Woodrow Wilson's Columbia home reopens to public

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 18, 2014 at 9:39 am •  Published: February 18, 2014
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — After nearly a decade of renovations, the South Carolina home where President Woodrow Wilson lived as a teenager is reopening to the public as a museum not only about the politician but also the Reconstruction Era.

The home where the 28th president of the United States moved at age 13 and spent his teenage years reopened Feb. 15.

Wilson's father taught at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Columbia and was minister at First Presbyterian Church, where Wilson's father, mother and sister are all buried.

The villa-style home built in 1871 is one of four historic sites for Wilson — along with his birthplace in Stanton, Va.; a home in Augusta, Ga., where he grew up; and the Washington, D.C., home where he lived after his time as president. The South Carolina home is the state's only presidential site.

Saved from demolition in 1928 after residents protested, the historic home in downtown Columbia closed its doors and grounds to the public in 2005 when plaster fell from the ceiling in some of the downstairs rooms and water damage to the home's foundation became evident.

"Rather than just start pulling out artifacts from those rooms that were affected, we decided to go ahead and close the whole site," said John Sherrer, director of cultural resources at Historic Columbia, which maintains the property.

The $3.6 million project to restore the home, which is owned by Richland County, was funded through tax money and private donations. During the nearly decade-long closure, Historic Columbia spent that time doing a historic analysis, which determined details like the blueprint of the home when the Wilsons lived in it and what had been added and closed up in the decades since.

"The end result was a building that, structurally, looked like it did when the Wilsons called this home," Sherrer said. "If Tommy Wilson (Woodrow's nickname) and his family had showed up here in 2005, they'd be walking around going, 'What's that window doing there?' or 'How can we get from this room to that room?' ... Now what we have is a building that more genuinely reflects what they would have been accustomed to."

The home also now has a new roof, shutters and a wood foundation that needed to be replaced because of water damage. The project also included a revamp of the home's exterior paint scheme, which Sherrer says is now closer to what they would have been when Wilson lived there and is being replicated by preservationists working on other Columbia-area buildings from the same era. Once painted white and gray, now the home's outside is cast in more vibrant but still earthy tones, with tan and brown trim and deep blue-green shutters.



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