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Greyhound Station, Sumter Street: 1987   12 comments

Posted at 5:16 pm in Uncategorized

You get a very inaccurate idea of what bus travel is when you take class trips. When I was in middle and high school, our long class trips (Washington DC and Disney World were the most notable) were done on chartered Trailways buses, and the administration always requested, and got, the same kid-friendly driver. When the bus is filled with your friends and classmates, the ride is almost part of the attraction.

I've never actually ridden a scheduled long-haul bus as a party of one, but from seeing the Trailways stations and the people in them on rest-breaks during those class trips and from talking with aunts and cousins, I think I have a pretty good idea that, unfortunately, the "scum of the earth" passengers make life very unpleasant for the "salt of the earth" ones, and that the novelty of having a bathroom in a land vehicle is rather eclipsed by the horror of having it overflow.

What that adds up to saying is that I never took a bus at the Greyhound station downtown, but we did wait there once to pick up my aunt from Florida (she never did it again), and once to see off a cousin. I was fascinated by the Art Deco look, and by all of those glass blocks. I don't suppose it was any nicer than the more newly built stations inside, but sometime after this was built, US architects forgot how to design good looking buildings.

Wikipedia has a great very high-res shot here and says the station was built in 1938 & 1939 with Grehound moving out in 1987. That's about what I remembered. Apparently the building is a doctor's office now.

If you look up above the station, in some of these shots you can see another Columbia icon as well.

Written by ted on May 21st, 2008

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12 Responses to 'Greyhound Station, Sumter Street: 1987'

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  1. If I remember correctly this was home the Lexington State Bank after the bus station


    23 May 08 at 6:17 am

  2. If downtown Columbia could support a 24-hour diner, I always thought this would be the perfect building for it. That is the one thing we just don't have in this city.


    28 May 08 at 11:54 pm

  3. That would be nice. IHOP on Senate isn't bad, but the Grehound building is much more diner-like.


    29 May 08 at 12:30 am

  4. Nice Site!

    341 meeting

    30 Jun 08 at 10:48 am

  5. This place is actually a plastic surgeon's office, not a regular doctor's office.


    23 Jul 08 at 7:13 am

  6. Funny you folk are thinking of diners -- when I was very young my mom would drag me downtown to go shopping a lot and we often ate lunch at the Greyhound station's lunch counter. They had tables too. My mom was a very choosy eater so the food must have been good.

    My dad used to tease my sister that he was going to have her wedding reception there.

    Anybody remember the John Laraquette show, where he ran a bus station and they were always at the lunch counter? That's a lot like I remember it.


    21 Aug 08 at 2:13 pm

  7. This is a beautiful old building. It should be be designated as an historical building to prevent its destruction in the future. Although it is currently owned by a plastic surgeon, it would be nice to restore it to its original "Greyhound" glory and opened as a tourist attraction/diner with the lunch counter.

    Thanks for the pictures and info!

    Mohican Veteran

    5 May 10 at 9:38 am

  8. @ First It is already listed as such because of its art deco design


    5 May 10 at 12:42 pm

  9. This building was interesting, had both good and bad points. The rest rooms were not one of the good points.

    Back before there was such a thing as Fed Ex, my father sent overnight packages between his Columbia and Charlotte offices via bus. On the way home from work in the evenings, we'd park on Sumter or Washington, or occasionally in the bus station lot if it wasn't overrun with busses, taxis, and private cars. I'd drop the package at the counter, wait for it to get weighed, and pay for it. In the morning on the way to work, we'd stop, and I'd run in and pick up the one from Charlotte.

    Occasionally while downtown, I'd grab a cup of coffee there. In the mornings, it was great fresh coffee. After 2pm, it tasted like it had been on the burner since 4am. Yech!

    In the early '70s, I occasionally traveled between Charleston and Columbia "riding the Grey Dog." Busses were usually mostly clean, but the trip took over 4 hours. The bus didn't go up I-26 like you would in the car. Driving on non-interstate highways, there were slow speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights, and slow-moving farm equipment deal with. It stopped in every small town to drop off and pick up passengers and packages. Seriously, it stopped EVERYWHERE, from starting in North Charleston and ending in Cayce or West Columbia. In Orangeburg, there was a real bus station. Most of the smaller towns, the "bus station" was in the parking lot of a gas station or small store.

    The Sumter Street Greyhound station was occasionally plagued with winos who wandered in to get out of the cold or rain. Many had not bathed in who knows when. Sometimes management would roust them out. If the winos bought a cup of coffee or food, they could stay a while, and they took full advantage of that. It wasn't unusual to have the winos bumming money from real customers; if they got caught bumming, they got the boot. Didn't stop their panhandling, just made them cagier how and when they did it.

    Glad the building is still around and appreciated for its architectural appeal.


    8 Feb 12 at 4:59 pm

  10. After getting rousted from the bus station, the winos would go to the RCPL. They'd curl up in the magazine area and sleep and stink.


    9 Feb 12 at 7:38 am

  11. tonkaytoy, the winos did indeed invade the library. They'd occupy all the chairs in the reading area of the periodical section. Even if you could find a place to sit and read, you couldn't stand their stench.

    One day around 1980, it became so bad that I asked a librarian "Why don't y'all throw those winos out? They stink!" She said "WHAT?!?!?" I said why don't you get those bums out of here? She said, "Oh, the 'street people.' That sounds so much nicer than bums or winos, don't you think" That was my first memorable encounter with what later became known as political correctness. Still don't know why they didn't run the unbathed bums out of the library.


    9 Feb 12 at 8:53 am

  12. Nostalgia. I arrived in Columbia via this station in September of 1973 to begin grad school at the University. 40 years ago, but still fresh in memory.


    24 Dec 13 at 11:44 pm

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