Why is Columbia the Capital of South Carolina?

Drone Aerial of the State Capitol Building in Downtown Columbia, South Carolina, USA.
Drone Aerial of the State Capitol Building in Downtown Columbia, South Carolina, USA.





The capital of South Carolina is Columbia, having become the capital in 1786.

Within this post, we will talk about where exactly the capital of South Carolina is located, a brief history of Columbia, when and why it became the capital, and some fun things to do in the area.

Where Is The Capital Of South Carolina Located?

Where Is The Capital Of South Carolina Located
Where Is The Capital Of South Carolina Located

The capital of South Carolina is located in Columbia. It is geographically located along the east bank of the Congaree river at the meeting of the Sakura and Broad rivers in the center of the state.

South Carolina is shaped a little like a triangle, bordered by Georgia in the west and south, North Carolina in the north, and the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

The closest towns and cities to Columbia are West Columbia (4.4 kilometers away), Forest Acres (5.9 kilometers away), Cayce (6.1 kilometers away), and Saint Andres (6.9  kilometers away).

The largest city in South Carolina is Charleston, but the capital of South Carolina is Columbia.

Brief History of Columbia

Drone Aerial View of Downtown Columbia, South Carolina, USA.
Drone Aerial View of Downtown Columbia, South Carolina, USA.

Initially, the area which is now called Columbia was occupied by the indigenous people of the area. However, when Spanish settlers came over to this part of America in 1540, they established a new way of life.

400 blocks of houses were commissioned to be built along the river, and then half-acre lots were sold off to prospective residents. There was one catch: they had to build a house which was at least 18 feet wide and 30 feet long within three years, otherwise they would face a penalty.

Following that, the remaining parts of city land were divided by roads around 100 feet wide, as it was believed that mosquitoes could not fly for more than 60 feet without dying of hunger.

In 1805 Columbia received its first ever charter as a town, and from there, had six wardens and intended to govern the area.

Over the next ten years the population grew to 1,000, and the city created its own rules: for example, each citizen had to work on public streets to help with clearing weeds, and they needed to keep one fire bucket for each chimney in their house, entering into compulsory fire brigade service.

In 1854 a full-time mayor was elected, and then a police force, teachers, attorneys, and workers for Columbia’s first waterworks. The roads were paved in 1908, the federal courthouse became a city hall in 1937, and from there, the city flourished.

When did Columbia become the Capital of South Carolina?

The South Carolina State House in Columbia.
The South Carolina State House in Columbia.

Columbia became the capital of South Carolina in 1786.

Before that, the capital was Charleston, although this changed as part of a compromise between farmers of the Low Country and the High Country.

The reason why the city was called Columbus was because of Christopher Columbus. In fact, the South Carolina capital was the first city in the whole of the United States to be named after him – of course, many were to follow suit. However, this is a translation of his name: legally, his name was Cristoforo Colombo.

Why is Columbia the Capital of South Carolina?

There are several reasons as to why Columbia is the capital of South Carolina. One of the most prominent is the fact that Columbia has always been an important site to further the overall development of the state.

Due to its strategic location on the west bank of the Congaree River, Columbia was initially the head of navigation for the whole Santee River. When a ferry was first established in the area in 1754, it was able to connect with nearby growing settlements and the industry and opportunities that presented themselves there.

As such, when the state senator John Lewis Gervais introduced a bill to create a new state capital, the obvious choice was Columbia. There was a slight argument over the name – one legislator wanted to call it Washington – but eventually Columbia won by a vote of 11-7.

Features of Columbia, South Carolina

The size of Columbia is approximately 361.7 km² with a population of around 134,057 (as of 2020).

Nowadays, Columbia is a thriving city and a great place to visit. It is filled with many historical sites, beautiful nature, and people who are extremely welcoming and kind.

Best Places to Visit in Columbia, South Carolina

Riverbanks Zoo

For those interested in the natural world, Riverbanks Zoo is the perfect place to visit. They have over 2,000 creatures across 170 acres, and have a beautiful garden which is ideal for picnicking. It has won the award for most outstanding tourist attraction twice, and has upwards of a million visitors each year.

The South Carolina Statehouse 

One of the best bits about the South Carolina Statehouse is the fact that you can go on a free tour, taking in Greek Revival architecture, the complex history surrounding various war memorials, and remnants of where Union cannonballs struck the building during the Civil War.

South Carolina State Museum

For those looking to learn more about the history of this great state, be sure to visit the South Carolina State Museum Here, you can learn all about science, culture, art, and technology within an old 19th-century mill. Plus there’s an interactive 4D theater and a planetarium; not to mention the first US-built steam locomotive.

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park 

Serving as one of the most beautiful places in the whole state, the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park is a popular place for both residents and tourists to visit. Here, you can wal, jog, cycle, or skate miles of paths, along with enjoying a free workout in the outdoor gym.

The Columbia Museum of Art

Columbia is also a great city for art-lovers, and this museum is one of the best places to gather to appreciate the artistic world. Here, you can find 25 galleries which span across 5,000 years of history. From Sandro Botticelli to Claude Monet, there truly is a little something for everyone. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!