What to do in the Mill District

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Art, Food, History, Parks, Shopping, & More!

View public art

701 Center for Contemporary Art is a dynamic hub for contemporary artistic exploration, experimentation, and public engagement.

Mill District Art Trail - Discover art in unexpected and surprising spaces in our historically important community.

Mill District Commons - The Mill Workers Sculpture is located in the green space located on the corner of Whaley and Wayne Streets. It features The Fales & Jenks spinning frames, used in the mill up until the 1930’s, in silhouette cut out of Corten (rusting) steel. The larger-than-life-size mill workers are porcelain enamel panels, details taken from Lewis Hine’s famous Child Labor Photos from 1919. The sculpture is 22 feet long, 10 feet high, and weighs over 5 tons.

Mill District Doughboy Statue

The Doughboy Statue is located on the median at the corner of Whaley and Wayne Streets. The American Doughboy Statue, Sculpted by E.M. Viquesney was installed in 1930 and is listed in the Smithsonian Art Inventory. It stands in honor of veterans of World War One from the Olympia & Granby Villages. Funds to acquire the statute, build a pedestal, and erect “Iron Mike” were raised by mill workers and dedicated on November 11, 1930. A plaque on the front of the base commemorates eleven veterans who died in the conflict, and every man, black and white from the Olympia-Granby community who served in the war to end all wars names are inscribed on the rear of the pedestal.

Ra Obelisk was the brainchild of South Carolina artist and muralist named Richard Lane who saw the huge stone pillar, left standing from the demolition of the Lincoln Street elevated train rail as an opportunity to paint a mural. He painted a representation of the Egyptian sun god, Ra, and included hieroglyphs referring to Beatles songs “Here Comes the Sun” and “All you need is Love. Completed in 1993, the work was restored in 2018 by local artists Jeff Donovan and Georgia Lake. Recognized as part of the Three Rivers Greenway in 2004, benches and picnic tables were added around the obelisk.

Ra Obelisk Columbia South Carolina

Good Food, Great Vibes

J’s Corner is located on the spot that for more than a century housed Jaco’s Corner, Columbia’s oldest running neighborhood bar & grill near the State Fairgrounds and Williams-Brice Stadium. It is now home to a family-friendly restaurant and bar.

Granby Grill opened its grill during the pandemic and is owned by a Mill District homeowner. The grill serves up all-day breakfast and great Southern American fare.

Our newest Village Idiot Pizza opened in 2015 and its close proximity to Williams Brice Stadium and Founders Park makes it the ideal location for pre and post-game celebrations.

Seawell’s is a family-owned and operated catering business that has been in existence in Columbia since 1946, serving up a great southern lunch buffet Monday through Friday.

Coming Soon to the Mill District, Banh Mi Boys Sandwiches blend the flavors of New Orleans with Vietnamese cuisine.

Live It Up

A popular venue for rehearsal dinners, weddings, fundraisers, meetings, arts and music events, 701 Whaley can accommodate a wide range of special occasions. Located in the heart of Columbia’s Mill District, this lovingly restored 1903 building was once the community center for the mill workers. Southern Living named it one of the Best Venues to get Married in South Carolina.

With just over 17,000 square feet of event rental space available, Seawell’s has been the location of many incredibly memorable wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, engagement parties and even wedding ceremonies.

701 Whaley Columbia Venue

Explore the past

The Olympia Mill Village Museum is housed in the original school established by mill workers. It features three parts: the house museum, the annex, and the outdoor exhibits. Exhibits tell about life in the mill village in the 1900s. Additional information about the Olympia School is located in the Museum Annex. The outdoor exhibits and artifacts share the historic village architecture, and local businesses of the period.

The Olympia Armory is significant as an excellent example of the National Guard armories designed with Art Deco or Moderne influences and built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the late 1930s and early 1940s. This armory was built in 1936-37.

The Olympia and Granby Textile Mills sit on Heyward Street and the two signify without a doubt you are in the Mill District. Both were built in the 1890’s and were in operation until June, 1986 ending textile manufacturing in Columbia.. The historic buildings sat vacant until they were renovated as loft apartments in 2007. This began a phase of multi-family residential and commercial development in the Mill District.

