Former SC mayor to turn historic mansion into event space |
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — Would your next corporate retreat benefit from a wraparound porch and chandeliers? Former Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is betting on it.
The longtime city leader, who did not seek re-election in November, bought a mansion in Columbia’s historic Robert Mills neighborhood with the intention of turning it into an event space. Dubbed The Mansion on Blanding, the property at 1329 Blanding St. is intended to be used for everything from weddings to corporate meetings, according to an as yet unpublished website shared by Benjamin.
Among the features of the 5,000 square foot home are wraparound porches, a catering kitchen, and a meeting room for corporate gatherings. There is a lush backyard for outdoor weddings. A brick triplex separate from the main house comes with the property, which Benjamin said he will use for Airbnb rentals.
The mansion, located at the intersection of Blanding and Marion streets, was built in 1886 by George Louis-Dial of Tozer Engine Works, but the property’s roots in Columbia history run deeper than that. Benjamin said the deep history is part of the reason he fell in love with the Blanding Street property long ago.
“I love history, I love the historic district,” he said, adding that he had a soft spot for this particular building because of its connection to early abolitionists.
The property’s original owner, Abraham (or Abram) Blanding, built the city’s first aqueduct in 1820, then donated it to Columbia free of charge.
Blanding also spoke out against slavery and worked to uplift black residents of Columbia. Blanding donated property on Sumter Street for the “religious training” of African Americans. That land eventually became host to what is now Ladson Presbyterian Church at 1720 Sumter St, according to that church’s website.
Renters hoping to book an event at Blanding’s original home, however, will be disappointed. The original house is said to have been burnt down during the infamous occupation of Columbia by Union General William Sherman. When Louis-Dial purchased the property in the late 1800s, he built the mansion that currently stands on the site. This house is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Dial-Willis-Heyward House.
More recently, the building has been used as a law office.
Benjamin purchased 1329 Blanding St. under Blanding House LLC, of which he is the registered agent, for $850,000 in early October, according to the deed.
The property, which includes parcels for 1329 and the triplex at 1323 Blanding Street, had a assessed value of $718,600 in 2021, according to Richland County records. Benjamin said he could eventually take partners.
He said the site should be ready to host events by April. He has already tested the place, which recently hosted his daughter’s 17th birthday party.
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