Former Women's Club near Five Points sold by USC, set to be demolished

The University of South Carolina Development Foundation has sold the historic Women's Club of Columbia building on Blossom Street to the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, which plans to demolish it, according to city records.

A demolition permit obtained by The State shows the diocese has contracted with Carolina Wrecking to raze the 77-year-old building, located at the intersection of Blossom and Henderson streets near Five Points. The cost of the demolition is listed by the company at $53,500.

Historic Columbia, in an email to its board, said that while the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and city landmark status, USC had not sought those protections.

Robin Waites, Historic Columbia's executive director, told The State her staff did not know about the diocese's plans to raze the building until after a city demolition permit had been issued. The permit request did not have to go through the approvals necessary to change or demolish other historic structures.

"The building is not a local landmark, so the only people that have to review it is basic permitting," she said, "so there was no reason to deny it a permit."

Spokespeople for the diocese and USC foundation could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Waites said she believed the diocese plans to build a Catholic student union, although that could not be confirmed.

Lydia Brandt, an associate professor of art at USC whose students cataloged historic buildings at the old S.C. State Hospital at BullStreet, said in the era of "Me Too," it was inappropriate to tear down a symbol of women's history without warning.

"There’s not many buildings tied specifically to women’s history in Columbia," she said. "In our current national conversations about gender, it's bothersome to see a building dedicated to women's empowerment demolished without much discussions."

"The venerable structure stands as a physical testament to generations of women’s activism that began during the Civil War and grew in intensity during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries," according to Historic Columbia's website.

A red trailer was parked in front of the building's front door on Tuesday. Windows were covered in plastic.

Waites said the company was conducting asbestos removal, and that demolition could begin as early as next week.

Shem Jordan, project manager for Carolina Wrecking, referred questions to the diocese.

The building at 1703 Blossom St. was built in 1941. It had been listed for sale by the university foundation for $1.9 million, according to Historic Columbia.

Historic Columbia urged preservationists and others to contact the diocese.