Columbia has a rich history of being a cotton/textile mill town. The Olympia and Granby Mills are located just outside of the downtown area, next to the Congaree river. Like many places in Columbia, this historic area is growing. The Olympia-Granby Historical Foundation was created in 2014 to promote activities within the Olympia and Granby Mill Villages. Since then, the group has also worked to bring new life to the building that served as the one-room, Olympia School. Foundation members Sherry and Jake Jaco talk about their four-year journey to preserve history.
The Olympia Mill opened in 1889; the Granby Mill was completed two years prior. Both mills were designed and owned by entrepreneur W.B. Smith Whaley.
“While he was building the mill, he was also building the village, that he could entice people off of the farms to come and work here,” Sherry Jaco said.
According to the South Carolina Picture project, the villages around the mills quickly grew because workers were needed to operate the more than 2,000 textile looms of the mills.
“These villages were seen as separate communities from the rest of Columbia. They were tight-knit, working class communities where everyone had to pitch-in to help the family make ends meet,” Jaco added.
The Foundation has been collecting artifacts to display in the museum, including old photographs that depict how the mill communities used to look. One artifact shown on the Foundations website shows a painting of the old school bus used to transport athletes from the Olympia school to sporting events. Other artifacts include vintage tools and equipment that would have been used by the mill workers, and antique furniture you would have found in these villages
The museum will open to the public September 28 and will also feature technology components and five outdoor stations. This past June, the Olympia School house was named to the National Registry of Historic Places.