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The Heart of Columbia Motel ( & Sportsman Restaurant), 1011 Assembly Street: 1994   26 comments

Posted at 11:48 pm in Uncategorized

The Heart of Columbia Motel and Sportsman Restaurant

1011 Assembly AStreet Columbia S.C.

Conveniently located in downtown Columbia opposite the State Capital and near University S.C.

100 Spacious Air-Conditioned & Heated Rooms * Free T.V. * High-Fi Music * 24 Hour Phone * Swimming Pool * Ice * Baby Beds * American Express Honored.

Phone AL 2-3393

I'm not sure when the postcards were made. The second one is probably from the early 1960s given the "AL" exchange prefix on the phone number. I'm sure if I knew cars better, I could peg it closer by looking at them. Certainly it would seem that 24 Hour Phone was a motel novelty at the time..

Whatever the exact year, it would be hard to argue that Heart of Columbia did not then describe the location as well name the motel. It would be harder to say that by 1983 which is when the yellow-pages ad appeared in the USC phonebook, but ironically now that the motel is long gone, the area is once again prime, very much in the Vista neighboorhood.

The way I recall The Heart of Columbia when I was growing up, and by the time I left town in 1985, is as slightly seedy and down at the heels. I specifically remember than when a cousin of mine came to town for a teachers' conference at USC, and booked a room based on proximity, she was a little unsettled by what she found, and that my father told her he wished she had called ahead so he could have warned her that he didn't think a woman should stay there by herself.

According to The State archives, the place closed in 1994, but nonetheless had an interesting history thereafter.

FIrst of all the The Thailand Restaurant moved in, presumably to the old Sportsman location.

Then on 4 May 2004, the place caught fire:


The downtown site of a restaurant and abandoned motel heavily damaged by fire early Tuesday likely will get new life, Mayor Bob Coble said.

"It is probably the most strategic piece of property for redevelopment in Columbia,"Coble said Tuesday. "I can't imagine it will stay an abandoned hotel."

Coble said the former Heart of Columbia Motel's close proximity to the convention center and center hotel, as well...

After that fire, The Thailand Restaurant moved to 6024 Saint Andrews Road.

Then the building was slated for demolition:

JOHN C. DRAKE, Staff Writer

Eight months after an errant cigarette set the building ablaze, the Heart of Columbia Motel's owners are positioning the building for demolition.

At the same time, they are facing pressure from the city to address long-standing property code violations at the condemned building.

The 40-year-old motel, which has been closed since 1994, is now a boarded-up eyesore just across Assembly Street from the State House. It was declared unsafe and condemned May 5, one day after...

Then the place caught on fire a second time:

ADAM BEAM, Staff Writer

Assembly Street building was to be torn down Monday; fire inspector suspects arson

Fire officials say arsonists set fire Wednesday afternoon to an abandoned building on Assembly Street- the second time the building has burned and just five days before it was scheduled to be torn down.

A fire investigator said there was nothing in the building to burn, and something helped "accelerate"the fire, most likely some type of liquid fuel.

Deputy Fire Chief...


Fire officials had no suspects in the arson at the Heart of Columbia motel on Assembly Street, and investigators said they might never know what type of fuel was used to burn it.

Lowell Bernstein, a Columbia lawyer whose family owns the building, said his family had already paid for the demolition and had no insurance on the building except liability.

He said the lot will be a parking lot for at least a few months while his family decides what to do with the property.

Then the place burned a third time:

ALLYSON BIRD, Staff Writer

The condemned Heart of Columbia Motel, which caught fire earlier this month and in May 2004, burned again Sunday morning.

Deputy Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said 25 firefighters responded to the fire at 8:39 a.m. at Assembly and Pendleton streets after receiving a call from the Columbia Police Department.

"We're going to treat it as an arson because there was no apparent reason for it to catch on fire,"Jenkins said. The building no longer has...

Finally it was torn down, slowly:


Demolition of the old Heart of Columbia Motel- the site of three fires since last year - has taken longer than expected because of asbestos removal, a spokesman for the property owners said.

Crews began knocking down the building's front facade Monday, a day after the third fire.

Lowell Bernstein, a lawyer whose family owns the building at Assembly and Pendleton streets near the State House, said opening up the building could stop vagrants from taking shelter there -...

As the building was demolished, The State noted a bit of music history I was unaware of:


The demolition of the Heart of Columbia Motel is taking away a piece of the city's rock 'n'roll history.

A photo of the motel's sign is on the CD jacket of Hootie &the Blowfish's breakthrough 1994 album, "Cracked Rear View,"which has sold more than 16 million copies. Other Columbia landmarks such as the State House also are pictured.

