Don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

Palmetto Compress

Palmetto Compress Before | Image courtesy Historic Columbia

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#TBT: What would Cola look like without Historic Tax Credit?

This is part of our #TBT collaboration with Historic Columbia.

What do Lula Drake, the S.C. State Museum, Olympia and Granby Mills, Curtiss-Wright Hangar, and the Tapps Building all have in common? They were all once forgotten structures, now beautifully restored. But they didn’t get that way on their own — it takes a lot of work to make an old building new again.


701 Whaley before exterior | Image courtesy Historic Columbia

This week, we’re talking money. Like it or not, preservation often comes down to cold hard cash. How much does it cost to rehabilitate a historic structure? More than most of us have in our piggy banks. Columbia’s unique historic districts wouldn’t look like they do now — or may not even be standing — without the help of one thing: the Historic Tax Credit.

The Cola you know wouldn’t exist without the HTC.

The old saying goes that there are only two things that are certain: death & taxes. But as of last Thursday, not even taxes are safe: A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week eliminates the Historic Tax Credit. Should this bill pass, it would be a huge blow to the preservation communities in Cola + across S.C.

If you don’t need convincing and are ready to step in and save the HTC, find more info here.

What’s the deal with Historic Tax Credits?

When historic buildings fall into disrepair (think the BullStreet campus) it can be very expensive to renovate them. (Like, really expensive.) Typically, rehabbing a building can be a much more lengthy + tedious process than starting from scratch.

But, as we all know, thanks to our historic Main Street + Congaree Vista districts, historic architecture is pretty very special. It reminds us of our past, of our progress, and our responsibility to future generations to preserve the built environment. Plus, who doesn’t love exposed brick? But, like I said, it can be very expensive. So, what are the owners of historic buildings to do? Enter the Historic Tax Credit.

The Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is a tool to aid in the preservation of buildings. What it does is this: If you are the owner of a historic structure and you perform a sensitive rehabilitation of that structure, then you earn a 20% tax credit on rehab costs. Essentially, it cuts the burden of cost.

So what? I’ve never used the HTC.

Hold up, friendo. Chances are, if you’ve ever lived, worked, or played in Columbia, you were probably all up in a historic structure. Don’t believe me? Feast your eyes…

🏗 Lula Drake & Seegers-Habenicht

Lula Drake

Lula Drake | Photo by @ashsappley

The HTC helped get Lula Drake off the ground. Without its support, Thirsty Thursday would be far less classy than it is now. This is one of the hot spots the creative class goes to drink, but also to think about cool stuff and how to promote cool things. That’s why Mad Monkey was here first. Edgy, smart and spirited. Like the building and the memories you can make next door while poring over your last pour.


Seegers-Habenicht | Image courtesy Martha Fowler

🏗 Palmetto Compress Warehouse

Palmetto Compress

Palmetto Compress Before | Image courtesy Historic Columbia

If it feels like the PCW is getting a lot of press right now, that’s because it is. In fact, it’s getting about as much press and the cotton got when the facility still had its steam powered hydraulic press that turned mounds of cotton into manageable 500-lbs blocks! We certainly love it. Palmetto Compress has actually helped to change the tax law in recent years. After owners petitioned for the installation of light wells (basically cutting open shafts) through the building, lawmakers saw the benefit of #enlightening a space and added them to the list of approved amendments.

Palmetto Compress

Palmetto Compress After | Image courtesy Garvin Design

🏗 Mast General Store (a.k.a. Efirds)

mast general

Historic building now home to Mast General Store | Image courtesy Historic Columbia

This building has seen a lot in its time, but most recently it’s seen acclaim as a beautifully restored commercial + residential building. The HTC gave the owners the funds to restore the building’s 1930s-era façade.

🏗 Kress Building

Kress was one of the first restoration projects on Main Street. Its successful adaptive reuse helped spark the preservation movement in downtown Cola.

Kress Building

Photo by @jprioreschi

🏗 Bourbon & Blue Flour (The Brennen Building)

Bourbon & Blue Flour

The Brennen Building before | Image courtesy Hood Construction

The Brennen was a goner until the preservation-minded folks of Cola and First Citizens Bank collaborated to save it. (Huzzah, teamwork!) Bourbon and Blue Flour now call this place home. Attention to detail (just look at that iron work) were afforded thanks to cash saved through the tax credit. So the next time you tear into a cookie tray or sip a midweek cocktail, raise a toast to the HTC.


The Brennen Building after | Image courtesy Hood Construction

🏗 701 Whaley

701 Whaley

701 Whaley before | Image courtesy Historic Columbia

Originally the home of the Whaley Mill canteen and store, 701 Whaley has been lovingly restored as a mixed-use space boasting private apartments, a center for contemporary art, and rental spaces. Phase II of the 701 project is slated to reopen the old pool area, but the loss of the HTC may halt that process.

701 Whaley

701 Whaley after | Image courtesy Historic Columbia

And if those weren’t enough. . .

...then how about Dupre Apartments, the Heise-Meehan-Guignard House, the Barringer and Mill Office Buildings, Canal Dime Savings Bank, the Nickelodeon Theatre, The Grand bowling alley, the new Hotel Trundle, Olympia and Granby Cotton Mills, the W.T. Grant Building, the Schulte-United Building, the Curtiss-Wright Hangar, Hunter Gatherer Brewery, single family homes all across the city, and the S.C. State Museum.

I still don’t see it. What’s in it for me?

Since its inception in 1978, the HTC has resulted in the preservation of more than 42,000 buildings and generated over $84 billion in economic development nationwide. That’s a lot of dough. The HTC encourages private investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. More than $131 billion of private capital has been invested to revitalize often abandoned and underperforming properties across the United States.

Private capital, y’all. What’s in it for you, my friend, is a place in the history book.

What can I do to help?

I’m so glad you asked. If so inclined, you can contact your elected officials to voice your support for the HTC. Don’t know what to say? That’s cool — the National Trust for Historic Preservation has you covered with some talking points. (And for those of you who love form letters, the NTHP has one of those, as well.)

In Columbia, we are represented by Congressman Jim Clyburn and Congressman Joe Wilson. You can find your House member here.

Congressman Jim Clyburn:

Chief of Staff:

Legislative staff:

Congressman Joe Wilson:

Chief of Staff:

Legislative Director:

Legislative staff

It is also not too early to contact Senator Graham and Senator Scott.

Senator Tim Scott:

Chief of Staff:

Legislative Director:

Tax Legislative Asst:

Senator Lindsay Graham:

Chief of Staff:

Legislative Director:

Tax Legislative Asst:

Aside from downtown businesses, Cola is a city full of renovated, historic homes. Look out for an upcoming #TBT with Historic Columbia on the Old Shandon neighborhood.

Lois from Historic Columbia + Beth

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