When Columbia (population 127,029) was established in 1786, it replaced Charleston as the seat of government for South Carolina. Its central location in the state made it a good choice for the state capital, and helped the city rapidly become a center for politics, education, commerce, and transportation. Columbia also enjoys the distinction of being the second planned city in the United States.
The success of the area's cotton plantations spurred the city's growth, which is evident in the large homes left behind by wealthy planters. In December 1860, Columbia became the center of a national conflict when the Secession Convention was held at Columbia's First Baptist Church, which is among more than 20 other antebellum structures still standing today. Many structures were lost in February 1865, when General William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops arrived, leaving over half of the city destroyed.
Following this devastating event, Columbia moved toward rebuilding its city and its economy. Mills producing a variety of goods were constructed, but textiles became the most profitable. The Columbia Mill, built on the banks of the Columbia Canal in the 1890s, was the most well-known, as it was the first mill in America run entirely on electric motors. Today, Columbia is a center for education, government, and commerce.
In early 2009, the Historic Columbia Foundation (HCF) produced two self-guided neighborhood walking tours as part of an initiative to heighten awareness of the city's diverse historic neighborhoods. One tour focuses on the city's Main Street, and the other focuses on the Robert Mills District-East. The tours have proved so popular that the HCF is working on similar programs for eight more downtown neighborhoods. The HCF was founded in 1961, and operates four house museums, as well as guided tours and various other heritage programs.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2010.