January 5, 2019
The South Caroliniana Library Map Collection
In 1786 the South Carolina General Assembly decided to move the state capital from Charleston to a central location “near Friday’s ferry, on the Congaree River” just below the confluence of the Broad and Saluda Rivers. They named the new capital Columbia and appointed five commissioners to purchase the land and layout the streets and lots of the new city. The commissioners did their work quickly and, by the end of the year, they had the land surveyed, defined city lots for sale, and created 21 streets running roughly north to south and 21 streets running roughly east to west. The two perpendicular central streets were named Assembly Street and Senate Street for the state legislature. The northern and southern boundary streets were named Upper Street and Lower Street respectively. On both sides of Assembly Street, the north-south streets were named for patriot military officers active in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. Besides Upper Street, the east-west streets lying north of Senate were named for prominent national and local persons, wood products common to the area, and plantations that previously existed at the site. Six of the east-west streets lying south of Senate Street were named for an early SC judge and some of the state’s primary export products of the time. Three of the southern east-west streets - Green, Divine, and Medium - were given names for which no definitive origin is known.
North-South Streets (listed from east to west)
Harden Street was named for South Carolina native, William Harden, who, during the Revolutionary War, recruited and commanded a partisan force that harassed the British in the area southwest of Charleston.
|John Laurens, 1780|
by Charles Wilson Peale
via National Portrait Gallery
Winn Street (now Gregg) was named for General Richard Winn, a Virginia native, who moved to South Carolina as a teenager and served in the South Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War. Richard Winn was also one of the commissioners appointed by the General Assembly to create the town of Columbia. By a city council ordinance ratified in November 1892, Winn Street was renamed to Gregg Street in honor of Columbia native and Confederate Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg who was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862.
Barnwell Street is believed to have been named for Beaufort native John Gibbes Barnwell who rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the South Carolina Militia and served in the state Senate from 1778 until 1800.
Henderson Street was named for North Carolina native, William Henderson, who served in several roles in both the Continental Army and the South Carolina State Militia under Thomas Sumter during the American Revolution. Henderson was promoted to Brigadier General of state troops in 1781.
Pickens Street was named for Pennsylvania native, Andrew Pickens, who moved to South Carolina in the 1750s and became the primary partisan fighter in upstate South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.
Bull Street was named for Brigadier General Stephen Bull, a Beaufort District native who led South Carolina militia units in action against the British around Savannah and Beaufort.
Marion Street was named for Berkeley County native Francis Marion who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army for distinguished service as a major at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. Following the surrender of the southern Continental Army at Charleston, Marion was commissioned as a brigadier general in the state militia and led a group of partisans whose guerilla tactics seriously hampered the British in the south. Marion’s nickname, “Swamp Fox”, has become legendary in folklore, print, movies, and television.
Sumter Street was named for Virginia native, Thomas Sumter, who relocated to South Carolina and fought in the early Revolutionary war campaigns before returning to private life in 1778. After the fall of Charleston in 1780, Sumter came out of military retirement to lead a group of partisan fighters who became known for their fierce fighting style in tenaciously resisting the British. This daring tenacity earned Sumter the nickname, “Carolina Gamecock”. He served as a Brigadier General in the state militia.
Courtesy of www.carolana.com
Assembly Street was named for the South Carolina General Assembly which first met in Columbia in 1790.
Gates Street (now Park) was named for Major General Horatio Gates, a native of England, who commanded the southern department of the Continental Army for a few months during the Revolutionary War including the disastrous loss to Cornwallis at the Battle of Camden. The upper part of Gates Street north of Sidney Park had been informally referred to as Park Street since before the Civil War. In 1905, upper Park Street residents petitioned the city to officially change the name of the northern part of the street. They did not want to be identified with the part of Gates Street south of Lady Street which had a reputation as a red-light district. On May 9, 1905, City Council ratified an ordinance changing the name of that portion of Gates Street north of Lady Street to Park Street since it was straddled by Sidney Park. Around 1941, the southern portion of the street was also renamed Park Street.
by Charles Wilson Peale
via National Park Service
Gadsden Street is the namesake of Charleston native, Christopher Gadsden, a founding member of the Charleston Sons of Liberty, who became commander of the 1st South Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army and brigadier general in the state militia. Gadsden also served as vice-president of South Carolina during the Revolutionary War.
