Columbia is known for a lot of things. The state legislature. The Gamecocks. The “famously hot” climate. But one aspect of the city that often gets overlooked though is the real estate.
Tons of great homes are scattered throughout Columbia. Some are flashy and over the top. Others are quaint and full of charm. They’re tucked away on quiet blocks or standing loud and proud on the main thoroughfares. We asked readers to submit their favorites. Here are just a few that stood out to us.
Whether you love it or hate it, chances are you’ve noticed this house located off Devine Street right across from St. Joseph Church.
Architect Beau Clowney fused both art deco and mid century modern style features into his design of this house, built in 1996. The exterior seamlessly combines organic curves and sharp points, all done up in white brick with glass accents.
Perhaps the most striking feature is the large circular window on the right side. Owner Kevin Fisher, who bought the house in 2011, said the mosaic-like panels in the window were inspired by the art of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.
When asked if he had ever considered planting hedges to ward off nosy onlookers, Fisher said that would go against the architect’s intent.
“I feel like the house was made to be seen,” he said.
The Powell estate
When co-owner Kandie Wright bought this home in Melrose Heights in 2010, “it was in a terrible terrible state,” she said.
She spent about two years trying to convince her husband to buy the place, and another three years renovating it. That work paid off in 2013 when Wright and the architect, Jeff Lewis, received a preservation award from Historic Columbia. The home also earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places for its prairie-style design, which features a hipped roof with broad overhangs.
From 1917 to 2006, the home belonged to the Powells, a well-to-do family who owned the Melrose Construction Co. and built many of the other houses in the neighborhood.
The inside is mostly modern — save for the floors, which Wright was able to salvage using the original wood. But there are still several remnants of the Powells’ original estate. They include the carriage house — which has been converted into a rental unit — and a pergola overlooking what was once Columbia’s first in-ground pool.
Standalone shotgun house
With all the million-dollar homes in the ritzy Wheeler Hill neighborhood, if you blink you just might miss this modest one-bedroom apartment.
Though the house may look out of place today, it was once the norm.
“This area was an African American community of shotgun homes,” said owner Dale Marshal, who bought the house in 1989 and now rents it out.
In the 1970s the University of South Carolina and the city embarked on a land redevelopment project in Wheeler Hill. Most of the original Black residents were forced out and the neighborhood was bulldozed.
Built in 1920, this house is one of just a handful of remaining structures from the original neighborhood.
The pink house
Though many houses are painted pink in Columbia, there’s only one “pink house,” and it’s even got the Facebook page to prove it.
Co-owner Shari Hutchinson described her Pepto Bismol colored abode as a Shandon landmark. But this beloved neighborhood icon almost met its demise in 2016 when it was crushed by a large oak tree.
Though the original 1929 bungalow had to be demolished, Hutchinson and her husband, Tim Carrier, vowed to build a replica that honored the spirit of the first home.
“We actually held a wake for the house,” Carrier said. “About 100 people showed up.”
After 9 months of construction, pink house 2.0 rose from the ashes of its predecessor. It’s not an exact copy — the new version is slightly narrower and there’s no pool — but it’s pretty darn close. Hutchinson and Carrier were even able to incorporate two of the original columns from the porch.
“The heart of the house is the same because of the neighborhood we’re in,” Hutchinson, said, reflecting on the outpouring of concern and support they received when the first home was destroyed.
“Even now people tell us ‘we’re so glad you kept it the way it was.’”
Ruth’s beauty parlor
When you first approach this Queen Anne style home in Waverly, the bright turquoise color will likely be the first thing that catches your eye. But take a closer look and you’ll spot a weathered old door on the right side of the porch.
This was once the entrance to Ruth’s Beauty Parlor, a Black-owned salon that served as an important community gathering place in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Ruth Perry Collins operated the shop out of her family home, which was built by her father Nathaniel Collins around 1910. Ruth’s Beauty Parlor was even featured in the Negro Traveler’s Green Book, a guide that listed safe havens for Black travelers in the Jim Crow south.
When Robbie Robertson and his partner, Brent Girard, moved in two years ago, they knew nothing about the Collins family. But after a doctoral student from the University of South Carolina approached them for a paper she was writing about the home, the couple worked with her to get Ruth’s Beauty Parlor added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is a house that was once full with a lot of life,” Robertson said, “One of our favorite parts of living here is just imagining all the people who passed through and the conversations that took place here.”
Wedged into the side of a lush wooded hill overlooking a private pond, this home in the Heathwood Park neighborhood feels like an escape from the city. The owner, who asked not to be named to protect his privacy, compared it to the Swiss Family Robinson’s treehouse.
Though it’s hard to tell from the road, this wood-exterior home is almost perfectly round. It was built in 2004 and designed by Asheville-based company Deltec, which is known for its “360 degree” floor plans.
The house is raised about a story off the ground and supported by large concrete beams. To access the front door, visitors must make their way down a zigzagging boardwalk. The boardwalk wraps all the way around the house and provides a great view of the pond.
The mullet house
Just like the “business in the front, party in the back” hairstyle, this home in Cottontown has two contrasting designs. Built in 1936, the front portion of the home has a brick veneer that matches the colonial revival style. The addition built onto the back of the home last year was made with more modern looking white hardy plank.
Co-owner Lauren Williams Noesner said she had to abide by certain design rules in order to get permission from the city to build the addition because her house falls in the Cottontown/Bellevue Architectural Conservation District.
“They do not want you to use the exact materials that it was finished with to make sure it’s clear what is new and what is old,” she said.
When asked why she chose to jump through these hoops rather than just purchasing a different property, Noesner explained that the home has special meaning to her family.
“My husband’s parents owned the home before us and we believe that the street this house is on was actually named for his ancestors.”
The Lyles Gudmundson home
In 1916, Edwin Wales Robinson — the wealthy Columbia banker credited with developing much of the city during the 20th century — set out to give his daughter Evelyn Robertson Lyles a wedding gift fit for an heiress of her stature: a brand new home.
Construction started in 1918. But the project was delayed for four years because of difficulties obtaining materials from Europe amid the devastation of the Spanish flu.
“I guess it was fitting that I moved in 100 years later during another pandemic,” said current owner Frank J Penna, who purchased the home last year for $1.22 million.
Located in Wales Garden (a neighborhood named after — you guessed it — Edwin Wales Robinson), the home was built in the neoclassical style. It features a two-story balcony with ornate columns, all original windows and a courtyard with a pool.
This 1920s era home in Shandon puts a unique spin on the traditional craftsman style. The front porch juts out from the front of the house and features large stuccoed pedestals and exposed beams, vaguely resembling a Japanese Buddhist temple.
Co-owner Graeme Moore said he and his partner Justin Drafts had long admired this 1920s era bungalow in Shandon. So when they saw it go up for sale in 2015, “we put an offer in without ever going inside,” he said.
The home had suffered from years of neglect, so Moore and Drafts had to renovate it from the inside out.
Though not much is known about the original owners, Moore said the house started out as a “Sears kit” home, meaning all the parts and plans could be ordered through the Sears catalogue.
The Landrum Stork home
Built around 1850, just 15 years before General William Tecumsah’s army set fire to Columbia, this charming farmhouse is one of the oldest homes in Forest Acres and possibly the entire city.
According to a 2004 article from The State, one of the most notable former occupants was Abner Landrum, a liberal newspaperman and potter who moved there after being driven out of Edgefield for publishing pro-abolitionist content.
Landrum took advantage of the rich clay deposits on the property, using it to perfect his pottery.
That same clay was later used by the Storks, a brick-making family who acquired the home through marriage. Bricks emblazoned with the Stork name still line the front walkway of the house.
Co-owner Chris Render purchased the house in 2015 to make room for his growing family.
Render said he and his four kids enjoy playing in and around the old smokehouse and root cellar on the property and hunting for the scraps of pottery that turn up in the backyard whenever it rains.