The Governor’s Mansion in Columbia is all that remains of the Arsenal Military Academy, once located in the capital city. In 1842 Governor John P. Richardson proposed converting the state’s arsenals in Charleston and in Columbia into military academies to train officers for South Carolina’s militia. On December 20, 1842, the state legislature officially created The Citadel and Arsenal Military Academy. This structure was built in 1855 as an officers’ barracks for the latter.
Cadets withdrew from the Academy to fight in the Civil War in 1865. When they returned to Columbia, they found their campus in ruins, having been burned by Sherman’s army. However, the stately officers’ barracks remained intact. The barracks was converted into the Governor’s Mansion in 1868, and its first occupant was Governor Robert Scott in 1869.
Since then, the Mansion has had many famous guests such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Minnie Pearl, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Though the mansion is the private residence of the governor’s family, some rooms are open to the public for tours. These rooms showcase historical artifacts, furnishings, paintings, and documents pertinent to the Palmetto State.
The Governor’s Mansion Commission is a non-profit organization that sees to the mansion’s historical collections as well as any alteration or renovation of the home. Furnishings and other acquisitions important to the state’s history continue to be collected and added to the Governor’s Mansion.
The public is invited to tour the mansion. Tours are conducted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and must be scheduled in advance. The website below should guide those interested in making a reservation.
The Governor’s Mansion is located in the Columbia’s historic Arsenal Hill district, which is listed in the National Register:
The area of the Columbia Historic District I was established as a result of Columbia’s development into a center of government and trade between the upper and lower parts of the state. Also known as Arsenal Hill, the area was a complex of fine mansions and attractive homes built before the Civil War. The district is politically significant as a center of state and nationally related affairs with the Governor’s Mansion as the focal point.
It is architecturally significant for the variety of architectural styles indicative or unique to the area such as Greek Revival, Italianate, Classical Revival, and the “Columbia Cottage.” Noteworthy landscape architecture in the district includes the Caldwell-Hampton-Boylston House gardens, a significant example of evolving garden planning from the time the house was built ca. 1830 through its development formally in the 1890s to the present. Arsenal Hill has retained stately tree-lined streets and a number of its original homes.
Historic Photos – Governor’s Mansion