Everything About Columbia, South Carolina


Columbia was founded in 1786 as the site of the new state capital. It was part of the area known as the Congaree District during colonial times. Columbia is located roughly at the geographical center of South Carolina, making it an ideal location for the state government.

The city was laid out in a grid pattern modeled after Savannah and incorporated in 1805. Columbia grew slowly but steadily in the early 19th century, though its development lagged behind larger port cities like Charleston. Columbia’s inland location gave it a strategic advantage when Sherman’s Union troops burned a path to the sea during the Civil War. Columbia surrendered to Sherman on February 17, 1865 and much of the central city was destroyed by fire.

After the Civil War, Columbia began to industrialize and emerged as an important railroad hub. The population grew rapidly in the early 20th century. Despite some economic ups and downs over the years, Columbia has remained the center of South Carolina’s government and an important regional city in the Southeast.

Major employers include the state government, the University of South Carolina, the U.S. Army’s Fort Jackson, and various healthcare and technology companies.


Columbia is located in central South Carolina in the Midlands region. It lies roughly at the midpoint of a line drawn between Augusta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina. The fall line between the Piedmont region and Atlantic coastal plain runs along the Congaree River just east of downtown.

The city has a total area of 134 square miles, of which 132 square miles is land and 1.2 square miles is water. Columbia is situated at the confluence of the Saluda and Broad rivers, which merge to form the Congaree River. Lake Murray lies just northwest of the city.

Columbia enjoys a diversified terrain, with rolling hills in certain neighborhoods and flatter plains in others. The land generally slopes downward from the northwest to the southeast as it descends towards the coast. Four-lane highways connect Columbia to other major cities while wooded rural roads radiate into the countryside.


The Columbia area has a variety of geological formations. Much of the downtown area lies on the Coastal Plain region, with sedimentary deposits of sand, silt, and clay. Bluffs line the eastern bank of the Congaree River. Layers underground record past environments like ancient rivers, swamps, and marine environments when the ocean extended further inland.

Northwest of downtown, the older Carolina Slate Belt formation consists of volcanic and sedimentary rocks like slate, schist, granite, and quartz. The ancient rocks of the Carolina Terrane contain mineral deposits. Gold was discovered in the early 1800s, helping establish Columbia as a center of commerce.

The fault line between younger coastal sediments to the southeast and older Carolina Slate Belt rocks to the northwest passes right through Columbia along the Congaree River. Movement of tectonic plates long ago uplifted the harder igneous and metamorphic rocks, while the softer sediments of the coastal plain sank downwards, creating the fall line.


Some of Columbia’s most popular neighborhoods include Forest Acres, Shandon, Rosewood, Earlewood, Wales Garden, Melrose Heights, and Elmwood Park.

Forest Acres is an affluent community with large homes set among the rolling, wooded hills northwest of downtown. Established in the 1930s, Forest Acres has a country club and golf course, shopping centers, and easy access to interstates.

Adjacent to the University of South Carolina campus, Shandon is a vibrant neighborhood with historic homes, shops, and restaurants. Students and professionals both live in Shandon, creating a diverse mix. The area is walkable and centrally located near Five Points.

Rosewood and Earlewood, two historic early 20th century suburbs, lie to the northeast of downtown Columbia. Tree-lined streets with charming bungalows give Rosewood a quaint, family-friendly atmosphere. Homes range from smaller, cozy cottages to larger residences built in the 1930s and 40s. Convenient to shopping on Main Street, Earlewood has brick ranch houses and Colonials.

On the west side of town, Wales Garden features curvilinear streets following the area’s rolling topography dotted with mid-century ranches, Cape Cods, and custom-built residences. Melrose Heights and Elmwood Park, located off of Sunset Boulevard, are some of the most prestigious areas with estates and luxury homes.


Columbia experiences a humid subtropical climate consisting of hot, humid summers and cool to mild winters. The average high temperatures range from 62°F in January to 92°F July. Low temperatures average 38°F in January and 72°F in July. Rainfall is abundant and evenly dispersed throughout the year, averaging nearly 46 inches annually. Snow is rare in Columbia, with an average of 0.7 inches annually.

The long, muggy summers make air conditioning a necessity in Columbia. The highest temperature ever recorded was 111°F in 2007. Late summer heat is often broken by afternoon thunderstorms.

