Historic Preservation

Photo of exterior building renovation along Main Street in downtown ColumbiaThe City of Columbia Planning Department is responsible for historic preservation activities within the City.  The Historic Preservation Division of the Department is responsible for the administration of the City's historic preservation ordinance, which provides certain kinds of legal protection for buildings, districts, and sites that have been declared historic by City Council.  The City of Columbia has over 180 individual landmarks.

The Division is also response for developing awareness of Columbia's rich historical beginnings, which started in 1786 when Columbia became the first planned capital in the new nation.  Additionally, the Division raises awareness of how historic materials can be preserved through workshops and educational events.

The Historic Preservation Division is in charge of approving Certificates of Design Approval (CDAs) for alterations to historic buildings and sites.  The design review process for Columbia's historic districts and design districts is administered by the Design/Development Review Commission (D/DRC) and the design review staff.  All projects come directly to staff for consultation first.  Staff may then direct the applicant as to whether the project can be approved at the staff level, or must be channeled through the Commission according to City Ordinance.

If you have questions, please contact the staff representative for your district.  


Downtown Columbia Historic Resources Survey

A map of the survey boundaries, showing a polygon from the river, along Elmwood, Harden, and Blossom.Map of Survey AreaThe City of Columbia Planning Division is excited to announce the start of the Downtown Columbia Historic Resources Survey conducted by Access Preservation. This architectural survey will focus on Columbia’s historic downtown area and will document the buildings not previously recorded in past architectural surveys. This survey is part of the City of Columbia’s ongoing effort to keep an up to date city-wide survey. Survey work will be ongoing starting in April and will conclude in September 2020. More information related to the survey will be included here soon. 

The area to be surveyed represents a large portion of the 1787 original planned city when the state capitol was relocated from Charleston. While the current City limits have extended far beyond the original plan of the City, the original City grid is still in place today. As part of the original planned city, the city center/downtown area represents the oldest portion of the City with tangible connections to Columbia’s history and development, including an incredibly diverse collection of building types and uses that demonstrate the amount of change Columbia has experienced over the last 230 years.

The “Bryan Survey” in 1993 documented buildings in downtown Columbia considered to be historically significant at the time. Since this survey is over 25 years old, many resources have since gained historic significance (reached their 50-year mark) while other resources may have been altered or demolished if local protections were never adopted. While this survey provides the opportunity to fully document and potentially protect older intact historic resources that have survived a century of development pressures, this survey also provides a great opportunity for an in depth understanding of the largely undocumented mid-century resources that Columbia has to offer.

We need your input!

If you would like to contribute to this project with any information or historic photographs, please connect with the survey team at [email protected]. For general questions and concerns please contact Rachel Walling, City Preservation Planner, at [email protected] or by phone at (803) 545-3151.

Learn More:

View an informational video about the project (below) and review Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Preservation Newsletter

If you would like to sign up to receive the preservation newsletter, please email [email protected].  Past newsletters are available below.