museum and an art center. And Historic Columbia’s inaugural Palladium Fall Tour will highlight some of that history.
“We are excited to offer a glimpse of Columbia’s past and present during our inaugural Palladium Fall Tour,” said Lauren Elliott, co-chairwoman of the tour. “Main Street is thriving and much of that has to do with the retained character of its historic buildings and adaptive use by local property owners. Main Street is a dynamic place where people want to be, explore and enjoy, and this tour will certainly allow people all of those opportunities.”
The two-day, behind-the-scenes tour of Main Street begins with a 1970s-themed party from 7 to 10 p.m. on Nov. 2 at the Arcade Building. The kickoff event includes “Down Under Tours” of the historic Arcade Building on Main Street. The tours will explore the subterranean level of Arcade Mall, Columbia’s first indoor shopping center. Below its surface was a popular area known as “Columbia Down Under,” a group of shops, bars and restaurants that operated between 1972 and 1974.
The “Down Under Tours” intrigue many Columbians, said John Sherrer, director of cultural resources.
“Many people find out-of-the-ordinary places fascinating, particularly when they are shrouded in mystery,” Sherrer said. “Columbia Down Under is kind of a mysterious place. ... There is a mystique about it, amplified when the place has been closed up for so long.”
Touring Main Street’s past continues Nov. 3, when Historic Columbia offers Loft Tours and a Biergarten on the Palladium Fall Tour. This event will explore The Pastor’s Study, the new Hendrix, The Nickelodeon, the Barringer Building, Hotel Trundle and Coral’s. The tours will run from noon to 5 p.m.
“As we look to how Columbia has grown, we also continue to look at the history and how we got here,” Elliott said. “The Palladium Tour is giving our community a way to explore the city they love. Opening doors to truly unexplored areas of Main Street allow people to see the history of our city, but also ways in which we are continuing to evolve and adapt today.”
Attendees will have the opportunity to see some spaces on Main Street that are open to the public day in and day out.
The tour starts and ends at The Venue, with a biergarten from The Whig, who will be serving a variety of craft beers, including a special Palladium Pale Ale. There also will be food trucks, games and music.
“Our tour locations represent a great diversity of the spaces on Main Street, from apartments that have undergone a renovation, to new restaurants spaces that are open or are planned to be, to regular everyday spaces you have been to (including the Nickelodeon) but will now see in a new light,” Elliott said.
“Plus, this event is a great way to see more of how Palladium is in our community, and a part of the larger Historic Columbia Mission. We wanted to create an event that was different, aligned to what our members and community are looking for — and fun!”
Here is a closer look at some of Main Street’s historic sites, courtesy of Historic Columbia.
The Pastor’s Study
1635 Main St.
This event space above Lula Drake was once the off-campus pastor’s study for downtown’s Ebenezer Lutheran Church. The “pastor’s study” sign still graces a door that swings open to reveal four tremendous windows overlooking Main Street.
The building was constructed by September 1865, and before Lula Drake turned these second-story rooms into an event space, they were last used as storage space for the Habenicht-McDougall sporting goods store that operated from the building from 1913 until 1944.
The Barringer Building
1338 Main St.
The National Loan and Exchange Bank, as this building was originally called, is celebrated as the South Carolina’s first skyscraper. Today, the 12-story building is better known for the Barringer Corporation, a later owner that occupied the property from 1953 until 1974. Underneath its brick and limestone façade, the structure represents advancements in late-19th and early-20th century building technology, particularly steel frameworks, high-pressure water pipes and elevators. In 2006, the office building was adapted for residential use under the auspices of Capitol Places.
1607 Main St.
Like most structures within the Main Street 1600 block, 1607 Main replaced buildings burned in 1865. In 1936, the building was modified to house The State theater, which became the fifth motion picture house on Main Street’s west side at that time. (A sixth theater operated on the east side.)
When complete, The State sat 750 people, “luxurious lounge rooms for both men and women (and) an electrically lighted marque ornamented with neon.” Known later as The Fox, the theater barred black patrons until 1963.
To increase attendance, owners bisected the screen and added a separate balcony, effectively creating The Fox “Twin.” However, The Fox ultimately could not compete with suburban theaters and closed its doors in October 1987.
The theater was bought by The Nickelodeon in 2007.
Coral’s Ladies Fashion
1535 Main St.
Built in 1915, 1535-1537 Main Street was once known as the Lorick & Lowrance Mercantile Building. Designed by prominent local architect J. Carroll Johnson of the firm Urquhart & Johnson, this property initially featured four storefronts, but only half of the highly ornate structure remains today. In 1939, during its sixth year of occupancy, Marshall’s clothing store updating the building by adding terrazzo flooring and black structural glass in the first story. Following Marshall’s closing in 1962, Busch’s Kredit Jewelers began a decade-long tenancy. The two sections to the south, at 1531 and 1533 Main Street, were demolished in February 1970 for the construction of Davison’s Department Store (opened in the fall of 1971), which later became Macy’s.
1224 Taylor St.
What is now a 41-room boutique hotel just off Main Street was once three half-century-old buildings which formerly housed a Western Auto, Powell furniture store and Rose Talbert paint store.
1649 Main St.
Originally home to a grocery, 1649 Main has gone through many changes in face and ownership since its original construction in the mid to late 19th century. It was renovated in 1928 to become Ruff Hardware Company, a three-story building with 26 feet fronting on Main Street and 150 feet fronting on Blanding Street. It was 11,000 square feet total with fireproof construction throughout. The building was renovated again in 1941 to more closely resemble was it looks like today. Ruff Hardware closed its Main Street store after 70 years in the building. Hennessy’s restaurant inhabited the building in the 1990s and 2000s. Now it is Hendrix, a restaurant opening soon, named for E.T. Hendrix, the grocer who occupied the space from 1906 to 1926.
Lezlie Patterson, special to GoColumbia
If you go
Historic Columbia’s Palladium Fall Tour
1970s Kickoff Party
When: 7-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2
Where: Arcade Building, 1332 Main St.
Tickets: $75 for Palladium members, $90 for Historic Columbia members and $100 for non-members and everyone at the door. This ticket includes admission to the Saturday Loft Tours and Biergarten. Go to historiccolumbia.org or call 803-252-7742 ext. 15.
Loft Tours and Beirgarten
When: Noon-5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3.
Where: Tours start and end at The Venue, 1624 Main St.
Tickets: Friday Kickoff Party tickets include the tour; Separate tickets for the Saturday-only tours are $15 for Palladium members, $25 for Historic Columbia members and $30 for non-members. Go to historiccolumbia.org or call 803-252-7742.