Pacific Community Association Building located at 701 Whaley was built circa 1903 as a store by Smith Whaley and was converted to the Pacific Community Association Community Building around 1918. It included a barber shop, showers, pool tables, bowling alleys, reading / meeting rooms, a gymnasium and a theater. A later addition added a swimming pool. It was the focal point of recreation and socialization in the mill community for years.

Union Hall - Sitting adjacent to Olympia park with an address of 119 South Park Street is the imposing Olympia Union hall. It is listed on the National Registry. The masonry building was completed in 1946 and stands out visually due to the brick buttresses at the four corners of the building. It is significant for being the home of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Local 254 (textile workers Union of America Local 254). The first Union Contract between the union and the mill was signed in 1938. The building later became the headquarters of the Carolina Brown Lung Association.

The historic Olympia Cemetery is located on Granby Lane near the Vulcan Rock Quarry. The land the cemetery is on was originally owned by the mill company. Upon the death of a textile worker or family member, a burial plot was donated to the family. In 1944 the mill company conveyed the cemetery to the Olympia Cemetery Association whose constituent members were the churches located in the mill village. In 2017 the Olympia Cemetery was awarded a State of South Carolina Historical Marker in recognition of over 120 years serving as a burying ground in the mill village.

Olympia School - In 1901 the mill company made available a saltbox house located at the corner of Virginia Street and Olympia Ave. for a school for the children of the mill village. The mill financially supported the school for years. As the community grew, a larger facility was built on a tract behind this house which housed grades 1-12. The last major construction was completed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It burned to the ground in 2001 during a historic renovation. The school was rebuilt with the architectural plans from the renovation. Completed in 2003 the school was chosen as a 2003-04 Historic Columbia Preservation/Renovation Award Winner. The Olympia school was eventually consolidated into the Richland County school system and is still used as Olympia Learning Center, an alternative school for grades 6-12.

GROW - A two-story white cinderblock building has been located on the corner of Bluff and Dreyfuss Roads in Olympia for well over a half-century. It could blend in with the scenery except for the large Incredible Hulk mural painted on the front depicting him bursting through the concrete blocks. It has served as a boarding house, general store, and a bar; and now as an antique shop. It was most famous from 1977-1983 when it housed the GROW Café. Grow stood for the Grassroots Organizing Workshop and was noted for its liberal political work in South Carolina. The Café attracted an eclectic mixture of patrons, running the political gamut. Though not embraced by all in the mill village the GROW left its stamp on the history of the neighborhood.

Test your mettle

The Olympia Crusher Run is an annual event held at the Vulcan Quarry off Rosewood Drive.

Services

The Beautique

Jolie Nails & Spa

Holiday’s Barber Shop

Busby Beauty Salon

Moss and Moon Hair

Pope-Davis Tire & Automotive

Redmond’s Auto Service has been an honest & reliable Mill District auto shop since the 1960s.

Wise Guy’s Home Improvement is locally owned and specializes in historical renovations and creating beautiful spaces throughout your home.

Veritas Health Group

Parks

Olympia Park
The current park sits on the footprint of the original outdoor gathering place built & maintained by the mills. In the late 1980s, State Senator Isadore Lourie facilitated the donation of land from Springs Industries to the Richland County Recreation Commission. Drop by for a picnic lunch or dinner while watching your children play on the gym set. Enjoy two and a half acres of tree-canopied trail with partial access to Rocky Branch Creek. During your walk take in the buttressed union hall built in 1944 by the mill workers union. For more in-depth information, click here.

Pacific Park
Basketball Courts and a ball field are available for play as well as a gym set and sprinkler pad for children. The recreation building was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration created under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide employment to the unemployed during the Great Depression.

Olympia Park

Granby Park
The Congaree River has been the Mill District’s "back yard" from its very beginning and protecting our riverfront, its natural beauty, and the public’s recreational access to it has been a neighborhood priority. With the support of the River Alliance, the City of Columbia, and Richland County, Granby Park was established as the first link in an expansive Three Rivers Greenway linear park system of paved pedestrian and bicycle paths providing public access along miles of protected riverfront. Granby Park features parking and bathroom access from Catawba Street as well as a path entrance from the mill village on Gist Street. The park includes overlooks on the river, picnic tables and benches, and a boardwalk over the remains of the historic 1825 Columbia Canal. Granby Park is a favorite destination for nature lovers, cyclists, joggers, and all of us who need a respite from our daily routines.

Granby Park