The motel stood 40 years on Assembly Street in...

(You can see the album picture here: Cracked Rear View)

After all that, we are left with a parking lot as seen in these pictures:

I'm pretty sure this was the swimming pool seen in the postcards above. I say that based on it being a hole in the ground

and having bits of blue tile mixed in with the debris:

Here is the modern day view towards the Capitol as seen in the post cards:

AND FINALLY, the Heart Of wasn't strictly a Columbia operation. I believe it was part of a loose chain. I know I have seen a number of Heart Ofs over the years, though I can no longer say where. However The Heart of Dillon is still in ongoing operation:

UPDATE 29 July 2010: Commenter Dennis sends the following document indicating that there was an annual General Assembly pool party at HOC into the late 1980s..

"The following was received.
May 26, 1987
The Honorable Samuel R. Foster, Chairman
House Invitations Committee
520 Blatt Office Building
Columbia, S.C. 29201

Dear Mr. Foster:

Gene and Joyce Stoddard cordially invite members of the House and
Senate, clerks and attached to the annual pool party at the Heart of
Columbia Motel, Wednesday, June 3, 6:30 P.M.

I appreciate you conveying this to the membership of the House.

Eugene C. Stoddard

On motion of Rep. FOSTER, with unanimous consent, the invitation was
taken up for immediate consideration and accepted."


Written by ted on July 28th, 2010

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

26 Responses to 'The Heart of Columbia Motel ( & Sportsman Restaurant), 1011 Assembly Street: 1994'

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  1. If there is one thing you can count on, it would be Bob Coble knowing nothing about business. Yeah Bob, it is prime property with people lining up to develop.


    29 Jul 10 at 5:22 am

  2. Ted, your assessment of the time frame of the second postcard is accurate. I know cars well, and the red car, second from the bottom, in the left row of parking spaces is a 1963 Chevrolet. The white one next to it I can't make out, and might be a year or two newer, but not much more. The roof is consistent with a 1964 Chevrolet, so I'll peg the card at 1964, I doubt any newer than that.

    59 Ford Wheelman

    29 Jul 10 at 5:51 am

  3. The red sedan is definately a 1963 Chevy. The black station wagon looks like a 1961 Ford. The black sedan just above the pool may be a 1962 Ford. The white sedan may be a Buick, Pontiac or Oldsmobile, probably 63 or 64. Everything else looks older. 1964 seems about right but certainly could be a year or 2 later.


    29 Jul 10 at 8:29 am

  4. Are there anymore blue tiles in the area where the pool was? now that is a piece of history that I would like to have.. just to say you have a piece of of the Heart of Columbia.. Is the property posted? if not, then I may have to go by there and take a gander at it.


    29 Jul 10 at 9:37 am

  5. No, i didn't see any postings. It's mostly a parking lot now. I saw several pieces of tile.


    29 Jul 10 at 9:58 am

  6. There was a restaurant there called "Pattaya," which was a Thai restaurant, and had no connection to the Thailand on St. Andrews. The owner later moved it to Five Points, renaming it "Baan Sawan." Also, before "Pattaya," "Collaro's" was here for a few months, after having moved from the off-Two-Notch location.


    29 Jul 10 at 10:07 am

  7. My family ate here a few times at The Sportsman restaurant when I was a kid, and of course I was spellbound by the owner's gun collection that lined the walls. There were probably 100 or so hunting rifles hanging up over the booths. I'd guess the owner had this collection at home and so his theme and decor were born when he got into the restaurant business.

    I ate lunch a couple of times at the Thailand Restaurant, and the owner told me her husband was working in Columbia as some sort of diplomat -- maybe at USC? -- for a year or two and she opened the restaurant to sort of back him up. She had lots of "Visit Thailand" sort of posters on the walls and a lot of literature about the country she would hand out. Her kids were always sitting a booth doing their homework. Good food too.

    As for the "Heart of" name, I think in bygone days may hotels that were "conveniently located downtown!" used Heart of ____ in a generic way, sort of like First ____ Church, and they were not associated with each other.


    29 Jul 10 at 10:27 am

  8. The postcards fail to show a really neat sign it had on the Assembly Street side. There were also billboards for it on I-126. Buck freeman, an assistant coach on McGuire;'s early basketball teams lived there during basketball season.

    I think there was a Greek restaurant there briefly called the Paratathon (spelling?). If memory serves me right, the property was still in the family who ran it in its glory years. Apparently the younger ones were not interested in keeping up the property or running a motel.


