The third stop on our historic home tour in Columbia SC brought us to the Mann-Simons Site. Our first two tours – the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston House – were conducted by John, while both this tour and the final house – the Woodrow Wilson Family Home – were conducted by the equally-wonderful Cyndy.
The Mann-Simons Site is a home that was owned by the same African-American family from at least 1843 through to 1970. The house was subsequently opened as a museum in 1978.
Similar to the other historic homes in the area, outside the front of the property was a historic marker with information about the property on both sides.
The original homeowner was Ben Delane, an African-American boatman who transferred goods such as cotton by boat from Columbia to Charleston.
Delane bought his own freedom; it’s thought he earned a little money each time he was rented out and subsequently bought his wife Celia’s freedom too.
The front door of the house had an interesting design on it – I think it was an etching or carving. I’d meant to ask Cyndy if there was any significance to it, but unfortunately forgot to do so. If you happen to know if there’s any significance to this design, I’d love it if you shared your knowledge in the comments below 🙂
In the entrance hallway were photographs of some of the house’s previous residents.
The first room we entered was once the living room. Unlike the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston House, the Mann-Simons Site wasn’t decorated as a period residence. Instead, it was more focused on historical information about the site and its previous residents.
The living room had a large family tree on the wall displaying the family’s lineage over the years.
The living room also held some artifacts recovered from the site, including a porcelain doll’s leg and hands, a rubber bouncy ball, a floral pitcher and more.
On top of the mantelpiece were several other bagged artifacts which included this old comb.
We then moved on to the next room which is thought to have been a bedroom and contained many other artifacts.
In 1909, one of the buildings burned down. Rather than recovering items that survived the fire, for some reason they were all buried in a garbage pit instead. The pit was discovered many years later and these items were recovered.
There’s a set of stairs leading to the second floor of the Mann-Simons Site. There are offices located upstairs, so that part of the house isn’t visited as part of the tour.
The third room we visited downstairs is thought to have been used as a dining room. Due to the relative wealth of the family, they’d been able to afford new inventions over the years. This room therefore held some of those items.
I was also fascinated by the tiny revolver that was more than 100 years old.
The final room on this level was a small bedroom. It contained some boards with information about segregation…
…as well as an old address book. I found the address book fascinating as well as there were very few phone numbers listed in there; for the most part, it was only businesses that had phone numbers listed. There were so few people and businesses with a phone at the time, their phone numbers were only four digits long.
The address book is also notable as the listings were split between whites and African-Americans.
Having explored the main level, Cyndy led us down into the basement.
The basement was once used as the original location for Calvary Baptist Church. There’s usually a video that’s shown which gives some additional history, but unfortunately it wasn’t working the day we visited.
The basement also had a wall display containing numerous other recovered artifacts. All these items were found having fallen through the basement’s wood floor over the years.
Having seen everything inside, we made our way back outside. On the grounds of the Mann-Simons site are several ghost structures. These have been placed in the locations where they’d have originally been found and include a lunch counter, outhouse and grocery store.
I appreciated that they’d erected these as it made it easier to visualize how it would’ve looked back in the day.
After this tour was over, we made our way to the Woodrow Wilson Family Home for our final tour of the day.
The Mann-Simons Site was a little different to what we’d been expecting. The first two houses we’d visited on the historic home tour were decorated in the way homes of the era would once have been used.
This house though was more focused on the history of the families that lived there over the years, along with the struggles they’d have faced as African-Americans during segregation, pre-Civil Rights era, etc. That made this home tour interesting in its own way and provided a great learning opportunity.
Other Historic Homes In Columbia SC
Check out our reviews of all four of the Historic Columbia House Tours: