On March 22, 1786, Columbia, named after Christopher Columbus was made the state capital of South Carolina. As the second planned city in the United States, Columbia began to grow rapidly at that time and today is still seeing steady growth.
The commissioners of the city designed a town of 400 Blocks in a two-mile square along the river. The blocks were divided into half-acre lots and sold to speculators and prospective residents. Buyers had to build a house at least 30 feet long and 18 feet wide within three years or face an annual 5 percent penalty.
The perimeter streets and two through streets were 150 feet wide. The remaining squares were divided by thoroughfares 100 feet wide. The width was determined by the belief that the dangerous and pesky mosquito could not fly more than 60 feet without dying of starvation along the way.
Columbians still enjoy most of the magnificent network of wide streets.
Columbia received its first charter as a town in 1805. An intendent and six wardens would govern the town, until it would later become a city in 1854 and elected a mayor.
Downtown Columbia, South Carolina - circa 1890
In 1934, the old federal courthouse at Main and Laurel Streets was purchased as City Hall. Built of granite from nearby Winnsboro, Columbia City Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
By the early twentieth century Columbia became nationally important again as the federal government established Camp Jackson as a basic training facility for the United States Army during World War I. Years later, during World War II, the facility was improved, and enlarged to become Fort Jackson, currently our nation's largest Army basic training facility. Also during World War II, Columbia Army Airbase, today's Columbia Metropolitan Airport, trained numerous bomber pilots for missions oversees. Among them were the famous Doolittle Raiders, commanded by Lt. Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle, who led a daring assault on Japan following that country's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Today, Columbia is a New South city whose vitality is based largely upon the diversity of its offerings. Like the attributes that made it popular since its founding, Columbia continues to serve the Palmetto State as a center for education, a seat of government, and a crossroads of commerce and culture.
Columbia was recently one of 30 communities named "America's Most Livable Communities," and has the nickname, "The Capital of Southern Hospitality." Columbia is the home of the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks.