Bellevue, today commonly known as “Cottontown”, is an early twentieth-century downtown Columbia suburb located north of Elmwood Avenue, extending roughly north to Anthony Street west to Sumter Street and east to Bull Street. The neighborhood sits on land once owned by the Wallace family, who, in c.1893, sold to the state property which is now the S.C. State Hospital campus.
In the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, the area near the Wallace tract was a bustling commercial district. The intersection of Main and Upper (later Elmwood) Streets was known as Cotton Town, named after the cotton storage warehouses that operated there. Grocery wholesale and retail establishments also operated in the area.
In 1896, the city expanded the streetcar line, extending the Main Street line north of Upper Street out to Hyatt Park, where a new pavilion and casino were transforming the areas north of the city limits into a center for social activity and recreation. About this time, Cotton Town assumed a new name befitting the area’s more elegant image, “Bellevue Springs”. In the 1890s investors had achieved some success with a new planned residential community called “Shandon”. The idea that a large parcel of land could be subdivided into streets and lots, and those lots marketed under a unifying community theme, was creating a thriving new neighborhood south of the city. A combination of factors existed in the area north of the city that could make the same type of venture successful: a thriving business district, convenience to social and recreational outlets, and easy access to public transportation. In 1902, William Wallace registered a plat for the first suburban development on his property: sixteen lots facing Bull Street.
By 1912, lots were being marketed under the neighborhood’s new name, “Bellevue”. The new community was growing quickly, with new lots being surveyed between Elmwood, Main, Franklin and Bull Streets. Between 1919 and 1927, the neighborhood expanded northward to Columbia Avenue, later changed to Anthony Avenue.
In March 1913, Bellevue became one of the earliest suburban communities, after Elmwood Park, to be annexed into the city of Columbia. Communities including North Columbia, Waverly, South Waverly, and Shandon were annexed later in the same year. The neighborhood remains today as an intact example of one of the earliest planned suburban residential neighborhoods in Columbia whose appearance has been largely unaltered by the passage of time. As one of the earliest suburban areas annexed into the city of Columbia, Bellevue played an important role in the early expansion of the capital city beyond its original northern boundary. The neighborhood consists primarily of single-family homes, with some duplexes and other multi-family residences scattered throughout the district. Most of the residences were built between 1925 and 1940.
Although several early twentieth-century house types are present, including Tudor revival and colonial revival, the craftsman bungalow is the most prevalent type. In general, the homes retain their historic appearance and architectural integrity. Cottontown’s streetscapes are largely unaltered. Old hardwoods line the avenues, with branches creating an arched canopy overhead.
The Bellevue neighborhood is significant for its high concentration of intact examples of early twentieth-century residential architecture placed among intact historic streetscapes.
In the mid 1990s, under the leadership of Patti Marinelli, Cottontown’s Neighborhood Association formed an Historic Preservation Committee. The committee, then chaired by Rusty Sox, worked to raise awareness of the historic, architectural, and archaeological resources worthy of historic preservation. The older “Bellevue Historic District” portion of Cottontown received federal approval and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
This history of Cottontown was written by Rusty Sox.
This newsletter was created by the Preservation Staff of the City of Columbia’s Planning and Development Services Department. If you have questions about your specific historic property, please contact your district’s preservation planner. If you would like to be added to our newsletter mailing list, please send an email to [email protected]