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Wade Hampton Hotel, 1201 Main Street: Early 1980s   53 comments

Posted at 10:36 pm in closing


Looking down Main Street from the Capitol Steps. Points of interest: Foreground, bronze statue of George Washington; Center Monument in memory of soldiers of the Confederacy; left Wade Hampton Hotel; right American Sentinel

The same view today.

The buildings replacing the Wade Hampton Hotel

The Wade Hampton Hotel was a fixture across from The Capitol when I was growing up, although I don't believe I ever set foot inside. The place had a "I was built in the 1940s" look which is enhanced by the marquee shown in one picture identifying the place rather antiquely as Hotel Wade Hampton rather than The Wade Hampton Hotel.

There was a restaurant inside the hotel called Maxim's which I have an ad for somewhere that I have not got around to scanning. It was to the effect that 5 Million Frenchmen are going to the wrong Maxim's!.

By the 70s, the hotel was on a downward slide as national chains built newer properties in more convienient locations as downtown lost its pull and the Interstates came through. By the time I started college at USC in 1980, the hotel had gone under and was being leased by the University as dormitory space much in much the same fashion as Benedict's ill-fated leasing of the old Quality Inn. I don't know if similar safety considerations in the aging building brought that situation to an end or if USC just built sufficient new space (I think Bates came online about that time), but at any rate the arrangement was terminated, and nothing took its place, so the building was finally demolished in the early 80s. I think it was an early morning implosion, which I missed since I am not a morning person, but I could be wrong.

The hotel's place on the block was taken by the AT&T building (or whatever it is called now) and a new building just going up. (Was there something else there in between WH and the crooked looking glass building?)

The views from the Capitol steps are interesting. I had totally forgotten that there was parking in front of the Capitol. Also, the Colonial Life / American Sentinel / WOLO building is really hanging in there isn't it?

Finally google turns up this. This is largely a nostalgia site but lest the retro-spectacle lenses get too rosy, there's a lot to be said for the present as well.

UPDATE 8 Sept 2010: Added Wade Hampton matchbook scan.

UPDATE 25 October 2021: Add full street address to post title. Update tags. Change expired link to wayback machine link. Add map icon.

Written by ted on October 19th, 2009

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53 Responses to 'Wade Hampton Hotel, 1201 Main Street: Early 1980s'

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  1. The WOLO Building was built in 1913 and took the place of an older building that had been there for quite a while ( I have a post card pre-1913 that shows this) The Wade Hampton Hotel was built in 1940 and took the place of the old City Hall/Opera House that was built sometime after the original one was burned by Sherman's Army in 1865. I also have a Columbia Postcard that shows the old Opera House in the very early 1900's. In fact I have quite a few old original Postcards of Columbia of things that no longer are around. If anyone is interested in seein them, let me know and I can scan them for you..It's very interesting to see how Columbia was before everything was torn down.


    20 Oct 09 at 12:18 am

  2. I remember watching the implosion on tv sometime around 84-85, and I went to look it up... Per "Columbia:Portrait of a City", the implosion took place on Sunday, July 21, 1985.

    Also, interestingly enough, the Wade Hampton Hotel took place of the THIRD City Hall. The 2nd one, with the Opera House, that was built after the Civil War, burned down in 1899 and was replaced in 1901 with a new City Hall and less-ornate theatre than the Opera House.


    20 Oct 09 at 7:14 am

  3. The Wade Hampton was at 1201 Main St., and right next to it was one of the old Columbia Main Street movie theaters, I think it was either The State Theater or The Palmetto Theater, or maybe there was one called The Capitol Theater.

    What is there now will always be the AT&T Building in my mind because I'm just too set in my ways to keep up. I worked in that building for 12 years. Loved the views. My former father-in-law was the construction supervisor while it was going up.

    Before it was built and the Wade Hampton was a dorm, my office for my first "real" job was at the other end of the block. All the guys on the south side of the floor had binoculars in their office. When a coed would wander around her room with the blinds up in some state of undress they would yell "Red Alert" to each other and gather in the best office with the door closed.

    The parking garage on that block replaced the DeSoto Hotel, notorious as a den of iniquity, although I don't know if that reputation was really deserved. I waited all day while they were tearing it down to try to get the neon sign, but when it was thrown in the scrap dumpster it was too big and heavy for me to move.

    The garage also displaced a used books and magazines store that we've talked about before on this site, and Columbia Office Supply which I was in constantly.