Wayne Street was named for Pennsylvanian Anthony Wayne, an officer in the Continental Army who rose to the rank of Major General during the Revolutionary War. Toward the end of the war, Wayne led troops to South Carolina and Georgia to help drive out the remaining British forces.
Pulaski Street was named in honor of Polish immigrant Casimir Pulaski who became a brigadier general and cavalry commander in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He was best remembered for saving George Washington from capture or death at the Battle of Brandywine. Pulaski was moved to Charleston in 1779 where he assisted in the defense of the city. He died in October 1779 from wounds suffered during the Battle of Savannah.
Huger Street was named for Isaac Huger, a native of Berkeley County. During the Revolutionary War, he served as a colonel in the state militia and later as a brigadier general in the Continental Army serving under Lincoln, Gates, and Greene.
Williams Street was named for Maryland native Otho Williams who commanded a Maryland regiment of the Continental Army through much of the southern campaign. Williams led his troops in several engagements against the British including Camden and Eutaw Springs in South Carolina.
Gist Street was named for Maryland native Mordecai Gist whose service as a Brigadier General during the Revolutionary War included the Battle of Camden and victory at the Battle of Combahee River. After the war, Gist retired to a plantation outside of Charleston.
|Charles Cotesworth Pinckney|
New York Public Library Digital Collections
Roberts Street (nonextant) was the namesake of Continental Army Colonel Owen Roberts, a Charlestonian, who was killed in action at the battle of Stono Ferry. Roberts Street’s proximity to a bend in the river system limited it to three blocks between Laurel and Upper Streets. Roberts Street disappeared in the twentieth century supplanted by the city water works, Interstate 126, and rerouting of railroad tracks.
East-West Streets (listed from north to south)
Upper Street (now Elmwood Avenue) was so named because it was the northernmost boundary street of the original city grid. Its name was changed in 1874 to match the name of the cemetery situated along its western end.
Lumber Street (now Calhoun) was apparently named for the lumber trees, typically pine, that were plentiful in the South Carolina midlands. It was renamed Calhoun Street by a city council ordinance ratified on Nov 8, 1911. The change honored South Carolinian John C Calhoun who had served as vice president of the United States, US Senator, US Secretary of State, US Secretary of War, and as a member of the US House of Representatives.
Richland Street and the county in which it stands are often said to have been named for the “rich land” of the area. Former State Historian, A S Salley, however, wrote that the street was named for one of two Taylor plantations that previously existed on the land purchased in 1786 to build the new town of Columbia.
Laurel Street apparently got its name from the fact that laurel plants were common locally around the Taylor plantations in the 18th century.
New York Public Library Digital Collections
Taylor Street was named for brothers James and Thomas Taylor who owned over 30% of the land purchased by the commissioners on which to build Columbia. Thomas Taylor also served as one of the commissioners who oversaw the city’s design and sold the first lots in Columbia.
Plain Street (now Hampton) was, according to A S Salley, named for one of the Taylor brothers’ plantations which was called The Plain. The name could also have simply been derived from the phrase, “the plain of the hill whereon Thomas and James Taylor, Esquires now reside,” as stated in the statute which created the new capital. The street was renamed on July 10, 1907 for Wade Hampton III who had served as US Senator, SC State Senator, member of the SC House of Representatives, and 77th governor of South Carolina. During the Civil War, Hampton was a Confederate Cavalry leader who rose to the rank of lieutenant general as commander of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia.
|George & Martha Washington|
by Alonzo Cappel
Library of Congress
Lady Street was named for Martha Washington who was referred to as “Lady Washington” by her husband's soldiers throughout the Revolutionary War. A Continental Navy vessel was christened “USS Lady Washington” in her honor in 1776.
Gervais Street was named for German born French Huguenot, John Lewis Gervais, who immigrated to South Carolina in 1764. He later served as state Senator from Abbeville District and sponsored the bill to relocate the state capital from Charleston to the center of the state. This led to the establishment of a new town called Columbia.
Senate Street was named for the South Carolina State Senate. It was the central east-west street and was originally laid out 150 feet wide. Although originally planned as the primary east-west thoroughfare, it lost that distinction in the first half of the 19th Century primarily because of the location of the Congaree Bridge at the foot of Gervais Street.
Pendleton Street was named for Henry Pendleton, a Judge of the Courts of Law of South Carolina who also served as an aid to General Nathanael Greene during the Revolutionary War. Pendleton served in the House of Representatives and supported the bill that established Columbia as the capital. He was named as one of the original commissioners who purchased the land and laid out the city of Columbia.
Medium Street (now College) is one of the streets, along with Green and Devine, that have uncertain name origins. One theory is that these streets were named for early landowners or residents of the city. Another theory is that they were named for employees on the survey crew that laid out the city grid. Medium could possibly have been named for “medium of exchange” as currency was in a state of flux at the time with the fledgling US dollar having been introduced in 1785. On Nov 8, 1892, city council changed the name from Medium Street to College Street in honor of South Carolina College whose original campus, now called the Horseshoe, sits astride the street.
by Charles Wilson Peale
Divine Street (now Devine), like Medium and Greene has uncertain name origins. It has been theorized that it was either named for an early resident of Columbia or for an employee on the survey crew that laid out the city grid. It could also simply mean God-like or delightful with a desire to bring the Divine Presence to the city. The spelling of the name seems to have unofficially changed from “Divine” to “Devine” in the 1930s, but the earliest occurrences of the written name appear to be “Divine”. An act of the state legislature in 1802 referred to it as “Divine”. Helen Kohn Hennig’s 1936 book on the history of Columbia contained a map with hand written notes that said, “Devine has since been spelled in error D-i-v-i-n-e”. This uncited statement seems to have had the effect of changing the street’s name. The street signs were changed from “Divine” to “Devine” in 1936. Before 1939, all issues of Columbia’s city directories used the spelling, “Divine” in the street directory. Since 1939, all issues of the City Directory have used the spelling, “Devine”. (See Devine or Divine?)
Blossom Street, it is believed, was named for the cotton blossom. Cotton production, although still behind rice in 1786, was becoming an important part of the state’s agriculture and would become dominant with the boom of subsequent decades. The South Carolina Sea Island, long-staple, cotton plant produced a yellow blossom and a strong fiber that many considered to be the highest quality cotton in the world. This could very well be the source of the name of Blossom Street.
Wheat Street was named for an important local crop at the time.
Rice Street was named for South Carolina’s number one export crop in the eighteenth century. Indeed, the state was the leading producer of rice in North America for nearly two centuries. Most of Rice Street was converted to a railroad bed in the 1850s by the Charlotte, Columbia, & Augusta Railroad. Only two blocks of Rice Street remain between Bull and Henderson Streets.
Tobacco Street (now Catawba) was named for one of the top export crops from South Carolina in the second half of the eighteenth century. It was renamed in 1946 for the Catawba Indian Nation, who had received federal recognition just four years earlier and who remain the only federally recognized tribe of Native Americans in the state.
|Duncan Clinch Heyward|
South Carolina Department of Archives and History
Lower Street (now Heyward) was the southernmost, or ‘lower’, boundary street of the original street grid. It was renamed Heyward Street in 1931. The new name was in honor of former Governor Duncan Clinch Heyward.
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