By November cool fronts bring relief from the summer heat. Wintertime temperatures occasionally dip below freezing at night while daytime highs reach into the 50s. The plum blossoms signal a relatively brief spring before temperatures climb again by May.


Columbia has a racially diverse population of about 134,000 residents. The population density is over 1,700 people per square mile within the city limits. The racial composition of the city is roughly 48% African American, 42% white, 5% Hispanic or Latino, 3% Asian American, and 3% two or more races or other groups. Compared to South Carolina overall, Columbia’s population has a significantly higher percentage of African Americans.

About 91% of Columbia residents have a high school diploma and 35% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Columbia has a relatively young population compared to the nation overall, with a median age of 32 versus 38 for all Americans. About 18% of city residents are aged 18 or below, while 12% are 65 or older.

Columbia saw steady population growth in recent decades, though it has slowed somewhat since 1990. Suburbanization trends have accounted for rapid growth in unincorporated areas of Richland County outside the city limits in recent years.

Overall the Columbia metro area has a population of approximately 822,000 and forms the second largest urban cluster in South Carolina after the Charleston region.


As South Carolina’s capital and second largest city, Columbia has an economy centered around government, education, healthcare, financial services, and technology sectors. Nearly 30% of employment is in the public administration field.

Professional services account for major employers like BlueCross BlueShield and Colonial Life insurance companies, civil engineering firms, and major law practices. The University of South Carolina drives innovation, specializing in research areas like information technology and healthcare.

Manufacturing was once a cornerstone of Columbia’s economy, with textile mills prominent early in the 20th century. Though factory jobs have declined nationwide, Columbia still has an industrial base focused more on advanced materials, automotive parts, machinery and specialty chemicals production.

Major corporations like International Paper, Westinghouse Electric, and Kimberly Clark have operations in the region. UPS operates an air hub at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, reflecting the city’s excellent transportation infrastructure.

Due to the stabilizing presence of government and education sectors, Columbia fared better than many cities during the 2008 recession. The metro economy has grown steadily in recent years, though median incomes still lag the national average. Ongoing downtown revitalization aims to further bolster Columbia as an attractive place for investment and skilled professionals.


As a New South capital city, Columbia offers an appealing blend of Southern charm with urban energy and diversity. Locals embrace traditional Southern culture like college football Saturdays while enjoying urban amenities like craft breweries, chef-driven farm-to-table restaurants, and chic boutiques. Though gentrification has altered some historic neighborhoods, others maintain their original architecture and character.

Annual cultural events draw tourists from around the Southeast. In the spring St. Patricks Day celebrations take over Five Points while the summer kicks off with Indie Grits, a popular film festival and cultural event celebrating Southern independent art. When temperatures cool down Harvest Moon and Jam Room Music festivals continue the party into the fall. Throughout December holiday light displays and events get locals into the festive spirit.

As a majority African American city and birthplace of the Revolutionary movement led by MLK protégé Rev. I. DeQuincey Newman, Columbia has played an important role in Civil Rights history while continuing to grapple with racial divisions today.

Efforts to acknowledge and heal from the city’s past while addressing ongoing social justice aims unite and divide citizens. Public arts projects and community events seek to bridge gaps by facilitating understanding.

Colleges and universities

Home to the flagship campus of the University of South Carolina, Columbia is very much a college town. Founded in 1801, the beautiful historic Horseshoe at USC forms the heart of campus. USC Columbia has over 350 degree programs across 13 colleges, including top ranked International Business, Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, and Sports Management programs. Over 34,000 students attend USC, while nearly 47,000 attend one of eight campuses statewide, including one in Columbia.

Besides USC, Columbia has several other institutions of higher


  • Allen University is a small historically Black liberal arts college founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870. Allen focuses on leadership, service, and social responsibility through degrees in business, education, and religion.
  • Benedict College is another nearby HBCU steeped in African American heritage. Founded in 1870, Benedict has over 50 academic programs, strong community service ethic, and Division II athletic programs. Benedict has produced some famous alumni like diplomat Andrew Young and baseball legend Larry Doby.
  • Columbia College offers diverse adult education programs with flexible class options. Focused on accessibility, Columbia College enrolled over 4,000 students across campuses statewide in 2020.
  • Columbia International University contains various seminaries and bible colleges focused on ministry, education, counseling, music, and more. CIU sends many missionaries abroad from its beautiful campus located northeast of the city center.
  • Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Midlands Technical College, and Fortis have smaller Columbia branch campuses as well.