    20 Oct 09 at 9:59 am

  4. The theater immediately behind the Wade Hampton was the Carolina, I think. Across the street was the Miracle. Also, notice that the Wade Hampton was situated closer to the corner of Main and Gervais than the AT&T building. The parking lot for it was on the corner of Gervais and Assembly. Also in that area between the parking lot and the DeSoto was a used books and magazine store, and a club called “Our Place.”


    20 Oct 09 at 10:19 am

  5. The Theater next to or right next to The Wade Hampton, was the Carolina, on the same side.. then you had The Miracle across the street, then back on the other side was the Palmetto, then The Ritz (latter renamed The Plaza) which didnt have the same look on the inside at the Ritz did. I miss all those places.


    20 Oct 09 at 1:22 pm

  6. And so far as USC using the building as a dorm, they also did that a couple of years later with a motel on Assembly St. I think it might have been called the College Inn. It was somewhere between Blossom and Senate.


    20 Oct 09 at 3:06 pm

  7. I stayed at the Heart of Columbia one night when Metallica played the Coliseum. I also stayed at the Radisson one time, which USC then converted to office space, sometime around 1994, moving from 900 Assembly, which became a CVS. One of the interesting points, at least to me, was that in picture #2, Main Street just "ends" around Elmwood, turning into woods.


    20 Oct 09 at 3:50 pm

  8. badger - do you mean the tall Carolina Inn that was on the 900 block of Assembly St.?


    20 Oct 09 at 3:58 pm

  9. No, not the tall Carolina Inn. This was a one-story motel. I think the Carolina Inn did become a dorm sometime later, though.


    20 Oct 09 at 4:23 pm

  10. Del-

    Would love to see the old postcards....I have a photograph from the early 30s looking down Assembly street ( like you were standing at the Gervais/Assembly intersection). On the right you can see the De Soto hotel and before it the State Cafe. There is a really cool building with a tall archway type garage door just before the State cafe. No idea what it was. That is where the parking garage for the "AT&T" building sits now.


    21 Oct 09 at 10:44 am

  11. I can't promise any kind of timely posting, but if you want, you can send scans here to "closings at columbiaclosings dot cmo"


    21 Oct 09 at 11:13 am

  12. I was in the crowd when they imploded the hotel. I went with some friends early that morning and we waited on the sidewalk about a block down from Assembly on Gervais. So, we were looking uphill with the wind at our backs when without any real cue, we felt (more than heard) several thumps, like dump trucks hitting the ground. Then a quiet pause for maybe two seconds & down she came with the dust cloud like a ghost heading east. Was anything significant salvaged from the hotel?

    John R

    21 Oct 09 at 4:26 pm

  13. Hi Jeff. Send me your email or we can meet somewhere and I can show you all I have in post cards of Columbia. There's still more I want of them, but it's neet to see how Columbia was before everything changed by the 80's. Tell me how to get in touch with you and we'll get together.


    22 Oct 09 at 2:09 pm

  14. Thanks Ted. I see if I can scan them and send the pics. your way in the next few days. If there's anyone else interested in seeing these old postcards from the early 1900's let me know.


    22 Oct 09 at 2:11 pm

  15. I've seen a postcard on a particular Website that shows the Original Columbia was on Main St. somewhere I think near the the Hampton St. intersection, but cant tell where it was for sure. It almost looks like the old Kress Building, but I dont think it was it. Anyone have a clue to where it was or if it's still there? I'm sure it's different looking now though. Anyone?


    22 Oct 09 at 2:13 pm

  16. The Richland County Public Library online has a great collection of photos of Columbia throughout the years. Go therefor pics of the old Columbia hotel.

    Highly recommended.


    23 Oct 09 at 6:05 pm

  17. Thanks for the heads-up Jeff. Here's a collection I found on the library website. Run your cursor over the thumbnail and a title box pops up telling you what the image is. At 446 images, I haven't had the time to look at all of them, but a few stand out: a photo of the the old opera house/city hall (mentioned above) in vivid black & white and one of the Main Street Belk's circa 1955 with palm trees on the awning ledge where there was a Nativity scene for Christmas. A few hotels that I've never heard of, like the Hotel Jerome circa 1904, for one.

    Now we need a collection for Dentsville, Forest Acres, St. Andrews, Irmo, Cayce-West Columbia, Lower Richland, Rosewood, Eau Claire, and the list goes on circa 1900-2009. But even if we had one Ted couldn't use the images because of use rights. What we REALLY need is for everyone hanging around this blog to ask their parents, older relatives, and anyone you can think of for old photos of the Midlands that may contain images of the businesses that we are all trying to get to the bottom of.

