Perhaps unfortunately for you (but fortunately for history), the Woodrow Wilson Family Home (1705 Hampton St., 803/252-7742, www.historiccolumbia.org ) is closed for massive restorations through at least 2010, and possibly longer. Still, this attractive Victorian cottage, built in 1872, is a vital piece of Columbia  history and one that’s easily viewed from the street, so we need to talk about it here.
The Wilson family arrived in Columbia from Augusta, Georgia, during Reconstruction, when the future president’s father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, took a job at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, housed in what’s now the Mills House . Woodrow himself—who went by the name of Tommy at the time—was fourteen years old. Woodrow’s mother, Jessie, held sway over the extensive gardens, and planted the magnolias you see in the front yard from Hampton Street.
The Wilsons only stayed in the house a couple of years. Dr. Wilson became involved in an internal political squabble at the seminary, and in 1874 resigned for a job in North Carolina. However, the Wilson’s remained close to many people in Columbia and returned often.
By Southern standards, the grassroots movement which saved the Woodrow Wilson Family Home came very early, in 1928, with the house opening to the public in 1932. Clearly the move to save the house was spurred on in no small part by the president’s death in 1924.
When the home reopens, its collections will reflect the era during which the Wilsons lived here; however, few will be former possessions of the family. Historically the key object in the collection is the bed in which the president was born in 1856 in Staunton, Virginia.