Join the City of Columbia as we celebrate National Historic Preservation Month this May 2019! National Historic Preservation Month was started in the 1970s by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a way to promote historic places and it has been going strong ever since! Throughout this month, events and activities are scheduled across the country to celebrate the history and architecture of communities big and small. In the spirit of Preservation Month, we encourage you to get out and enjoy the history that Columbia has to offer!

Vista Architectural Scavenger Hunt

May 1 – 31, West Gervais Historic Commercial District, ongoing

This May, City of Columbia preservation staff challenges you to test your architecture eye in a Vista Scavenger Hunt! Clues for the hunt will be available online and at the Columbia Visitor’s Center starting May 1st; participants who complete the hunt and return the correct answers by May 31st will be entered to win one of three great prizes. Prize drawings will be held on June 3rd and winners will be notified via email. Please direct any questions to [email protected].

Jane’s Walk (+ Talk)

May 4, Southwest Corner of Main & Washington (by the Clock), 9:30-11:00am

Join the City of Columbia Planning staff as we celebrate iconic writer and activist, Jane Jacobs with a walk and talk through downtown Columbia. In the spirit of Jane, we will explore the history and development of Columbia’s downtown through the lenses of urban planning and historic preservation. The walk is free and open to the public but reservations are required (please register via Eventbrite). Please direct any questions to [email protected].

Proclamation and Mable Payne Award

May 7, City Hall, 6pm

Join Columbia City Council as they officially declare May as Historic Preservation Month! The proclamation will be followed by announcement of Preservation Month activities and the presentation of this year’s Mable Payne Award. The City of Columbia’s Mabel Payne Award is given annually by the Planning Division to an individual or group that has played a vital role in preserving the City’s architectural heritage. The award is named for Mabel Payne, a City of Columbia employee who single-handedly directed the preservation efforts of the capital city during the 1960s when the preservation movement first got underway.

Children’s Architecture Craft

May 11, Columbia Art Center, 1227 Taylor Street, 10am-12pm

Are you planning to be out and about for Mother’s Day weekend? Join City preservation staff at the City Art Center for a craft inspired by Columbia’s historic Main Street! Geared toward children of all ages—or the young at heart—we will be creating our own mixed media buildings to make and take with you. Your final design might even make a great Mother’s Day gift! Event is free and open to the public.

Citizen Jane Film Screening

May 16, Columbia Museum of Art, 1515 Main Street, 6-9pm

In 1960, urban activist Jane Jacobs penned The Death and Life of Great American Cities — a book that explored how modern cities were being developed and detailed the consequences of urban renewal. The Citizen Jane documentary retraces her battles during the midcentury urbanization of New York City and examines the cities of today through the lens of one of its greatest champions. The film is presented by the Columbia Design League and will be introduced by City of Columbia preservation staff. Social Hour starts at 6 p.m. and the film will start at 7 p.m. The event is free but registration is required as space is limited. Please visit to reserve your spot. 

Preservation Bike Ride

May 19, Southwest Corner of Main & Washington (by the Clock), 9-11am

Join preservationists from the City of Columbia for a ride through time as we explore preservation, history, and planning in 1960s Columbia! The ride will be at an easy pace and will include several stops but may include hills and, although the tour will largely follow secondary roads, riders should be comfortable riding on streets open to vehicular traffic. The ride is free and open to the public but is limited to 15 participants with reservations required (please register via Eventbrite). Blue Bikes are available upon request. Please direct any questions to [email protected]

Historic Preservation

Photo of exterior building renovation along Main Street in downtown Columbia

The 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 160 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.  

Preservation Newsletter

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