    One of the things I've discovered about most people, in regard to photographs based on all the folks I've tried to hit up for old photos, is that people don't bother to take pictures of businesses that they patronize. I'm a casual photographer who has had at least a 35 mm SLR around since 1972 and I don't have the first picture of a business. Who takes casual pictures of businesses? Why do you need to take a photograph anyway, you know how it looks, and it will be there forever anyway, right? WRONG!

    Michael Taylor

    24 Oct 09 at 12:27 am

  18. Here is a link for some more good pics of old Columbia.


    24 Oct 09 at 4:55 pm

  19. I stayed in the Wade Hampton one semester as part of the overflow crowd that USC underestimated. It was cramped, noisy, and the halls were dark and claustrophobic.

    One interesting thing about the rooms: the windows rotated out on a central axis towards Gervais Street. During 5PM traffic, students used to get water balloons and gobs of wet toilet paper and pelt the cars leaving the stoplight at Main and Gervais, heading towards Assembly. The part of Gervais below the windows would be filled with multicolored pieces of burst balloons and large white splats of toilet paper, which looked very surreal from 60-70-and 80 feet up. A few students even took aim at the Columbia cops who would yell up at the students to "stop or else". I remember one particularly large policeman almost getting decapitated from one balloon that hit him from like the 9th or 10th floor. It wasn't long before housing locked all of the windows. But this would go on nearly every weekday afternoon, especially Fridays.


    31 Oct 09 at 12:29 am

  20. definitely saw this get imploded... the first and only implosion i have witnessed.


    7 Dec 09 at 12:46 pm

  21. If I remember correctly, the WHH was used as a dorm at least through Fall 84. I know for sure it was in the housing brochures that came with my college app. I seem to remember being in there once but it's a pretty hazy memory involving a very long night, a great deal of beer and a whole bunch of people who were all in "it seemed like a good idea at the time" mode. If that memory is accurate then the place was pretty abysmal, even by the standards of a Towers rat.


    28 Jan 10 at 2:12 pm

  22. What I would love to see a picture of was of that entire block going "north" on Main Street...There used to be a hangout between the Wade Hampton and Carolina Theater called "The Hawaiian Stage Backdoor". I am particularily interested in who owned/operated it (I think it was gone by the very early '70's) and particularily WHAT the neon sign out front looked like.

    In fact, I'd love to find out if anyone has a pictorial record of all the storefronts, one-by-one, from say 1950's Columbia, thru the 1980's...The theaters, the dimestores, Belks and Haltiwangers, The "Goody Shoppe" , and ofcourse, the bars that many a GI frequented during the Viet Nam era. (and not just Main Street but all around)

    Please, someone email me asap at


    The Rage

    5 Mar 10 at 3:36 pm

  23. I finally sat down and watched the whole library photo archive for Columbia that I linked to in an above comment. There are several photos of downtown from both directions circa 50's & 60's where you can clearly make out the storefronts up & down the street and read the name on the sign. However, there is no block-by-block series of photographs where each store is clearly visible, and there are few photos of stores or businesses on the side-streets. Never saw the first photo of the Hi Hatt Club, or even the old Richland Mall. But I would still strongly suggest that people look at the entire slide-show with the info panel turned on. You'll have to set aside some time, but you could put on a good CD, sit back with the mouse cursor on the pause button - because you will be pausing a whole bunch - and enjoy. Ted, take note, they have a whole series of photographs of the old Myrtle Beach that you may be interested in; it's kind of funny, because like with your blog, the whole archive is Columbia and then they add the beach. Not Charleston, not Greenville, but Myrtle Beach.

    My big frustration is knowing that somewhere out there is a box full of photographs of Columbia spanning several years because someone had the habit to snap photographs of every detail. Most people would have made fun of little 10 year-old Suzy for taking all the pictures of Bell's Hamburgers, or using her whole week's allowance to do a study of the old Forest Lake Shopping Center, where she went store by store and took photos. Suzy is all grown now, and somewhere that collection, or the equivalent, sits in an attic or at best, in the very back of a closet under layers of keepsakes, and Suzy doesn't have a clue that somewhere there is a blog that would drool over those photographs.