    29 Jul 10 at 2:57 pm

  9. You can see the Assembly Street sign if you click on the "Cracked Rear View" link above.


    29 Jul 10 at 3:22 pm

  10. Bud, good eye. I now believe the white car next to the '63 Chevy is a 1962 Pontiac. That means the newest confirmed car is a 1963, so that's probably about the right year for the postcard.

    59 Ford Wheelman

    29 Jul 10 at 5:23 pm

  11. NASCAR legend Curtis Turner drove a Cadillac into that pool when he was in town for a race at the Columbia Speedway over in cayce, or so I've read.


    30 Jul 10 at 8:56 am

  12. Many great memories of the Heart Of Columbia. My fiance, Lila, & I stayed there when on weekend pass from Ft. Jackson. Like I said,.... (phew!).... many great memories!!!!!!!!! LOL


    12 Aug 10 at 10:54 am

  13. I worked as a page at the State House in the early 90s and we were told to stay away from that place. By that time it was a hangout for Columbia's homeless.


    23 Aug 10 at 6:01 pm

  14. Styaed here several times in the early 70's.......not many downtown motels closer to campus back then. It seemed to really go down later on and looked more like a flop house.


    24 Dec 10 at 5:35 pm

  15. tonkatoy

    6 May 11 at 11:41 am

  16. tonkatoy

    6 May 11 at 1:59 pm

  17. I remember the Heart of Columbia Motel. The most amazing thing about it and the reason behind its popularity was the antique cars parked in its lot They gave rides around town in them to the guests. This was circa late 60's early 70's I think. You can see some old vehicles in the photos but they had cars like Model A Roadsters and Packards and old caddys and even a Duesenberg if my memory is correct. After closing it was used a short while as dorms for students at USC.

    Ned Harkey

    24 Dec 11 at 12:53 am

  18. I drove with friends from Augusta, Ga to see Wet Willie and the Allman Brothers in Columbia in 1972. We stayed at the Heart of Columbia the night of the concert. At that time it was as decent a motel as any respectable Days Inn. Had a great least what I remember of it.

  19. My grandparents hosted their wedding anniversary party here in '69. I think my dad was already 9 by that point, but he doesn't really remember it. However, we DO have a picture of him (maybe 4'5") standing next to my 6'3" grandfather, his 6'4" uncles, and 6'1" cousin, all of whom tower over him, making him seem a foot shorter. He looks absolutely miserable as he stares up at them; they are all holding cocktails, and he was probably thinking: "Why don't I get the good stuff like the tall guys?"

    50 years later, that's not a problem anymore. ;)


    20 Sep 19 at 10:46 pm

  20. Haha I think we need some updated pictures for this one as it’s definitely not an empty parking at all anymore.


    18 Nov 19 at 9:05 pm

  21. Stayed here with my Dad and brother in 1963. A torrential thunderstorm struck and dropped water like I had never seen. The place had a wonderful ambiance. Old south feel.

    john W tush

    14 Feb 20 at 4:22 pm

  22. I beg to differ re the "Heart of motels." I know them to have existed at least in Raleigh, Columbia, Hickory and Dillon and that surpasses rules of coincidence. I would agree that it's time for historians, former operators, and former habitues of these places to step forward. As a frequent visitor to the Hot City, I personally stayed in the Heart of Columbia in about 1982, but I don't recall that it was great. I liked the Capital Cafe, but did not order the brains. That is all...

    Thomas R Goldsmith

    23 Oct 21 at 8:42 am

  23. In the late 80s I worked at the Wildlife Dept in the Dennis Bldg (previously the Highway Dept). We would go over to the Thai restaurant every now and then. When that place burned, I expect it was a fantastic grease fire. Otherwise, that old hotel, bparded up, really was an eyesore eventually. Very sleazy looking.


    29 Jan 22 at 10:21 am

  24. Stayed at the HOC Feb 8, 1986. Was in town to see Loverboy and The Hooters at the Carolina Coliseum. It was a dumpy hotel by then. We had like 10 people in our room and the party went until 3am.


    11 Nov 22 at 11:44 am

  25. I worked there as a Night Auditor when Wes Orvin was the General Manager.

    Steve F

    23 Mar 23 at 11:01 pm

  26. Someone mentioned that Buck Freeman, assistant USC basketball coach under Frank McGuire, lived at HOC. However, I believe that Coach Freeman lived at Orvin Court which was a short walk to Carolina Coliseum.

    Leon Smith

    24 Oct 23 at 11:04 pm

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