House captures time before President Wilson was known as Woodrow - - Columbia, South Carolina

House captures time before President Wilson was known as Woodrow

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Woodrow Wilson as a teenager, known as Tommy Woodrow Wilson as a teenager, known as Tommy

When he lived in Columbia, he was known as Tommy.  But the world knew him as Woodrow.

Just in time for Presidents Day, the Historic Columbia Foundation has finished restoring the Woodrow Wilson house, the Hampton Street Victorian where the nation's 28th president spent four of his teenage years. It is the only presidential site in the state of South Carolina, according to the HCF.

"It's been an interesting process, tracing back a 14,15-year-old's life through objects, artifacts, things that are written down," said Fielding Freed, Director of House Museums for HCF.

The house tells a story that goes beyond Wilson's life.  It shows visitors what Columbia was like during the years his family lived in the home, as the city and the rest of the South struggled to recover from the devastation of the Civil War.

"We're talking about one of the most tumultuous periods, not just in our nation's history, but, of course, here on the local scene," said John Sherrer, HCF Director of Cultural Resources. "It was during this period that citizens, black and white, were learning the new meanings of citizenship,  You had half of the citizenry newly-empowered."

The Foundation's approach to the Wilson home differs from it's other historic sites in that each room tells a story in what Sherrer calls a "dynamic interpretive format."

"This is a 21st century museum nestled in a 19th century historic home," Sherrer said.

It covers religion and race, the 13th, 14th and 14th Constitutional Amendments, Wilson's presidency, and his teenage years, when he was known as Tommy.

"He loved to doodle," said Freed describing the upstairs room known as Tommy's room. There guests can see his drawing of his favorite dog, a photo of Wilson at the time he lived in Columbia, and touch a replica of a trunk he packed to go to Davidson College.

In contrast to the everyday life of a teenager, another room addresses the turmoil in the South at the time, the era of political terrorism.

"We talk about the resistance organizations," Freed said. "We talk about the Red Shirt campaign."

And they talk about the KKK and the occupation by the Union Army.

"The thing that has been satisfying and personally motivating about this project is we are talking about a subject matter in such a depth like no other museum, not only in South Carolina, but in the entire country," Freed said.

"These are the facts and we're not interjecting a political agenda," said Freed. "We're just documenting what happened and putting it together in a way, in a room in a house, and in a larger context that's still relating to the Wilson's time here like nobody else has done."

Click here for more information on the Historic Columbia Foundation.

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