    I've made it a habit now days to ask everyone I come across if they would happen to have photographs that they would like to share, but almost to a tee they all say, "my family never took photographs of stores." I personally know that sentiment quite well, and most of the people who visit this blog, and evidently all their relatives and friends, would seem to have the same damn sentiment when it comes to taking pictures. In light of Ted's blog, that's a totally useless aesthetic.

    Michael Taylor

    5 Mar 10 at 7:34 pm

  24. During that time period I was using a Kodak Brownie loaded with 12 exposure expired film from the K Mart bargain bin. No time to waste precious film on old buildings.

    Possibly some retired photogs from The State or Columbia Record have several photos stashed away in old shoe boxes.


    6 Mar 10 at 12:26 am

  25. Those old Brownie's could take some really good pix! And those flash-bulbs loaded with all the magnesium or whatever it was that would actually *fuse the glass* when you fired them..


    6 Mar 10 at 12:50 am

  26. I must say there are some really good pics. of Columbia and how it used to look..but I would guess 95% or more of these buildings and houses are gone now thanks to Mayor Bob and others. I wonder what buildings are left from the early 1900's or even the late 1800's if any? I do remember the old nurse houses at Baptist before they were torn down in the mid 60's, and I remember the old Columbia Hospital. I wonder when the original Columbia Hotel was torn down when it was on Main St. a few buildings down from Mimnaugh's/Belk's? Thank goodness I have a lot of old postcards of Columbia when most of these buildings were still around. Too bad they were torn down. I wish on some of these pics. they told where the places were.


    6 Mar 10 at 2:03 am

  27. Until the digicam, it was really too expensive to 'waste' film on business facades. Electrons are a lot cheaper than what the developer charges.

    When I was shooting film, a roll of 27 would last 1 or 2 holidays; Now I'll blow through 200 shots without a thought.


    8 Mar 10 at 8:08 am

  28. I am researching the Hotel Jerome which was built and run by a relative of my husbands in 1903/4. Does anyone have any info on it or pictures of it?


    31 May 10 at 8:27 pm

  29. The Hotel Jerome sat on the block and pretty much in the same area as the "Downtowner Hotel" or whatever it's called now..but it took up a lot of that area. I do have a postcard that shows it back from the early 1900's. There's a good website that you can check out called Delcampe that has a lot of old Columbia postcards.


    31 May 10 at 10:36 pm

  30. Dave

    1 Jun 10 at 1:29 am

  31. Anne,

    Here's one of those postcards.

    Also, this book seems to have a lot of information. The link goes to a large part of Jerome Fagan's Last Will & Testament, which disposes of The Hotel Jerome.


    1 Jun 10 at 1:29 am

  32. my dad actually managed this hotel Michael Bullis i actually lived there.Thanks for the pics...


    12 Jul 10 at 8:07 am




    26 Jul 10 at 11:17 pm

  34. At my age , 77, I have many memories but,since I left Columbia in 1961, that's about all I have.
    However,I do ove to vist my friend at the MOUSETRAP and I hope somebody is documenting with pictures and stories,the history of the MOUSETRAP BAR & RESTURANT.
    It is a one of a kind and so very superior to the TV CHEERS BAR.
    Columbia's finest AND some of Columbia's most endearing
    "neer'do wells" can be found there on any weekday.
    Bill and Elizabeth Jerry deserve to be immortalized for their contributions to Columbia and its people.

    campell Thomson

    28 Jan 11 at 10:00 am

  35. At my age , 77, I have many memories but,since I left Columbia in 1961, that's about all I have.
    However,I do love to vist my friends at the MOUSETRAP and I hope somebody is documenting with pictures and stories,the history of the MOUSETRAP BAR & RESTURANT.
    It is a one of a kind and so very superior to the TV CHEERS BAR.
    Columbia's finest AND some of Columbia's most endearing
    "neer'do wells" can be found there on any weekday.
    Bill and Elizabeth Jerry deserve to be immortalized for their contributions to Columbia and its people.

    campell Thomson

    28 Jan 11 at 10:01 am


    anna kay singley

    31 Jan 11 at 11:12 am

  37. Anna, if you have a link to those, I would be happy to post it, or if you have scans I could post those.


    31 Jan 11 at 5:09 pm

  38. I am the Secretary for the South Carolina Arms Collectors Association. I was wondering if anyone ever remembers there being a Gun Show at the Wade Hampton back in the 60's. If you have evidence or proof or know something or use to attend those shows, please let me know, I would love some info on them.


