When Columbia was chosen as the site of the new state capital, the City Commissioners hired John Gabriel Guignard as Surveyor General to lay out the new town. He divided the two-mile-square area into twenty square city blocks, or 400 total blocks within Columbia. The four boundary roads and two central thoroughfares were 150 feet wide. All other streets were 100 feet wide. The Commissioners were concerned about the spread of fire and disease, particularly malaria, via mosquito. The conventional belief at the time was that a mosquito could not fly more than 60 feet without dying of starvation, and wide streets would prevent the spread of disease. Although their rationale was incorrect, the City of Columbia still enjoys a network of wide streets and avenues.
The four boundaries of the town were Upper Street to the north, Harden Street to the east, Lower Street to the south, and Congaree River to the west. The two central thoroughfares were Assembly Street from the north to the south, and Senate Street from the east to the west. Since the intersection of these two streets would be home to the new State House, they were named for the two houses in the legislature – the General Assembly and the Senate. The north- south streets were originally named for officers who fought for South Carolina in the Revolution. Most were for native South Carolinians. The east-west streets were generally named for important agricultural products of state’s economy or important citizens at the time.
ASSEMBLY Street was named for the General Assembly, which first met in 1790.
BARNWELL was named for General John Bardwell. He was a member of the militia 1779-1781 and served in the South Carolina Senate until his death.
BLANDING Street was originally named Walnut Street. It was renamed in 1869 in honor of Abram Blanding. Blending built the city’s first water works in 1820.
BLOSSOM Street took its name from the cotton blossom. Cotton had become an important commercial crop in South Carolina, particularly after the cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney in 1794. A variety of cotton, known as Sea Island cotton, and grown along coastal South Carolina was especially prized for its long staple.
BULL Streetwas named for Brigadier General Stephen Bull (c. 1733-1800). Grandson of Lieutenant Governor William Bull Sr., Stephen was a member of the Commons House of Assembly. He saw military action in the Battle of Beaufort and the Savannah campaign, and later served in the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives.
CALHOUN Street was originally called Lumber Street. It was renamed in 1911 in honor of John Caldwell Calhoun, a prominent statesman from 1812-1845.
CATAWBA Street wasoriginally named Tobacco Street, it was renamed Catawba after a regional Native American tribe.
COLLEGE Street was originally named Medium Street. It was renamed as it bisected the area that was to become South Carolina College.
DEVINE Street was named for a citizen of the new town of Columbia.
ELMWOOD Avenue was originally named Upper Street. It was renamed shortly after 1872 for the adjacent Elmwood Cemetery.
GADSDEN Street was named for Christopher Gadsden, a famous patriot and brigadier general in the Revolution.
This street was named for John Lewis Gervais. He served in the American Revolutiona and introduced the bill which resulted in the selection of Columbia as the capital.
GIST Street was named for Brigadier General Mordecai Gist. During the Revolution, Gist participated in the Battle of Camden in 1780, and commanded in the engagement on the Combahee River in August of 1782. After the Revolution, General Gist settled in Charleston where he died in 1792. Only a one block stretch of this road remains – from Gervais Street to Senate Street.
GREGG Street was originally named Winn Street for General Richard Winn. He fought throughout the Revolution. About 1803, the street was renamed Gregg Street in honor of Maxcy Gregg, a Confederate General.
GREENE Street was probably named Green for a citizen was involved with the selection of site for the capital. The street was renamed Greene in 1979 for Nathanial Greene, Commander of the Souther Army in the American Revolution.
HAMPTON Street was originally named Plain, after one of the Taylor plantation on which Columbia was built. It was renamed in 1907 in honor of Wade Hampton III, a Confederate general, South Carolina Governor and United States senator.
HARDEN Street was named after William Harden, who served under Francis Marion.
HENDERSON Street was named after Brigadier General William Henderson. He was captured at the fall of Charleston and later exchanged and served as Brigadier General of State Tropps.
HEYWARD Street was originally named Lower Street. It was later renamed Heyward in honor of Governor Duncan Clinch Hayward, a retired rice planter.
HUGER Street is named for Brigadier Geneal Isaac Huger. He served in the Revolution and later in the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate.
LADY Street was named in honor of Martha Custis Washington, the new nation’s First Lady.
LAUREL Street was named for shrubs and trees common in South Carolina.
LAURENS Street was named for Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens of South Carolina, who studied in London, returned to America in 1777 and still in his early twenties was named aide-de-camp to General George Washington. He was killed in action during the Battle of Cumbahee River in 1782. His commanding officer was Brigadier General Mordecai Gist. Only a few blocks of this street remains – from Gervais to Hampton.
LINCOLN Street was named for General Benjamin Lincoln. He was captured at Charleston in 1780. He was later exchanged and fought at Yorktown when the British surrendered.
MAIN Street was originally named Richardson for Richard Richardson, a Brigadier General in the revolution and statesman. It was renamed Main Street in the early 1890’s as it had become Columbia’s main commercial street. In 1908, it was the first street to be paved in Columbia.
MARION Street is named for Francia Marion also known as the “Swamp Fox”
PARK Street was originally named Gates for Horatio Gates. Around 1904, Gates north of Lady was renamed Park Street. Park Street was bisected by Sydney Park , now Finley Park. In the 1930’s, parts of Gates Street had a reputation as a red light district. In 1941, the remainder of Gates was renamed Park.
PENDLETON Street was named for Judge Henry Pendleton, one of Columbia’s original commissioners. He was captured by the British in 1782 while riding the circuit.
PICKENS Street was named for Andrews Pickens. He was a general in the Revolution and also served in the South Carolina House of Representative and Senate and the United States Congress.
PINCKNEY Street was named for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. He fought in the American Revolution.
PULASKI Street is named for the Polish count Casimir Pulaski who came to America to support the patriot cause.
RICE Street was named for the important agricultural crop. Today it is taken up by railroad tracks.
RICHLAND Street was named for one of the Taylor plantations, as was the Richland District.
ROBERTS Street was named for Owen Roberts, a colonel during the revolution. It was the western-most street in the original plan and much of it under water. It only extended from Laurel to Elmwood in 1901 and no longer exists.
SENATE Street was named for the upper house of the legislature. It was designated as one of the 150 foot main thorough fares running through the center of Columbia. . It only exists in short segments as many buildings, including the new statehouse, have been built on it.
SUMTER Street was named for Thomas Sumter He was one of the great partisan generals of the Revolutionary War and is also know as the fighting “Gamecock”
TAYLOR Street was named for the Taylor family. Their plantations were the principal part of the site selected for Columbia.
WASHINGTON Street was named in honor of General George Washington, Commander of the Continental Army throughout the Revolutions and first president of the United States. Washington visited South Carolina in 1792, and Columbia, the new capitol city on May 22, 23, and 24. During his visit, he attended a public dinner at the new State House.
WAYNE Street was named after Anthony Wayne of Pennsylvania. He led the Patriot forces into Charleston and Savannah after the British evacuated in 1782.
WHALEY Street was originally named Indigo after the crop used to produce blue dye. It was renamed in honor of W.B. Smith Whaley, an engineer who built the Olympia cotton mills.
WHEAT Street was named for a local crop.
WILLIAMS Street was named for Brigidier GeneralOtho H. Williams, who served in the Revolution under Southern Army Commanders Gates and Greene.
In his 1980 book “South Carolina’s Historic Columbia: Yesterday and Today in Photographs,” Russell Maxey provides histories of many of Columbia’s original streets.
For more information about streets and residents check out Richland Library searchable collection of Columbia City Directories