Historic Columbia Foundation was founded in 1961 by a group of preservationists intent on saving the Ainsley Hall House, known today as the Robert Mills House. In 1967 the restored 1823 residence opened to the public as a house museum. Also that year, Historic Columbia Foundation became the steward of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, which had been operating as a shrine to our nation's 28th president since 1932. Five years later, the organization gained stewardship of the Hampton-Preston Mansion and in 1978, the Mann-Simons Cottage. Today Historic Columbia manages these four historic house museums and their associated artifacts. A city leader in heritage tourism, Historic Columbia Foundation provides daily house museum tours, walking tours and guided bus tours of Columbia's cultural and historical assets. Additionally, the organization hosts annual programs and events such as the Parlor Lecture Series, the Tour of Homes and Gardens and the Jubilee Festival of Heritage. As an advocate for the preservation of Columbia's built history, Historic Columbia Foundation works closely with city and county officials to ensure proper protection is provided to structures with cultural and historical importance. Regardless of the format, Historic Columbia Foundation's efforts focus on improving the quality of life for residents of Columbia and Richland County and on ensuring that those who visit leave with a positive, lasting impression.
The mission of the Historic Columbia is to nurture, support and protect the historical and cultural heritage of Columbia and its environs through programs of advocacy, education, and preservation. In fulfilling this mission, Historic Columbia seeks to bring students beyond the classroom to make history come alive by using multiple materials and venues of local and state significance. Historic Columbia offers programs to educate students in accordance with the South Carolina Social Studies curriculum standards.