    29 Mar 11 at 12:44 pm

  39. Someone mentioned the DeSoto Hotel as being a den of inequity. As an Army recruit at Ft Jackson in summer of 1968, our first pass to Columbia included a stop at the DeSoto where the prostitutes would stand at the entrance to their hotel rooms waiting to please the sex starved GI's.

    jack mason

    29 Mar 11 at 2:47 pm

  40. Hawk Im glad you mentioned the Save the Wade Hampton mom and dad were night managers at Capitol Newsstand back when Bud Hutto was alive (he sponsored me when I was Miss Teen Columbia 1987) and they made silkscreen Wade Hampton t-shirts when I was quite young. They had a blue cursive writing and were sold to the USC students who came into our store across from WH. I remember helping with the blue inking process which stank to high heaven in our house! I knew something bad was happening to the hotel but wasnt old enough to quite understand exactly what or why. Blue Sky the artist came in and gave my mom advice on the cursive design that would become the Wade Hampton hotel shirts. Used to sneak out of the basement of the newsstand to go watch movies they'd show there run in smaller rooms. It was a magical place for me, I wanted to dorm there when I grew up but alas, mom sent me to all-girl Columbia College! Prolly spent TOO much time with those USC boys...


    4 Jul 12 at 7:16 am

  41. Does anyone recall what was on the empty lot on the corner of Gervais and Assembly? (Beside Cola's Restaurant now.) I know the Market Restaurant was along there somewhere but can't remember if it was on the corner or slightly down Assembly.

    It seems that corner has been vacant forever and I recall parking in that lot to go to a function at the Wade Hampton when it was dirt and I'm sure that was before 1972 - maybe even in the 60's.

    Nick Johnson

    3 Aug 12 at 3:05 pm

  42. ted

    3 Aug 12 at 4:17 pm

  43. During Basic Training at Fort Jackson from February into June, 1964, I stayed at the Wade Hampton nearly every weekend. I have fond memories of it, and the entire Main Street area. There were about 4 movie theaters within walking distance, and many restaurants. I visited them all. In the late 1980s we visited Columbia and I was shocked to find the hotel gone. Also many of the other businesses. Only the Capitol building seemed familiar. Nothing stays the same, but the Hotel Wade Hampton was my "home away from home" for 6 months.

    Richard Symmes

    18 Dec 12 at 4:31 pm

  44. Would love to see any old photos of the Gervais, Lady, Lincoln, and Gates (now Park) block.


    15 Apr 13 at 2:34 pm

  45. tonkatoy

    16 Apr 13 at 6:47 am

  46. Thank you, Tonkator!


    18 Jan 14 at 3:04 pm

  47. I just published a photo from my slide files from the same place, have a look !



    9 Nov 17 at 3:11 pm

  48. I just purchased a cannon ball from an antique shop in Lexington. He had several of them. He told me the cannon balls were found in the ground after the Wade Hampton Hotel was demolished. He told me the old armory that housed ammunition was torn down and the WHH was then built. He said the man who had the cannon balls was one of the construction workers on the WHH. Can anyone varrify this?

    Joyce Ross

    4 Jul 19 at 8:05 am

  49. Before the Wade Hampton Hotel was there, the 3rd and final City Hall/Opera House sat on that corner until 1939-1940 when it was torn down to build the WHH. So the Cannon Balls had to be there from maybe when Sherman's Army shelled Columbia from the West Columbia side of the River? Dont know what sat on that corner though before the City/Hall Opera House though.


    4 Jul 19 at 8:07 pm

  50. Before the Wade Hampton Hotel was there, the 3rd and final City Hall/Opera House sat on that corner until 1939-1940 when it was torn down to build the WHH. So the Cannon Balls had to be there from maybe when Sherman's Army shelled Columbia from the West Columbia side of the River? Dont know what sat on that corner though before the City/Hall Opera House .


    4 Jul 19 at 8:09 pm

  51. I know the WHH was falling apart and wasnt what it was, but I would rather have it still than that atrocity that took its place. Then again, it's Columbia and what did you expect?


    4 Jul 19 at 8:13 pm

  52. @ Joyce. There was a National Guard armory on Assembly Street which still stands next to Cola Restaurant. I have never heard of one being where the Wade Hampton was. I suspect that the dealer was either misinformed or selling you on a tall tale. The folks at the SC Confederate Relic Room can authenticate the cannon ball for you.


    5 Jul 19 at 6:27 am

  53. Wasn't there a men's clothing store on the Gervais St. side of the Wade Hampton Hotel called C. Lem Harper?


    10 Nov 22 at 6:25 pm

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