With so many academic institutions and nearly 50,000 university students in the metro, Columbia has an invigorated cultural scene, opportunities for partnerships and internships, and an educated resident workforce.


As the state capital, Columbia is home to a variety of media outlets including:

The State – South Carolina’s largest newspaper

WLTX, WIS, and WOLO – Three broadcast TV stations

WVOC – News/talk radio station

SCETV – Statewide public broadcasting TV station

Free Times – Alternative weekly newspaper

Columbia Star – African American community paper

Palmetto Business Daily – Online business news

The Daily Gamecock – University of South Carolina student paper

Several smaller niche publications also serve the Columbia area like Talking Points Memo focusing on South Carolina politics.

Most national print and broadcast outlets provide some coverage of South Carolina news from their Southeast regional bureaus located in Atlanta or Charlotte. Being centrally located between bigger media markets, Columbia citizens enjoy access to statewide news as well as national and regional reporting on issues affecting the Southeast US.


At the crossroads of three major interstates, Columbia serves as a regional transportation hub. Interstate highways allow Columbia residents convenient access to other major Southeastern cities:

  • I-26 links Columbia to Charleston, SC 145 miles to the southeast
  • I-20 connects Columbia west over 200 miles to Atlanta
  • I-77 provides a north-south corridor up into North Carolina leading to Charlotte, 100 miles north

Several highways also converge in Columbia, like US Routes 1, 21, 76 and 378. Major state roads radiate outward providing passage to smaller towns and rural areas. Columbia Metropolitan Airport offers nonstop flights to seven major domestic airline hubs.

Amtrak operates rail services to other East Coast destinations like Savannah, New York City, Miami and Washington D.C. from the Columbia passenger train station.

With so much connectivity by road, air travel and rail, Columbia serves as an ideal hub for business logistics and travel throughout the region. Locals can readily access beach and mountain getaways while visitors have easy access to South Carolina’s vibrant capital city.

Major Landmarks

Some of Columbia’s major landmarks include:

  • South Carolina State House with its copper dome atop the Capitol building where state legislature meets
  • University of South Carolina Horseshoe on the historic campus of the state’s oldest college
  • South Carolina Vietnam Veterans Memorial honouring state residents who gave their lives
  • Riverbanks Zoo & Garden along the scenic Congaree River overlooking the downtown skyline
  • Columbia Museum of Art housing outstanding regional visual arts collections
  • Five Points district packed with unique shops, restaurants and nightlife venues
  • Williams Brice Stadium where the South Carolina Gamecocks play SEC football
  • Fort Jackson Army base, one of the nation’s largest training centers
  • South Carolina Hall of Fame recognizing significant state figures like Dizzy Gillespie
  • Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park with scenic walking paths connecting downtown to recreational amenities

From the iconic bronze statue of George Washington riding into battle atop the State House dome to the Three Rivers Greenway winding through city parks and nature preserves, Columbia offers many iconic landmarks showcasing history, culture, education, commerce, recreation, and natural beauty.

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  • Start out going south on Main Street toward Oak Avenue. Turn right onto Oak Avenue and continue for 2 miles. Take the ramp onto Highway 77 South and drive for 5 miles. Take exit 42 for Slash Pine Road. Turn left onto Slash Pine Road and drive west for 3 miles. Turn right onto Slash Pine Lane. 1012 Slash Pine Ln will be on your left.
  • Begin by heading west on Park Street for 0.6 miles. Turn left onto Elm Boulevard and go straight for 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Highway 77 South and continue for about 8 miles. Use the left 2 lanes to take exit 42 for Slash Pine Road. Keep left at the fork and turn left onto Slash Pine Road. In 2.5 miles, turn right onto Slash Pine Lane. 1012 Slash Pine Ln is on the right side of the street.
  • Start out on Creek View Drive heading south. Drive for 0.9 miles and turn right onto Oak Avenue. Take Oak Avenue across the bridge over the creek and continue west for 1.7 miles. Turn left onto Highway 77 South and stay on it for approximately 7 miles. Take exit 42 for Slash Pine Road. At the stop sign, turn left onto Slash Pine Road heading west. After 2.8 miles, make a right onto Slash Pine Lane. 1012 Slash Pine Ln will be a gray house on your right side.