Sunday, November 16, 2014

Columbia, South Carolina

Last week's arctic polar air mass prompted us to head south out of Washington D.C.  We are now in Columbia, and still experiencing cold weather.  Locals here are quick to tell us that the weather here has not been normal for them for several weeks now.  We drove to downtown Columbia yesterday and a rather cold wind kept us from touring around as much as we would usually do.
Despite the cool weather which this town has been having, the grounds of the capitol still look quite lush and green.  As some of you may know, the nickname of South Carolina is the Palmetto State.  The palmetto is really not a tree, it belongs to the grass family.  The tall palmetto in the picture is not real, but part of a monument.  The real ones are standing to the left of the capitol.  They are joined by other large striking elegant trees on the grounds.  I could have spent more time outside but the cold drove us inside.
The interior dome (pictured above) fits inside the exterior one which is made of steel and wood and has a copper finish.  The state seal is located on the second floor overlooking the main lobby.  It is made of 37,000 pieces of glass and is an original to the building.  Below it are three large mahogany doors with mosaic pictures on the transom windows above, also original to the building.  An imposing statue of John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) dominates the middle of the lobby.  General Sherman burned Columbia in1865, which included the old wooden state house.  Work on the present building began in 1855, it sustained some damage in 1865.  A statue of George Washington, located outside, was brick batted and part of his cane is  missing.  For more than 150 years five architects worked to complete the state house.  Today it is quite a beautiful state house with its wrought iron stairways, stained glass and marble floors.
Before leaving the capitol grounds we stopped at the African American History Monument, which tells the story of  Americans who were transported here from Africa as slaves (about 40% came through the port of Charleston to be enslaved), and even after their freedom endured Jim Crow laws, lynching and discrimination.  The beauty of this monument lies in the last panel which shows African Americans today experiencing success in business, sports, science, politics and art.
Our day in Columbia ended at Riverfront Park and Columbia Canal.  The city lies along the Congaree River.  In 1824 a canal was built for transportation purposes, after which it became a source of hydroelectric power.  The old waterworks plant is still here, as well as other old brick buildings.  Trees with their fall foliage and a lone great blue heron added to the beauty of the walkway along the river.

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