Robert Mills House
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Not the oldest but the most architecturally significant member of Columbia’s three antebellum homes to survive Sherman’s torching, the Robert Mills House (1616 Blanding St., 803/252-7742, www.historiccolumbia.org, Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1–5 p.m., $6 adults, $3 children, under 6 free) is named for its designer, whose impressive oeuvre includes the Washington Monument. Built in 1823 for local merchant Ainsley Hall, this brick Classical Revival building soon metamorphosed into something else entirely.
With Hall’s untimely death and the dispersal of his estate before the house was finished, the house soon found itself purchased by the local Presbyterian Synod. A seminary began holding classes here in 1831, and Woodrow Wilson’s father and uncle, both Presbyterian ministers, were on the faculty.
When the seminary moved in 1927, the old mansion fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition after WWII. But as with Charleston and Savannah, a grassroots conservation effort saved the house in the mid-1960s, and it’s now administered by the Historic Columbia Foundation. The interior hosts a range of furniture and decorative arts, including examples of American Federal, English Regency, and French Empire styles.
Don’t forget that you can get a combo ticket (803/252-7742, $15 adults, $8 children, under 6 free) at the Mills House for all the Foundation’s house museums (including the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Mann-Simon Cottage). The last tour at each house begins at 3 p.m. Tuesdays–Saturdays and at 4 p.m. on Sundays.
© Jim Morekis from Moon South Carolina, 4th Edition